I’m an actor, not a star: Jiiva

Jiiva tells me of his conviction that Kavalai Vendam is that ‘rare, pure rom-com’ seldom seen in Tamil cinema

There seems to be a good vibe about Kavalai Vendam on social media.

I know it’s a cliché, but I really had a great time shooting it; so I’m not surprised it’s buzzing with this positive energy. We are satisfied about having made a proper rom-com.

There seems to be a dearth of these films, ever since the passing away of director Jeeva.

That’s why I think director Deekay is quite a find. He’s great at this genre. The film has no external villain, no needless fight sequence. Rom-coms are built on the camaraderie actors share on the sets. They are also rewarding for all of us involved, as we can accurately predict how the audience will react. We know when they will break into laughter and when they won’t. It’s not the same in, say, movies like Kattradhu Thamizh (2007) and Raam (2005).

It’s been a while since you did those intense roles?

I miss them too, but I decided not to do too many of them for the health of my career. I remember when I was walking out of a Kattradhu Thamizh screening, and some women seemed scared of me. Around that time, I got labelled as an ‘offbeat actor’. Some even took to calling me ‘Psycho Jiiva’ (laughs).

In any case, I think it’s wrong that we recognise good acting in only such films. I’m a huge fan of Mohan Lal; he shows greatness even when playing normal characters.

Perhaps, I can do those intense films, but in a different platform. With the advent of Netflix, opportunities will likely open up for those willing to experiment. Imagine if we did our very own version of a Peaky Blinders, a Narcos, a Breaking Bad. Imagine if Kamal Haasan played Walter White (protagonist of Breaking Bad)? We could work around censor restrictions, and make films like Kattradhu Thamizh in peace.

While on censors, Kavalai Vendam has managed to get a U/A certificate even though the teasers hinted at an adult comedy.

No, no! It’s just how the teasers were edited. Some, without any knowledge of the film, have even been comparing it with Trisha Illana Nayanthara. Kavalai Vendam is a clean, family film.

After Thirunaal, the urban milieu in Kavalai Vendam must feel like homecoming for you.

Interestingly, no. Despite what people think, I’m very much at home doing films like Thirunaal. Remember that I’ve done films like Siva Manasula Sakthi (2009) and Thenavattu (2008). My mother’s from Kodaikanal, and I’ve spent a lot of time there being a local paiyan.

Are you happy with how Thirunaal fared?

Absolutely. There was some pressure on me to deliver a hit, but Thirunaal’s success has eased it. It released in 350 screens; Kavalai Vendam has got 400 screens. That’s growth. But if I had to change something about Thirunaal, I guess I’d want it to be better technically. I’d love to do a profound, rural film with great technical values… something like a Thevar Magan.

In your interviews, you’ve been comparing Kavalai Vendam with Siva Manasula Sakthi. But considering how it looks, wouldn’t Endrendrum Punnagai be a more apt comparison?

I’m making the SMS comparison because of the dialogues in this film. I’ve always thought of Endrendrum… as a film for the boys. The love angle in the film was an afterthought, in fact. Perhaps you are right. I guess you could say Kavalai Vendam is a mix of both.

Do you think about star rivalries, and if perhaps it’d be beneficial for your brand if you had one?

I am against them. I’m glad I haven’t been pitted against any other actor. All I’ve ever done is try to concentrate on my films. If you’ve noticed, even in social media, I’ve always only promoted my films, never myself. I’m an actor, not a star. And that’s how I like it because when international filmmakers eventually come here to choose talent, they will want actors, not stars.

And yet, your Pokkiri Raja was promoted as #Jiiva25. That’s the actor making way for the star, no?

I don’t decide my film’s marketing strategies. I never try to stop them from doing business their way. I’m just an actor, doing my job. I’ve always thought of myself to be simply a well-paid employee.

This interview was written for The Hindu.  All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share it.

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