Vikram Prabhu: I enjoy everything about films
He is the grandson of Sivaji Ganesan and son of Prabhu but Vikram Prabhu is one actor who has not used his lineage to his advantage.
He made his debut in Prabhu Solomon's off-beat film Kumki in which he played the role of a mahout to critical acclaim.
His second film Ivan Veramathiri directed by M Saravanan of Engeyum Eppothum fame, is releasing this Friday, December 13.
The young actor talks about his career and the experience of acting in the film.
Did you always want to be in films since you come from a family of illustrious actors?
Though I am part of a film family, none of us was allowed to be anywhere near films till we completed our studies.
In fact, all of us cousins were sent to boarding schools. But I knew I would be part of the film industry one day.
I studied Bachelor of Arts in Theatre in California in the US, as I had this desire to be a director. I studied everything from stage setting to costumes to direction.
After I came back, I assisted Vishnu Vardhan in Sarvam. Then I was the production manager for our Sivaji Productions. All this was done to know how films were made here.
Then, I decided to be an actor first and then make films.
Image: Vikram Prabhu
'I am not after fame'
Was it because there is more fame and visibility in being an actor?
Not at all. I am not after fame. I have seen how it was for my grandfather and father.
I had this choice of becoming an actor and a director, and I chose to be an actor first.
The first thing I did was shed weight. I saw a news item about Prabhu Solomon looking for an actor to act as a mahout. I went to his office to meet him.
Did he know that you were Sivaji Ganesan's son?
He knew it but he told me later he expected a chubby person and was surprised to see me!
He told me that he had been looking for an actor to be the mahout for six months and when he saw me, he immediately felt I suited the role. I didn't have a beard then and he wanted me to grow one.
You are a city bred person and you chose the role of a mahout for your first film, an unlikely choice. What attracted you to Kumki and the role?
I like elephants.
I also didn't want to have an ordinary, easy first film. I wanted to do something different.
When I saw the advertisement, I was excited. I knew nobody would expect me to play the role of a mahout in my debut film.
Image: A scene from Ivan Veramathiri
'I shot for 53 days with the elephant'
Were you initially scared to be with an elephant?
Prabhu Solomon took me to Kerala to meet my co-star, the elephant!
It was an elephant that was used to carry loads. As we were walking towards it, suddenly I panicked.
It looked so huge even from afar and I wondered what I had gotten into. I would say those 20-30 steps I took to reach the elephant changed my life. I told myself again and again, you have to do it!
What I went through was not fear but a mental battle. Once you become familiar with any animal, you can sense its moods like you can do with your dog.
I always stood near its right leg and most of the time the real mahout would leave me alone with the elephant.
I shot for 53 days with the elephant.
How did Ivan Veramathiri happen?
I met Saravanan (the director) at the audio launch of Kumki. I had seen an interview of his on TV, so I knew who he was.
I had not seen Engeyum Eppothum but had heard about it. I went up to him and introduced myself. After a couple of days, Lingusamy Sir, the producer of the film, called me and said that Saravanan would like to meet me.
The first thing he told me was, it was a city subject, and there would be a little romance and lots of action in it.
The moment he said it was a city subject, I wanted to do it. I wanted my second film to be totally different from Kumki.
The title says, Ivan Veramathiri (He is different). How different is your character in the film?
He is different but you can see a little bit of this guy in every one of us. I feel everyone can relate to him.
Image: Vikram Prabhu
'It was the first time that I got to do action in a film'
How did you transform yourself from an ordinary guy into a 'different' guy?
As I have done theatre, I know how to internalise a character and behave and perform accordingly.
It is internal and unexplainable. I would say there is a kind of method in the madness.
I tried not to think about it too much. I believe in moments. I believe that if you think too much about the moments, you will lose spontaneity.
Is there any difference in the way Saravanan directed you?
Like Prabhu Solomon, he also had sketched out the character perfectly. Before we go for the actual shoot, he would ask us to perform.
I would perform what I have in mind and then ask him whether he wanted any change. Most of the time he was okay with what I did.
Did you enjoy the action scenes in the films?
I enjoy everything about films.
It was the first time that I got to do action because in my first film, the bad person was the elephant! I had done some training in dance, action, etc and that helped me do all my stunts myself.
Image: Vikram Prabhu
'I will direct only after I gain enough experience'
When do you plan to direct a film?
Not now. Right now, my concentration is in acting. I will direct only after I gain enough experience.
Is it heavy baggage to carry as the grandson of Sivaji Ganesan?
Everything has its advantages and disadvantages.
I am an extremely positive person; I don't look at anything as negative.
Image: Vikaram Prabhu