Switching roles comes easily to Tamil superstar Vikram. He has, after all, delivered blockbusters like Anniyan, in which as someone with a multiple personality disorder, he effortlessly switched personas from a rule-abiding lawyer to ramp model to vigilante. But even he admits that his latest film was a challenge.
Thats because Vikram faced a twin challenge during the shooting. Firstly, hes acting in his first-ever Hindi film — Mani Ratnams Raavan — in which he plays Dev Pratap Sharma, a suave cop whos married to classical dancer Ragini, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Secondly, hes also acting in the Tamil version of it — as the diametrically opposed Beera, a volatile tribal leader who abducts Aishwarya and falls in love with her. Abhishek Bachchan plays Beera in the Hindi Raavan, which is Ratnams modern take on the clash between good and evil — with several shades of grey.
|Vikram’s on-screen chemistry with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
in the Hindi Raavan
Its very challenging and Im very excited. Normally, when an actor does a movie in two languages, he plays the same role. But this is a unique situation, says Vikram.
Hes also excited about reaching a wider audience in Hindi. And he has fulfiled his long-held dream of working with Ratnam too. Its the best break anyone can get in any language, says Vikram or Chiyaan, as his fans down south call him after his character in his first blockbuster Sethu.
How did he play two such different characters in Raavan? I have a penchant for playing multiple characters and transforming myself, says the National Award-winning actor. But unlike in the past, when he could physically transform himself like when he shed 16kg for Sethu, he admits that Raavan presented new challenges.
We had to shoot both films simultaneously. So the only change I could make was in the body language and attitude. But Ive pulled it off. People who see both films wont believe its the same guy playing the two characters, asserts Vikram.
A still from Sethu, the film that propelled Vikram into the Tamil
The two roles have also satisfied his need to be a star who appeals to the masses and be an actor too. Thats because as the cop Dev, Vikram plays a smooth and stylish guy — and a lethal one too. The on-screen chemistry between Aishwarya and him is already generating a buzz. When people see me as Dev, theyll get attracted to me in a way they never have before, he says.
As for the more rustic Beera, he says: I like Beeras volatility. Hes very layered and complicated. The Tamil Beera appeals to me as an actor while the Hindi Dev appeals to me as a star.
No, he didnt watch Abhishek —theyre good friends — shoot for Beera, or vice versa either. We both interpreted it in our own way. Thats the thing with Mani Sir, says Vikram, whos a huge fan of Ratnam.
Was it difficult acting in Hindi? I was a little wary initially but I was inspired by actors like Simran and Jyothika, who didnt know Tamil and yet became big stars, he says.
Indeed, after working hard at it, hes confident about dubbing his Hindi dialogues himself. And in a year, he says hell be speaking it so fluently that hell get back at his wife — she teaches psychology — and daughter, Akshita, and son, Dhruv, for laughing at his attempts to learn the language. Ill show them, he says with a grin.
For now, Vikrams anticipating the release of both versions on June 18 even as hes busy promoting the film — after Cannes, he heads off for a pre-release world tour. Its the first time that Ill reach a larger Hindi audience. Its a new phase in my career, he says. As for his Tamil audience, he admits that hes a little smug about Beera because I know what Ive done. But it too will take my career to a new level, he feels.
Its a career that Vikram says he was genetically coded for. Indeed, the acting bug bit him when he first played a dumb tree on stage in Class 3. Even then, I loved being on stage, he recalls. By Class 8, when he got his first heros role, I knew that I wanted to be in films, he says. His rank had dropped from the top five to the bottom five by then but he was busy dreaming about signing autographs and driving a red sports car.
Having failed in his own attempts to be an actor, his father tried to dissuade him. And Vikram did get a B.A. in English Literature and even began an MBA. But he dropped out after the first year to pursue his dream.
The going wasnt easy. He struggled for almost 10 years doing bit roles before hitting the big time with Sethu in 1999. For a long time, I didnt get a real break, he recalls.
Sethu changed that. And he hasnt looked back since, giving huge hits like Dhill, Kasi, Dhool, Saamy and the Rs 100-crore-grosser Anniyan, which was dubbed as Aparachit in Hindi. He has won critical acclaim too with films like Pithamagan for which he got a National Award. Ive consciously done different roles in all my films, says Vikram.
He has also done fewer films with just one release every 18 months or so. But hes determined to change that now. So he has already signed up for five Tamil films. Theres Vedi, in which he plays a funny cop. Then, hes doing Selvaraghavans Sinbad, a psychological thriller in which he has a triple role, and two period films too. And he wants to do more Hindi films too. The offers have started coming, but Vikrams waiting for something interesting. Till then, hes dreaming, sleeping and breathing Ravaan.