Tamil Interviews

A Whole New Meaning: The Actor Rahman Interview

There’s no hint of the yesteryear ‘chocolate boy’ in actor Rahman now. “Newspapers will have you think that I’m still the same boy I was when I debuted in 1983. Truth of the matter is…I’m a family man now. With two daughters!”

The self-confessed romantic has two films vying for release this weekend. The Tamil film 36 Vayadhinile, the much anticipated comeback vehicle of Jyothika, and the Malayalam thriller Lavender. “They are complete opposites in terms of plot. 36 Vayadhinile is a layered tale of a middle class woman fighting against all odds to reclaim herself while Lavender is a subtle romance about a hired killer who finds love. In both, I play a man who’s caught between things. But I feel that my character in 36… could be the most misunderstood of the two.”



Rahman plays an unhappy middle-aged RJ and husband to Jyothika’s Vasanthi in the film. “He’s a guy who is plain unlucky. He’s frustrated by how little he’s managed to grow over the years and takes out all his anger on his wife. Since the film has been written from the perspective of the wife, I might come across as a negative character. But the beauty of Rosshan’s film is that it is true to life. It is rooted. Nobody is bad or good. We are all simply human.”

Rahman believes that this film will be a milestone in his career, much like K Balachander’s Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal, a role for which he’s still getting acclaim. “The question is not what this film can do for me. It’s what I can add to the experience. I strongly believe that it will be celebrated in the coming years. It’s a very important film on many counts. It’s not just Jyothika’s comeback, it also has a strong message for the masses out there.”

That said, Rahman admits to not having watched the original version of the film before he signed 36 Vayadhinile. “I did not watch How Old Are You before I signed the Tamil version. Suriya and Rosshan asked me to play the role. It was an offer that I could not refuse. Once I said yes, I sat down and watched the film. It was mind blowing!”

The opportunity to work with Jyothika was an opportunity he could not bring himself to ignore. “I could not work with Jyothika during the period I was successful. So you could say I grabbed the opportunity here.”


Despite his 30 odd years in the industry, Rahman still goes to work with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. “I’m still learning something new every day. My time here is not done yet. The only thing I’ve learned to do so far is to trust my intuition and my gut instincts when it comes to certain decisions. The rest, I leave in the hands of God.”

In his spare time, he nurtures his love for world cinema. “I am a passionate lover of cinema. My wife and I watch a film before we go to sleep. You name it and I’d have watched it now.”


Luck has favoured me a lot, Rahman admits. “I was signed on for a minor role in Koodevide, but as luck would have it, the guy who was supposed to play the lead didn’t work out. So Padmarajan sir gave me a promotion. My only condition was that they had to finish my portion soon…since I had practical exams coming soon.”

Whenever he feels low, Rahman looks back on the time he spent with the ‘greats’ – Padmarajan and K Balachander. “I draw inspiration from the fact that these people thought I was talented and worked with me regularly. I’ve had a few lows in my career and during those times, these memories have given me comfort.”

His most treasured memory is perhaps that of the time he spent on the sets of Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal. “I was a young lad then. KB sir asked

me to come to his office. Since I knew that this sort of offer was not something that came to everybody, I got on the next flight and went to Chennai. Among the hordes of actors he could pick to play the lead in his film, he chose me and that’s something great. In fact, one of my first scenes was the Kalyanamaalai song. We shot that in Prasad Lab in Ilaiyaraaja sir’s studio. I had to get the lip sync right since KB sir was particular about it. On one side, I had KB sir, and on the other, it was Ilaiyaraaja sir. Both legends and both waiting for me to finish my work. It was a harrowing time, but I got through it and for that, I feel proud!”

Though acting is something he ‘stumbled’ upon, it gradually became his muse. “Movies were more of a hobby when I started out. But after a period of time, it became a way of life for me. By the time I came up for air, I was too old to be doing something new. I can’t say I have any regrets here. ”



Rahman admits that he did not have any idea of what he would become when he grew up. Before stardom claimed him for its own. “I didn’t dream of a career at all when I was young. My dad was an engineer and I think I vaguely entertained ideas of being an engineer or a doctor.”


Rahman is drawn to realistic cinema. “Over the top films are not something I find appealing. I have been a part of many entertainment films, yes, but it is the ones that are rooted to the present that catch my fancy.”

Rosshan Andrews in particular comes in for a lot of praise. “Of the current crop of directors, I relate to Rosshan’s films the most and I’m not saying this because we’ve worked together extensively. I’d say that we work together so well because we have the same aesthetic sense. We’re drawn to the same things. He’s made beautiful films recently and I’m glad I got to team up with him again.”


Of the films that he has seen recently, Hachiko has stayed with him. So much so that Rahman is toying with the idea of re-making it for the Indian audience. “It has the kind of story that aims for your guts right from the beginning. I would love to play Richard Gere’s character in it. Let us see what is in store for me there.”

His father too, is a source of never ending comfort, says Rahman. “He always taught me to look at the positive side of things. Somehow, it became a way of life for me. I do my best and leave the rest to the Almighty. Besides, I’m just a bad businessman. I don’t know how to handle PR and all these new things. I’d rather stay home and play snooker.”