Tamil Interviews

The Vishnu Vishal Interview: “In ‘Kathanayagan’, I’m A Hero In The True Sense”

Nearly eight years ago, an accidental actor appeared on screen in Suseendran’s Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu. He followed it up with a string of films backed by a good script, where the character loomed large, not the actor. And then, he produced a film that “set out to say nothing, but became a money-spinner” (Velainu Vandhutta Vellaikaaran). On September 8, audiences will get to see another facet of Vishnu Vishal the actor, in his sophomore production, Kathanayagan.


Directed by Muruganantham, and co-starring Catherine Tresa, Vishnu’s latest production is about the friendly sparring between the hero and his prospective father-in-law, a real-life hero, who also happens to be his neighbour. He seeks a groom similar to himself for his daughter, while the hero has been raised to run away from any trouble. But at some stage in the movie, he transforms himself into a hero.

A confident Vishnu declares that Kathanayagan is an important film in his career arc. “It is the next step of what I attempted with VVV. Till then, I never knew I could be a ‘hero’; I was happy playing characters. But, at some stage, I wondered if I was getting stagnant, and not confident of carrying a film on my shoulders. Even in VVV, I had Suri and Robo Shankar to back me up. But, this one sees me go beyond the character, and take the story forward; a kathanayagan (hero) in the true sense,” he says.

For the audience, he promises another entertainer with adequate doses of heroism, emotion, love, comedy and action. “I’d say this film is all about me taking baby steps to getting better as a hero. It all began when I was shooting for Maaveeran Kittu, a film I’m very happy I did. I wondered if I was slotting myself in certain roles, and discussed this with my production house’s executive producer, Lakshmanan. It was then that we decided to take up Kathanayagan. It helps that my director is a superb actor, but I admit it is a struggle to absorb and recreate his body language.”

Vishnu says that the success of VVV gave him the confidence to produce this film and Silukkuvarupatti Singam. “Hit or flop, I’ll always be grateful to VVV and Kathanayagan for giving me the confidence to do the kind of movies I am [doing] now. This is not to say I’m not grateful about what I’ve done so far. I’ll always love playing characters that are a ubiquitous part of a film, but the difference now is that I’m also game to playing those that revolve around me.”

Vishnu then goes on to speak about Raatchasan, a crime drama co-starring Amala Paul and directed by Mundasupatti’s Ramkumar [“The director has seen my growth since Mundasupatti] and Silukkuvarupatti…, a creation with the highest budget ever for a Vishnu film — “Of the 78 days of shooting, I was part of 73. You’ll see me through the film.”


There’s also Pon Ondru Kandaen, a remake of the Telugu superhit, Pelli Choopulu. “I loved the original, but had some changes in mind, and when director Senthil Veerasamy came by for a narration, he had the very same in mind. I normally don’t take up remakes, because it is a gamble to try and remake something that’s done well. Plus, there are so many fresh stories out there in the world. But, this one interested me. In fact, Tammannaah’s character is more dominant than mine. In one scene, my friend asks me if I feel bad working under a woman. I got them to insert a line in the dialogue about gender equality.”

That is just the kind of thing you can expect the actor, who’s stayed far from controversy of any kind and is known for thinking from his heart, to do. “I realise we are role models, and try and make movies that will not corrupt thoughts.”

Vishnu says this is one reason why he likes that he’s both producer and actor. “Also, every actor develops a signature, a pattern of his own. I’d not done that before and am consciously working towards that. You must understand that I was a rank outsider. I was thrown into the ocean when I did not know swimming. All these years, I survived. Now, I’ve managed to live, float, move forward, and yes, learn swimming. And, producer Vishnu has been good for the actor,” he laughs.

Vishnu has always maintained that he’s most comfortable working with directors he knows. That’s one reason he’s gone back to many of them — Suseendran (Vennila…, Jeeva and Maaveeran…), Seenu Ramasamy (Neerpparavai and the much-delayed Idam Porul Eval {“whenever it releases, it will work well; it’s a timeless film”}) and now Ramkumar. “I like to work with directors who chisel me, push me to give my best; directors with so much confidence in their craft that I have to just focus on getting my act together. This is especially needed when I do films where I am cast in a role far removed from what I am. I need guidance when I have to be loud, to never cross into the overly loud territory.”

Questions have brought him this far, believes Vishnu. “Many directors like this about me, some don’t. But, many tell me that my questions help them fix the logic. Even an illogical story must have logic,” says the actor.


Vishnu says there’s a reason as to why he chooses to bankroll commercial projects. “I’ll be frank. If Vishnu Vishal Studios has to survive, it needs money. Only if a film makes money, can I go back and start work on a new one. I can’t take big risks at this stage. I’ve also realised that the best way to get a message across is to infuse it with humour.”


The Vishnu Vishal interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.