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Vishnu: From cricketer to a film star

Last updated on: November 29, 2012 12:16 IST

Vishnu: From cricketer to a film star

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Shobha Warrier in Chennai

Vishnu made a splash into the world of films with Suseendran's Tamil film, Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu in 2009.

His powerful performances in the films that followed were remarkable for a young man who had no training or background in the movies.

Cricket, and not films, was his passion when he was young and he played at the national level for 10 years until an injury forced him to take a long break and later, rest his career as a cricketer. 

As his new film, Neer Paravai, directed by the National Award winning director Seenu Ramasamy releases on November 30, Vishnu talks to Shobha Warrier about his cricketing and acting careers and Neer Paravai.

Unlike other actors of your age, you have acted in more realistic films such as Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu, Drohi, and now Neer Paravai. Do you prefer these kind of films?

Though my films are realistic, they are entertaining and not preachy.

I prefer to work in these films because they offer me performance-based characters which you may not get in a typical commercial film.

In every film of mine, I play the character; I am never myself. That gladdens the actor in me.

None of my characters are me or remotely similar to me, so it makes me happy playing them. That could be the reason I choose such films.


Image: A scene from Neer Paravai


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'I took me six years to get a break in films'

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You are the son of an Indian Police Service officer. How did you come to choose acting as your profession?

Yes, my father, Ramesh Kudawala is the ADGP now. I wanted to be a cricketer when I was young, and my dad allowed me to do what I wanted.

There was no pressure on me to follow the conventional route. I played cricket at the national level for 10 years. I was in the Under-16 and Under-19 Rest of India teams.

Then at 20, I had this injury after playing throughout the year without rest on different kinds of grounds. So, I had to take a one- year break from cricket, and at that age, if you take such a long break, it is just impossible to come back to professional cricket.

I tried very hard but I could not. It was one of the most difficult times of my life.

How did movies happen then?

After my cricketing career failed to take off, one of my uncles who was crazy about films, asked me to try films. I was aghast. I had no connection with films.

In fact, I never used to watch films as my life was centred on cricket. It was my uncle who first planted the seed in my mind. Slowly, I decided to give films a try.

Then, my dad introduced me to some film producers whom he knew. But it took me six years to get a break. In fact, I almost gave up films as I got only rejections everywhere.

Image: A scene from Neer Paravai


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'A film on sports was such a breath of fresh air!'

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Did your determination to make a mark in films grow because of all those rejections?

My determination grew a lot. I took it up as a challenge to prove those people wrong. There were questions in my mind like, what's wrong with me? Am I incapable of doing this? Still, I kept on trying.

In the meantime, I did an MBA and then I gave myself the last six months to try my luck in films. Still no films, so I joined an IT consulting firm.

I remember going to a stadium to watch a cricket match. Robin Uthappa was playing. He was my junior when I played for the Rest of India and there he was playing for the country.

When the whole stadium shouted for him, I thought of my failed career in cricket and I couldn't watch the match any more.
There was an actor who was sitting behind me. I thought, I was not anywhere and I went back home, a dejected man. None of my dreams had come true. But my father made me see the brighter things in life.

I stopped thinking about films and was concentrating on my work, and then the offer to act in Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu came from the producer.

The moment I came to know that the film was based on kabbadi, I knew it was the film I was waiting for. For a person who knew only cricket and nothing about films and acting, a film on sports was such a breath of fresh air!

But the moment Suseendran, the director, saw me, he said I was not his character!

Image: A scene from Neer Paravai


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'It was difficult to portray a rural character from Tamil Nadu'

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Was it because you are a city guy and he wanted a rural person?

Yes. I am an urban guy and his film was set in a village. But I convinced him to try me.

Then, he wanted me to tan my body. I used to be quite dark during my cricket days and once my cricketing career ended, I started looking fairer. I went off to Mahabalipuram, and in a couple of days, I was tanned. When Suseendran saw me, he understood I was serious and I could do it.

What was it like to portray a rural character in the film? Was it easy because he was a sports person?

It was difficult to portray a rural character from Tamil Nadu. Though I grew up here, I am basically from Haryana. So, to be in a lungi and speak Madurai slang was really tough.

But after I saw the film, I felt proud of what I had done. I really looked like a kabbadi player from a village in Tamil Nadu!

It was such a satisfying feeling to be appreciated for your effort when you haven't had any training in acting.


Image: A scene from Neer Paravai


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'The story of Neer Paravai was powerful'

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How did the role of Neer Paravai come to you?

The producers Red Giant Movies called me and I was happy that a big banner was calling me. I was all the more happy when I came to know that the movie was to be directed by a National Award winning director.

I spoke to the director for 10 minutes and in that time, I knew it was going to be a good film. The story was that powerful.

Once again, you were going to play a character you were not familiar with...

Completely unfamiliar territory, but that is the challenge. More than that, I have always been afraid of the sea and here, I was going to act as a fisherman.

 


Image: A scene from Neer Paravai


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'It was wonderful watching Nandita Das act'

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Did you have any scenes with Nandita Das?

We don't have many scenes together but I was there when she shot for our film.

I feel we should learn dedication from her. She used to make sure that she understood the meaning, pronunciation and context of every word that she had to say.

I also saw someone using her eyes so effectively to convey emotions. It was wonderful watching her act. It was even more interesting interacting with her about cinema as a whole.

What do you look for in a film?

I want appreciation from people. That is the most important thing. When audiences appreciate and accept your work, you feel happy. 
 


Image: A scene from Neer Paravai


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