He may be an Aparichit in Bollywood but is so famous down South that he cannot walk the streets of Chennai without being mobbed. After having delivered countless award winning performances down South, this super-talented actor is eagerly awaiting June 18th when two of his films – Raavan (Hindi version) and Raavanan (Tamil version) opens worldwide. In case you are still wondering who we are referring to, it’s none other than Vikram who plays husband to Ash in Raavan and the maniacal Raavan in Raavanan. Bollywood Hungama‘s Nikhil Ramsubramaniam caught up with Vikram and spoke about the challenges playing two different characters simultaneously, experience working with Mani Ratnam and of course sharing ample screen space with the most beautiful woman in the world. Read on…
Even though a lot of people are calling Raavan your Bollywood debut, in the true sense you actually debuted in Bollywood with Aparichit which in itself was a remake of your smash hit Tamil film Anniyan. Considering Aparichit didn’t do too well at the B.O. would you like to believe that Raavan is your actual debut in Bollywood?
No…I would still say Aparichit is my debut in Bollywood because even though it didn’t do well in the theatres, it’s aired repeatedly on one T.V. channel which means that there are a lot of people who have liked the film and are watching it on T.V. In fact, I’ve met a guy who told me that he has seen it 100 times. Besides, there are many others whom I have met have seen it almost 10-15 times. So it does mean that the film found its audience on T.V. at least and hence I would always say that Aparichit is my debut in Hindi films.
Aparichit is my debut in Bollywood
You are a huge star down South yet this is the first time you are working with Mani Ratnam. Why did it take so long for the two of you to come together?
I don’t know. Maybe you ask him that. Both of have been waiting for the right script to work together for a long time now and I am happy that when it did happen, he cast me in not one but two of his films- Raavan (Hindi version) and Raavanan (Tamil version)
What was your first reaction when you were told that you would be playing the role of Ram in the Hindi version and that of Raavan in the Tamil version?
I was stunned because Mani Ratnam offering you one role itself is a fantastic thing and getting to play two roles in two of Mani’s films is a dream come true for any actor. When he told me, why don’t you play the role of Ram in the Hindi version? I was wondering if he was joking. I am still reeling from that effect.
How challenging was it switching roles between playing the good guy Dev in the Hindi version and the bad guy Veera in the Tamil version?
It was very difficult as we shot both the films simultaneously. So I had to constantly change my look, get-up, body language, voice tone switching between Dev and Veera. There were times when there were minor glitches as I got confused between playing these two diametrically opposite characters but I think I have managed to pull it off.
The promos and posters of Raavan mostly showcase Abhishek and Ash even though you play the main hero’s role. Would you have liked to see more of you in the promos or do you think it goes well with the marketing strategy?
I am not bothered by these things yaar. I leave it to the makers and the marketing guys. People who have seen the film have told me that they have liked my performance in the film and I am quite happy. On a lighter note, it’s actually nice that when they don’t show much of me in the promos and posters here, I know in the promos and posters of the Tamil version they aren’t going to show much of Prithviraj (the actor who plays the role of Ram in the Tamil version). Ha ha ha…I am just kidding. At the end of the day, I am there in both the films and don’t let these things affect me. I am a thorough team player and whatever is best for the team is best for me.
I had to constantly change my look, get-up, body language, voice tone switching between Dev and Veera
In both the versions you have ample screen space with Ash. How was it being in the company of the most beautiful woman in the world?
It’s obviously a nice feeling (laughs). I mean thinking about it now is a good feeling but while shooting both of us were just playing our respective roles, trying to get into the skin of the character. So everything else was secondary.
On screen of course Abhishek Bachchan and you can’t see eye to eye for obvious reasons. How was the bonding off screen between the two of you?
Ha ha ha…Abhishek and I have been the best of friends for the past 7 years. We are very comfortable working with each other. I think he has been the best co-star I have ever worked with till date.
Since both the films are releasing on the same day, comparisons between Abhishek’s portrayal of Raavan and your portrayal of Raavanan are bound to happen. Are you wary of the same?
Well…these talks have been going on for a while now and will continue even after the film releases. But it’s not bothering either of us as we are secure in our own space.
Mani sir is known to be a hard taskmaster. What would you make of this experience working with him?
I love to be in situations like that, I like to work hard, I like to be pushed. So we kind of complimented each other. It was an absolute pleasure working with Mani Ratnam.
Taking a trip down memory lane, not many people know that you come from a family of actors. Your dad was an actor too. So was acting always your first choice or was it thrust upon you?
I’ve always wanted to be an actor. I have been crazy about acting since a child. When I was in Class 8, I decided that I too want to act in movies.
You have countless award winning performances down South in many blockbuster films. If you were to pick three of your favourite performances which people out here who haven’t watched should watch, which ones would that be?
Pithamagan, Anniyan and Sethu
A lot of people call you Chiyaan Vikram after your film Sethu. How did that happen?
Well…Chiyaan is my nickname in the film Sethu. The film went on to become a huge hit and the name stuck on. In fact I have used the same name in my official website
In the past a lot of actors from the South be it Kamal Haasan, Rajnikanth or even Madhavan for that matter haven’t seen similar kind of success in Bollywood… what do you think is the reason?
All these actors were / are doing fairly well in the South so they didn’t really see any reason to permanently shift base here. They have a huge market down South. They just did a couple of films here and there in Bollywood.
After Raavan, have you received any offers from Bollywood? Would you like to do more films out here?
Of course…in fact after Aparichit itself I received more than 17 offers which I didn’t take up. However now after Raavan, I am more in tune with Hindi so would surely look at some scripts seriously.
So does it mean you dubbed for your own lines in Raavan?
Yes…it’s the most difficult thing in the world. (Laughs)
Finally give an honest answer, which role did you enjoying playing more- the good guy Dev or the bad guy Veera?
I enjoyed Veera but am looking forward to how the audience reacts to Dev.