‘Sorry’ is probably the word that Hari Krishnan uses the most. When we call him for an interview, he is more than glad to oblige. He’s driving at the moment, though. “Very sorry madam,” he answers, “So sorry. Drive panren. May I call you back?”
We assure him that we can wait.
Romba sorry, he says again.
An hour later, we are listening to his caller-tune. Vazhi Pathirundhen. A not-so-popular number from Attakkathi, Hari Krishnan’s first movie.
Before he could begin apologising again, we quickly ask him about the song; and these lines in particular:
Sillendra katru ennai kadikindrathae
kathirukum neram migavum sudugindrathae.
The 25-year-old actor, who uttered more than a hundred words per minute in Madras, is quite measured now. “I simply like that one. Trust me,” he laughs.
A few minutes into our conversation, we call him Johnny. Unintentionally, though. It was the name of his character in Madras. Hari is used to that by now. “That’s become my new identity. Jolly-ya irukku,” he chuckles.
Johnny has unkempt hair, an English newspaper in hand, jeans pulled up till his chest and the ability to speak nineteen to a dozen.
Also a little eccentric, but very just.
It was a zany role that he finessed, and Hari is quite delighted about the feedback that his performance has garnered. It was a character that took a lot of effort to slip into.
His first lesson was to observe a few patients who were being treated at the Government Mental Hospital, Kilpauk.
Hari also remembers riding around North Madras to find mentally-challenged men who live on the streets, and don’t have access to health-care. “I spent a lot of time with them,” he explains, “I found an old man who always had a newspaper in his hand; and another one who always wore jeans. I observed their body-language and spoke to them for hours.”
The learning process drained him emotionally. He couldn’t digest their plight.
Also, it took Hari nine whole months to let Johnny ‘occupy’ him. He lost 15 kilos. And when Madras was being filmed in Vyasarpadi, children in the housing board colonies mistook him for a real psychotic. Director Ranjith let him walk around like one, like someone who belonged in the neighbourhood. “Some boys threw stones at me. I was often called ‘loosu’. But all of that made me feel good about myself. I managed to achieve what I wanted.”
Hari can’t quite recall when he discovered his love for acting. Like every other child, he would always dance to film music playing on TV. And having studied at a humble school in North Madras, he didn’t have as many opportunities to hone his acting skills. “Apdiyum vidala,” he laughs, “I used to dance and act at our Annual Day celebrations every year. Kalakiduvom!”
When he began college, though, at DG Vaishnav, Hari began working on his talent earnestly. He formed a mime troupe along with his seniors and classmates. They travelled across the state, winning competitions. “Padippu varala. So from mime shows to street plays, we did all that we could to pamper the actors in us.”
An experienced mime artiste that he is, Hari had to tone down a little when he was cast in Madras. “I’m thankful for those several mime and theatre shows that I did. Because of that, I could handle some of the difficult scenes with ease,” he says.
Director Ranjith found him when he accompanied Mime Gopi to the sets of Attakkathi. When one of the artistes couldn’t pull off a scene at the rehearsal, Ranjith wanted Hari to try. “I joined the sets the next day. My character was developed more later.”
Post Attakkathi, Hari was seen as a fisherman in Maryan. “For some reason, a lot of my scenes had to be edited out. But that’s okay.” He doesn’t sound disappointed by it. “I waited for a year, and then, Madras happened. I’m glad. In fact, Bharat Bala sir was one among the first to appreciate my performance. His opinion matters a lot.”
Were they proud of him?
“Not really,” he declares, “They still don’t know the kind of recognition that Johnny has received. Aana idhuvum nalla thaan irukku!”
The actor doesn’t let a few setbacks deter him from pursuing his ‘goal’. “I want to continue acting and explore different kind of roles.”
Offers have begun pouring in, but he’s waiting to ‘choose the best’. He is also quite determined to not let go of his first love: mime.
Life after Madras is a ‘bitter-sweet’ feeling, he says. He likes basking in all the attention, but is also equally intimidated by it. “I have been told that success would change a person. But no, madam!” he exclaims vehemently, “I will remain the same.”
Hari does acknowledge the pressure and expectations this would create, though.
Romba bayama irukku, he confesses.
The sweet part of it all is the fact that his Facebook page has become a hit. “Munnadai evanume friend requests anupa maatan. Requests pour in these days. For a silly update that I post, I get about 10,000 likes. I have about 4000 followers.”
We also remind him about some of those inspired memes that are floating in social media.
“Yes madam,” he acknowledges, “Adhu vera! Aana jollya iruku.”
The Hari Krishnan Interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.