Arun Vijay is almost unrecognisable when I meet him on a busy weekday afternoon. Craggy beard, long hair, nothing like the no-nonsense cop on the posters of Kuttram 23, his latest film.
Is this for a movie? I ask.
“Nah, it’s a way to get out of character. Whenever I finish a movie, I try different looks before preparing for another character. I had a crew cut done for Kuttram 23 – had to look prim and proper. Now, I’m getting out of that role by trying different hairstyles.”
I also tried braiding my hair, he adds as an after-thought.
I try to ask after his stylist, but that is one of Arun’s best-kept secrets.
He does the styling himself.
The long hair reminds me of Yennai Arindhaal‘s Victor.
It has more volume, though.
“Victor has a symbolic connect to my career,” says Arun. It was a revelation of sorts for the actor; he’d managed to take everyone by surprise. Arun has a spiritual term for it. Rebirth, he says. He’s God-fearing, yes, and quite believes in beginning projects at an “auspicious time”. Arun recites a dialogue from Yennai Arindhaal. “Dei Victor, ivlo nadanthum nee oditrika na, adhuku ore artham thaan. Idhu dhaan un time. Pottu thakku, pottu thakku!” He recites it softly, though; it had been difficult for him to maintain “a harsh voice” throughout the film. Nevertheless, the dialogue is an especial favourite; it’s something that Victor tells himself in the movie. And, it’s something that resonates with the actor’s life now. Arun, though, is quick to point out that he’s taking it slow and easy with every role and film. Calculated decisions. “I started out young, and I know I’ve done films without giving it much thought. Mind you, I don’t regret them, but I certainly have grown, and do believe it’s my time now.” He had entered cinema at the age of 17, and while he has seen it all – Mural Mapillai to a friendzoned guy in Pandavar Bhoomi – it’s his first time as a cop in Kuttram 23.
And the cop act, Arun believes, “takes a hero to the next level”.
“The character is very clear, to-the-point, and his emotional connect grows as the story progresses. The script had everything, and I did what the director told me to do; clothing, mannerisms, body language, et al.”
The hotel where I meet Arun Vijay – Bluten – is just off GN Chetty Road in T Nagar. It’s listed as a 3-star hotel on TripAdvisor; “launched in 2014-15,” a member of the staff says. Arun Vijay is a partner there. It’s one of the things I learn that day.
Arun is quick to supply more facts.
And, his father – actor Vijayakumar – had, and still has no say in his career. It’s a popular misconception, Arun rues, “people thought my dad would use his ‘connections’ to get me films, but it was never like that. He keeps his work to himself, and I to mine,” he says. “I actually had it tough since I had to prove to people that I didn’t get ahead because of my dad, but because I can actually act.”
If there’s something else that Arun is passionate about, it’s editing. “When I was in film school back in New York, I learnt editing. I indulge in something or the other because you never know when a character would demand it. It could be dancing, a particular action sequence, or just about anything. Editing, however, is something I continue to learn. It’s very important for an actor because you’ll know when not to stretch a scene, or prolong an emotional monologue. I also learnt it by watching several Hollywood and Tamil films. It’s pretty useful; there’s no extra work for the people behind the camera.”
A ‘kuttram’ that he’d done: “It was April Fools’ Day, and I thought of pranking my mother. She’s a very sensitive woman, and dotes on me. So on that day, I had a ‘blood capsule’ with me – the ones that actors pop in their mouth while doing an action shot. She’s on the ground floor, and I’m descending the stairs. I pretend to slip and fall, pop the capsule. I’m holding my head, groaning, and there’s fake blood all over my mouth. My mother screamed, and cried a lot. I decided never to prank her again.”
I dream of being: “A superhero. My four-year-old son loves superheroes, and he’d love to see me as one. Otherwise, Al Pacino in The Godfather, or Kamal Haasan in Nayakan, Thevar Magan, and Sathya. I know I’m quoting a lot of KH’s films, but he is that good! I would also love to do a historic role. Those fancy costumes, the way they deliver their dialogue, their expressions – all of that fascinate me. That way, Sivaji sir is sacrosanct to all actors.”
Coming up: “A collaboration with producer Inder Kumar (of Kuttram 23); we’re looking to make an announcement sometime next week.”
Kuttram 23 is scheduled to release tomorrow.
The Arun Vijay interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.