Actor Bharath Niwas talks about learning on the job, experimenting with genres and his ability to play the survival game.
Bharath credits cinema for transforming him from a gawky teenager into a man. “It was organic”, he recalls –“I was a playful 17-year-old who just wanted to savour the overnight success of Boys. I didn’t even realise that I should now start thinking about my next film.” A decade has flown by, and he is now shooting for his 25th film, Aindham Thalamurai Sidhavaidya Sigamani. Among other things, the decade spent in cinema has made him wiser; he has stopped taking success seriously- “This industry can be a tricky place. Even if you have reached some distance in your career, a new actor might overtake you. It’s a sinking feeling, but you need to pull yourself up and learn to keep going,” he begins.
The actor in him doesn’t want to be stuck in a rut. That’s why after playing a six-pack toughie in Ainthu Ainthu Ainthu, he dived straight into full-fledged comedy with ATSS – “I play an illiterate Siddha doctor who wants to marry a well-educated girl. I did my research to find out about the mannerisms and the body language of the siddha vaidhyars, particularly those from Salem.” he says, before adding “it was a high to be acting with seasoned comedians like Thambi Ramaih, Manobala and Karuna”.
While he recognises the value of on-the-spot improvisations, he thinks the writing is crucial for a comedy. “ATSS is well-paced, and there is no forced humour in the script. The film made me realise that comedy is one of the most difficult things to pull off,” he says.
He is also making a comeback of sorts in Malayalam cinema (Four the People was his first and last Malayalam film in 2003) with an intriguing role in Koothara, where he shares screen time with Mohanlal. He says it falls within the same league of Kai Po Che and 3 Idiots. According to him, “Lal sir is completely unaffected by stardom.” It is also a film that made him conquer his fear of the sea – “We were required to jump into the middle of the Andaman Sea. We were there for six hours and it was scary. We had to jump from a boat and the sea is unpredictable. You don’t know how it will behave. It was spine-chilling,” he shudders.
[quote align=’left’]I worked to become famous and I enjoy being the centre of attention.[/quote]Last year, Jackpot, his first foray into Bollywood nosedived at the box office, with him getting hardly any mileage in that part of the world. But he is unperturbed and thinks “working with Naseerudin Shah was no small achievement.” Is it also that he was badly marketed? “It did hurt when you were not publicised; as I had invested so much in the film.” He thinks marketing is one area that cannot be overlooked anymore in Tamil cinema, but hastens to add that the “industry has become extremely professional. Now we are ready to invest so much on the publicity alone. Everything is planned in advance.”
Have things changed post marriage? Does he tread with caution now, trying hard to keep himself free of link-ups? “I have always ignored rumours. After marriage, your life becomes more organised. The rest doesn’t matter.”
But why does he think the rules are different for married actresses? “That’s how the industry works. I find it strange, as a lot of actresses still look as glamorous as before. It’s a personal choice finally. The hitch comes mostly during the romantic scenes,” he quips.
Like every actor, he went through a trial and error phase in his career. “I had these introspective phases in my life when I did not know where to turn. It can happen after your 30th film or your 100th film and then you start all over again. It doesn’t mean you’re less successful though. Survival is my secret. I am still around, still getting films and that is what matters in the end. I mean, out of sight is out of mind, right?” he drawls.
In hindsight, what does he think was the smartest move he made in his career? “That has to be signing Kandein Kadhalai as it gave me a complete image makeover. That was when people realised I could pull off roles like that. Besides, it was a heroine-oriented role and so many people tried to talk me out of it, but I believed in my instincts. Then Pattiyal, as it was a two- hero project, I played a deaf guy and people felt I was making the biggest mistake of my life. Thankfully my instincts won,” he recalls. He has marked December 8 as a red letter day in his calendar – the day Kaadhal was released. “Kadhal and Chellamey made me what I am today.”
Bharath hardly features in controversies, except briefly during Vaanam when he accused the filmmakers of sidelining him over Simbu in the promotional posters. Did that create a lot of bad blood between the actors? “Not at all. I don’t deny that Vaanam gave me lot of mileage. My only issue was that when the film clearly spoke about the story of five protagonists, the promotions chose to highlight just one character?”
He considers patience to be one of the most important traits an actor should possess – “Cinema is a long wait, not just for your shots, but to get that big break, to wait for the right kind of films and to keep pushing yourself as an actor,” he offers.
Does his patience come in handy when he has to romance a non-Tamil speaking heroine film after film? He laughs, “Of course it is always great to work with a Tamil speaking heroine – there is a lot of give and take, more intense chemistry on screen.” But he sees even the non-Tamil girls getting better; citing his Kandein Kadhalai co-star Tamannah’s dedication in getting the lip sync right during the movie. Importantly, she spoke coherent Tamil, he grins.
Kanden Kadhalai was a remake of the Hindi blockbuster Jab We Met. Did that make him anxious? “I never felt any pressure. I think the onus was more on the director. I mean isn’t it quite a task to remake an out-and-out North Indian film while retaining its Southern flavour?”
Given a choice, which film would he love to be a part of, if it ever gets remade? –“A westernised version of Salangai Oli with lots of jazz, hip hop, salsa, rumba and zumba thrown in. Something like a Dirty Dancing or Fast Forward. Dancing is my first love.”[quote align=’right’]Survival is my secret. I am still around, still getting films and that is what matters in the end[/quote]
He is a movie addict who loves the thrill of watching the first day first show of any film, and the reason is pretty simple- “I love to be in public, whether it is shopping at malls or standing in lines. I worked to become famous and I enjoy being the centre of attention.”
Bharath is part of the boisterous Chennai Celebrity Cricket League team and savours the great bond he shares with his team mates. He recalls how, for their first match, all fourteen of them were called for an “ice-breaking” meeting at a Pondicherry hotel – “We just let go of our egos, our career lows and highs and simply started like a new bunch of friends.”
Bharath prefers “tweeting about what he is up to” than writing all random and weird stuff on an FB wall – “It’s just a painful exercise in stupidity. Posts like ‘Oh my god, it’s Sunday!’ They get on my nerves,” he states.
Finally the best piece of advice he would give to new actors? “I would tell them what my mentor, Shankar sir told me – ‘Don’t stress out too much or the industry stresses you out. Don’t think too much about what others say about you. Listen to your conscience’.”
The Actor Bharath interview is exclusive to Silverscreen.