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August 12, 1998


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'I am basically a very lazy person, so I like to act'

Sreenivasan. Click for bigger pic!

Then, why didn't you give them?

The letters I had drafted used to stale by the next morning. How could I give stale love letters to anyone?

I think you didn't have the courage to give...

Yes. I didn't have the courage (laughs). You feel great when love blossoms inside. Then, your imaginations runs wild, words flow effortlessly... I had to just give them performance on a piece of paper, that's all. My training ground in writing was those love letters.

From writing love letters to humour in films, how did it happen?

I always liked to act. So, I wrote plays and acted in it. I wanted to act, may be to get attention and recognition from people... Maybe... Do you know why people like us exhibit ourselves and entertain people? To get appreciation and recognition. Why else do you think we perform in front of the camera? Of course, it satisfies you to know that people enjoy what you do.

What satisfies you more, the appreciation of the masses or recognition by the critics?

What I want more is appreciation from the masses. Shall I tell you what veteran actor Madhu said when some pressmen asked him why he refused to send his films to the award committees. He said, "I am not interested in a tenth standard student correcting and valuing the answer paper of a post-graduate (laughs)."

Yes, I value an award given by a respectable group of people. But I make it a point to accept all the awards given to me because the publicity, which goes along with the award, helps my films. You see, everything boils down to the market. One cannot make films for the so-called intellectuals.

You have acted in many of Aravindan's films. Your first film also was with an off-beat film-maker called Becker...

Yes, Aravindan's films were in a different category. He made the kind of films he enjoyed and he thought the others also would enjoy. There were no pretensions about him. He also might have wanted others to enjoy his films, like I want others to enjoy mine.

Unfortunately there were not many people who could understand his viewpoint or identify with his ideas. So, only a few enjoyed his films. That is because he belonged to a different world, totally different from mine.

That is why he is Aravindan and I am me. I respect and admire people like him. But I am incapable of making that kind of movie. Even if I was given Rs 10 million and 10 years, I will not be able to make a film like Satyajit Ray's. My potential is only this much and I should understand that. But I respect them from afar.

Why do you respect people like Aravindan and Satyajit Ray?

Their films have their individuality. I can enjoy those movies but I cannot create them. I do not know how many times I have seen the films made by Satyajit Ray. And every time I feel sad because I cannot make such films. I have no ability to do so.

With Tilakan in Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala. Click for bigger pic!
Do you feel your films are inferior to those made by Satyajit Ray or Aravindan?

Of course. I know very well that my films don't come anywhere near their films. This is the observation of the film lover in me. Let me also say that I don't enjoy all their films. I saw Adoor Gopalakrishnan's Elippathayam several times because I enjoyed it, but that does not mean that I enjoy all his films. What is more important to me is the quality of the films and not the name of the director.

But Aravindan made the kind of movies that he believed in, without making any compromises, while...

I agree with you. No, I don't make any compromises. I do what I like and what I believe in.

To make your films successful, to attract more people to the theatre?

That is my intention, that is my aim. But I don't call it a compromise. I didn't say that. Won't you follow any set pattern or formula to achieve the end? Like songs or fights or...

I'm not against songs. I also don't believe that a film will be successful because it has songs and fights, though I'm personally against unwanted songs. At the same time I don't consider a movie to be bad or inferior because it has songs. I have only one aim: the maximum number of people should see and enjoy my films.

Why do you laugh at your own physical appearance in all your movies?

Do I do that?

Of course. You comment on your short stature, dark skin, face... It is like laughing at yourself.

Is it not better to laugh at yourself than laugh at others? People enjoy that (laughs). It is only a trick to make people enjoy it. Believe me, I have no complexes about my physical appearance. I am a very normal human being. I may be lagging behind many others but I know it is not because of my physical appearance. The truth is, I am using even my physique as a commodity to sell my films. Ultimately, everything comes down to business and market, you know.

When I joined the film institute here, I had no great ambition about acting. I knew where I stood. I never went after anyone for any roles. But P A Becker who came to the institute chose me to act in his film. My luck continued. I believe I should do what I enjoy doing.

You have acted in several movies, you have written stories and screenplays and you have also directed two movies. What do you enjoy the most? Acting, writing or direction?

I am basically a very lazy person, so I like to act. Acting is for lazy ones. I do not mean that everything is easy for actors. But they do not have to work hard like a writer because there are so many people to look after the needs of an actor. He has only to mouth the dialogues written by the writer.

I never had any strong urge to direct movies because I have this habit of visualising all the scripts of mine as I write. I also know that it is very difficult to materialise them on screen. That is the reason why I never wanted to direct movies. In fact, I decided to direct only because of the tremendous pressure from producers. (His first film Vadakkunoki Yantram won a state award and his recent Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala is also a huge success).

With Nedumudi Venu in Maravanthur Kanavu. Click for bigger pic!
I am satisfied the most when I know people enjoy what I have done, let it be acting, let it be my story, let it be direction... I want to see people satisfied, that's all. Yes, it worries me, it saddens me more if a film based on my story was not accepted and appreciated. The effort I put in is more in a story than in acting.

If a film of your is not successful, do you feel depressed for a long time?

Yes, the depression lasts for a very long time. It is very difficult to come out of the groove called depression. But then, I console myself saying, life has to go on, I have to think of new projects.

Like you feel depressed on the failure of a movie of yours, does the success of your movie excite you?

It excites me a lot. But the excitement does not last as long as the depression. Somehow, the depression remains with me for a long time. I do not know why. I too have thought about it but I could not find an answer to the riddle. When people congratulated me for the success of my new film, Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala, I felt extremely happy, but only for the first 25 days. The intensity of the happiness waned after that. On the other hand, depressive feelings haunt you for a long, long time.

You have been in the film world for a long time. Don't you think people connected with the film industry lose touch with reality after some time?

You would not have accused me of losing touch with reality if you had seen my latest film, Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala. It is wrong to assume that people in the film industry lose touch with reality.

For example, actors like Mohanlal or Mammootty cannot travel in a bus or walk on the roads.

You mean you see real life only on roads and buses?

I didn't say that. I was just citing an example. Let me expand it to the beaches and offices and colleges... Film people meet only film people and mostly those who are ready to tell them what they like...

People who walk on the beaches, people who travel in buses, people who walk on the roads come to our houses too. We read newspapers, we keep our eyes and ears open... Is that not enough?

You are arguing for argument sake. Yes, you are right -- you can only see life through the newspapers. When you keep your eyes and ears open, you see only film people and hear only what they say.

You are wrong. We meet ordinary people and interact with them in trains and planes too. Don't think actors live in isolation, on an island.

It happens to politicians too. Jayalalitha sees the world only through the newspapers and from the sycophants who are ready to tell what pleases her. It happened to Indira Gandhi too...

How can you compare me with a born criminal? Please don't mention her name. I can't bear this...

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