Monday, March 17, 2008

My One-on-One with Shaam ;)

A perfect ambience – the terrace of Café Mocha in Koramangala – Flowing draped curtains, a pristine fountain, light reflecting of the water and lights that remind me of the sets in Mughal-E-Azam. Shaam sits in a corner, crowded around by an ever-interested media, and I cannot believe of my luck – I am going to meet and interview a heartthrob, one of my favourite Tamil actors, a do-gooder and a good looker with enough talent to match his all his gorgeousness.
Shaam is dressed in a suit, I cannot remember what colour though – guess I was too overcome with excitement at finally meeting the man, face to face – but that doesn’t matter, he looked as stunning as he always does, and that was more than enough for me.
We move to one of the quieter spots on the crowded terrace and begin a nice little chit-chat that tells me a lot about this Bangalore boy, his aspirations in the Tamil film industry,

his hopes, his fears and his passions as an actor.

Pic Courtesy: Om Prakash

LRMS: So you finally decided to sport the beard and moustache huh? Is it like a rule in the Tamil film industry for men to sport facial hair?
: Not really, I know this will be the first time I am seen with a moustache and a beard,

but that’s only because I star in a soon to be released film called Sivamayam,

where my role demanded it.

LRMS: We haven’t seen Thoondil, but we’ve heard enough of the rave reviews about the film from the media in Chennai, how do you think the film will do?
: It’s been doing pretty well, especially since my role has been getting good reviews,

I’m really satisfied with the whole experience. Director Adhiyaman is the one who deserves all the credit though. It’s a city based story and will cater only to such audiences.

I’m sure it will do well with such crowds in the city too.

LRMS: You’ve been typecast as a romantic hero, not that we’re complaining but are you comfortable with the tag?
: I am a die-hard romantic, so why would I not want to be typecast as such. Such roles also come to me naturally, I am after all a typical naughty bangalorean boy – romance is my second nature. However, one really can’t survive on such roles in the industry and even though those were the kind of roles I used to be offered, I am now being offered action roles.

LRMS: Action roles? Isn’t that something far from the ‘Shaam’ we know?
: It is, I completely agree, I have been known for such roles, but I guess its time to change. The industry is not very accommodating to a pure-romance hero – The Tamil industry is still all about one role heroes, and that seems to be the only thing that clicks.

LRMS: What do you mean by that?

Is that what differentiates Bollywood from Kollywood?
S: Yes, look at Hindi films; you are bound to run out of one-heroed storylines sooner or later and they’ve realized that. Even the biggest of stars have no issues sharing space with another star. In Tamil however that’s not the case – we’re still practically a one-hero per film industry. So many brilliant scripts never get made into movies just because of this. I have signed many such roles but the lack of willing ‘other heroes’ usually hold up such projects.

LRMS: With Sivamayam, you’ll be crossing over into un-chartered territory

as far as your roles are concerned, aren’t you frightened of

losing out on the Chocolate Boy Image?
: I didn’t choose that image, nor am I saying that I am unhappy with it – who would? But with Sivamayam directed by a close friend Sanjay Ram, I am willing to experiment. It won’t be an all out action film – we’re hoping for a 25 percent mix of everything – a perfect formula for a good commercial movie. I will be sporting this beard for that film and also long hair.

LRMS: Action Hero? So when are we going to see you rip your shirt off? Actually why haven’t we seen you do it earlier? You do have quite a physique, we know!
: (He laughs) Really? Well, I haven’t been asked to do so, and since I don’t really think

you need to have a body or a six pack to be a good actor, it never occurred to me.

But, don’t worry I will shed my shirt in Sivamayam – I’m kind of sure.

LRMS: So you’ll be the first six pack boy from the Tamil huh?
: Yes. I guess that will keep at least one set of my fans happy (Smiles).

LRMS: You are one of the first male model-turned actors in the Industry – how was the whole experience, was it really difficult?
S: It was hard, definitely. I knocked on every possible door for four years before I got my first chance, and I am thankful for that. The lack of a godfather in the industry can weigh down quite heavily on you, especially when you aren’t from the film circle. I had to accept whatever I was offered, and believe me I am thankful that whatever came my way was good stuff.

LRMS: We know you are a Tamizh Paiyen from Bangalore,

but the accent is so not Bangalorean, how?
S: I am a Madurai-kaaran, just that my family shifted to Bangalore when I was really young. Studying in St. Joseph’s and growing up in Frazer Town helped me pick up most of the local languages. I however still have a problem with Telegu, and I’m trying really hard to cope with it. It’s a new experience, quite interesting.

LRMS: Thoondil has been receiving some bad publicity in Karnataka,

what do you have to say about that?
S: I believe that you are responsible for whatever you do. If you do come in front of the camera you are obviously leaving yourself to the mercy of the man behind the lens.

We should just get used to accepting responsibility for whatever we do.

If I am caught on camera doing something I shouldn’t, it is my fault right?

LRMS: Lots of North Indian directors are entering the industry,

what do feel about such a trend?
S: I don’t really think it will affect anything here, I mean the opposite is also happening right? And we have enough good directors here in the south, so it’s not like they are really required, but they don’t pose any threat either. Imtiyaz Ali is now planning to remake Jab We Met in Tamil,

it will obviously be better if he directed this one too,

as a director alone knows what his film should look like.

LRMS: Sujatha passed away recently, you knew him personally – do you think the industry will be able to cope with the loss of such a pioneer?
: He wrote the scripts of both 12 B and Ullam Kaetkumae, and I remember him personally calling me up to tell me that he felt I did justice to the speech at the end of the film. A real artiste and a genius at his work, his loss will be felt, but the industry does have other script writers who might prove to be equally good soon enough.

LRMS: Your performances in Iyarkai and 12 B have been raved about enough.

You are considered to be a good actor, would you then consider an art movie?
: No, I really wouldn’t want to take on such a responsibility as an art movie requires a lot of patience and preparation. I am now looking at making it big in the commercial sector

and hope it works out well.

LRMS: Is it true that you’ve signed on a Malayalam movie?
S: Yes I have spoken to a director called Sudarshan, and most likely will be cast opposite Gopika and Meena, but that is all I can say right now, date availabilities and other technical requirements are holding up the movie, so can’t really say much.

LRMS: What about Kannada movies, any new projects after Tananam Tananam?
S: There are talks on with a director called Kishore; lets see how it works out.

LRMS: Which heroine are you really comfortable working with?
S: I’ve never really had issues with anyone of them.

Most actors in the industry are extremely professional about their work,

so we hardly have tempers flaring or anything out of the way like that.

LRMS: The last Tamil film you wished you had done?
S: Definitely Paruthiveeran – what a movie!

LRMS: Plans for the future in the industry?
S: It took me five years to get here, and I’m not giving up so easily.

One thing about the Tamil film industry is that you need to do what they want you do,

more than what you want to do. You need to appease A, B, C and D audiences and make sure your performances are worth it a hit. Self satisfaction can be earned out of a movie doing well, and that’s what I’m looking at – at least for now.

LRMS: Films your fans can look forward to?
: My Tamil films, Anthony Yaar? With director Pandian and Sivamayam,

my Telegu film Cash and Maya, which is definitely looking very sleek and stylish

and my Malayalam movie, whenever it gets done.

Cameras click, and I know the interview is over, as I have nothing more to ask. The ever-friendly Shaam willingly poses for the shots and what poses I say!
It surprises me that such a good actor hasn’t made it big in an industry that claims to be a talent pool of good actors. It worries me further is there is some bias against him from within the industry – what else could explain such a good looking actor with national awards to his credit, not receiving any roles – at least not as many as he would like?
Trends ought to change before the industry runs out of fine actors – action isn’t everything – Please!