December 21, 2002 
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'Success is like a wild horse'
Ajith on completing a decade in Tamil films and on his passions

Ajith has completed a decade in the Tamil film industry. Perhaps no actor in the South has had such a roller-coaster ride like he has in these 10 years.

After a spectacular debut in Aasai, Ajith had a spill on his bike on the racetrack, and was bed-ridden for a year or so. When many thought he would not walk again, he came back with the big hit, Kaadal Kottai.

It was followed by a string of flops.

Once again, the industry was in a hurry to write him off. He then came back with Vaalee. And this time, it was followed by one hit after another. Seven successive hits later, a dip followed in his career again.

Now, Ajith is smiling once more. His Diwali release, Villain, is still doing very well at the box office. One can say life has come full circle more than once for him in the last 10 years.

Ajith has also realised that the time has come for him to pursue his passion -- racing. He is on the verge of getting a pilot's licence too.

As he gets ready to shoot for his new film Jana, directed by noted Malayalam filmmaker Shaji Kailas, he appears more excited about his career in racing, which will take off in March in Malayasia in the Formula Asia BMW Championship 2003.

Excerpts from a conversation with Shobha Warrier:

Before Villain, you were going through a very bad phase. How did you come out of that difficult period?

It was a very tough time for me. It was a tougher time than what I had faced before Vaalee. At the time, there was this boycott against me in 1997. I do not want to think of all that.

Why did all those films flop?

I think I made wrong moves. I chose wrong scripts. It was my fault. There is no point blaming the producer or director when it was all my fault. I should have backed out when I felt the films were not going to do well. I chose to continue.
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Luckily for me, [producer] Chakravarthy stuck by me. Villain succeeded because we were genuinely working towards a good film. We worked hard and with a lot of conviction.

What was on your mind before Villain released? Everyone said it was a crucial film for you. Were you tense?

To tell you the truth, I was not tense. I had seen worse times. I thought, 'This too shall pass.' Today, I think if anything bad happens, I can tell myself that. When something good happens, I tell myself it too shall pass. That is a better way of handling success and failure. You remain stable.

Have you been handling success and failure well?A still from Villain

It is much more difficult to handle success. It is easier to handle failure because you can indulge in self-pity, you can hit the bottle, you can blame it on people. Success is like a wild horse. If you do not know how to handle it, it will throw you off and look for another rider who can handle it well.

Did it happen to you?

Many times. It happened to me after the success of Kaadal Kottai. It happened to me after seven successive hits. I became overconfident. I thought whatever I do would be accepted. I fell flat on my face. I deserved it.

Are you by nature a person who gets easily carried away by success?

I do not know. Success is very intoxicating. It is very difficult to handle all the fame and adulation. It corrupts you. You start to believe that everybody around you is in awe of you, that everybody wants you and that everybody is thinking of you all the time.

On the contrary, the more you rise, people around you want to pull you down. They sing false praises and corrupt and brainwash you into believing something you are not. That is when you should start choosing the people around you.

One day, I woke up and asked myself, 'What the hell am I doing to myself?'

How did that realisation come?

Only because of my family -- my father, my mother, my brother and my wife -- made me see what reality is. No matter how big you are, when you go back home, your family treats you like a normal person. That's when reality hits you.

You did a film like Mugavari, in which you are a normal person, but of late you seem to be trapped in a larger-than-life image.

I want success. I don't mind being trapped in any image. To hell with all those people who don't like to see me getting trapped in an image because they do not go to the theatres. They watch movies on DVDs and VCDs. The common man who earns daily wages comes to the theatre. I want to make films for him.

All those who claim to love realistic films are hypocrites who do not go to the theatres. Why should I make a film for them? They are not my audience.

Tell us something about your new film Jana, which is to be directed by Shaji Kailas.

It is a commercial film with fights, songs -- everything that would make the audience happy. It is like a full course meal, a South Indian thaali that contains all the varieties of satham (rice), pulao, chapati, puri.

Unlike other new entrants in racing, you managed to get sponsors easily. Do you think it is because you are a film star?

I know that racing in India is still in its infancy, but it is being sponsored by firms like JK Tyres and MRF. These two companies are doing a lot for the sport.

I have been lucky to get sponsors. I like to believe that they are not banking on me just because I happen to be a celebrity. I would attribute half of their intentions to my driving abilities. Ajith and Shalini

I am sure that once I start racing, my fans also will start watching. We are going to have five races in Malaysia, and Malaysia has a huge Tamil population. There is bound to be some initial viewership [because of my celebrity status], but they will continue to watch me in racing circuits only if I prove my worth on the tracks.

If you have to choose between acting and racing, which would you prefer? Which career are you more passionate about?

I would like to have the cake and eat it too! *laughs*. To be very honest, it will be very unfair for me to say that I will choose racing. I am racing today only because of movies and the money that I have earned from movies.


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