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“I’d rather wait and make a meaty Bollywood debut”

He stumbled into the Tamil film industry quite by chance in 2005. And after tasting success from his very first release Arinthum Ariyamalum, South star Arya has never looked back. Famous for his roles in films like Pattiyal, Boss Engira Bhaskaran and Vettai, the brawny actor is now all set to feature in Settai, the Tamil remake of UTV’s 2011 hit Delhi Belly

Have you always aspired to be an actor?

Not at all. Acting was never on my radar. I was a software engineer with an IT firm. It was later, when I was modeling, that I was discovered by the late choreographer Jeeva, who cast me as the lead in his film Ullam Ketkumae in 2003. I was very apprehensive about my debut as I was absolutely clueless about acting in films but Jeeva trusted me. He believed in his decisions and stood by the people he had faith in.

But Jeeva’s film wasn’t your debut film.

No. It was director Vishnuvardhan’s film Arinthum Ariyamalum. I had signed Jeeva’s film Ullam Ketkumae earlier but it was delayed. So my first release was Arinthum Ariyamalum. My performance fetched me the Best Debutant award and I think I was very lucky to have achieved that so early in my career.

After eight years in the film industry, what is more important to you as an actor – commercial success or awards?

When a film makes money at the box office, it benefits the filmmaker and also elevates the value of the actors that worked on it. If a film I act in makes money, I not only get more offers, but I get to do some real quality work too. So, obviously, that is a great thing. And that is why, as an actor, a film’s box-office report card matters most. Awards are good and they boost your career but they are not the be all and end all. It is good to get an award but not important.

From the early days of your career to date, how has the Tamil film industry evolved?

There have been some major changes in the Tamil film industry. Filmmakers are now experimenting with new themes. The audience too has also evolved. Nowadays, movie-goers poke fun at run-of-the-mill subjects that were once the norm a few years ago. You cannot do away with these films because, you have to admit, they are entertaining. But, on the whole, the industry is undergoing a very radical transformation. Whether with regard to subjects, or technicalities, or the audience, everything is experiencing a renaissance. The movie-going audience largely comprises youngsters these days, so old-school themes won’t work any more.

You are currently working on Settai, the Tamil remake of Delhi Belly. How different is the South version?

It is completely different. The South version is way more subtle and sober. We couldn’t use the kind of language in the film that the Hindi version had. We also had to tone down the adult humour, which was the core of Delhi Belly. We also had to tone down the bedroom sequences a great deal. There was no way we could use jokes and language like that in Settai.

Why?

Mainly because it is very important for a film in Tamil Nadu to get a U certificate. Only films with a U certificate are tax-free. Even films assigned a U/A certificate are taxed. So, a U certificate helps to recover costs. I am not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing but that’s just the way it is.

Apart from Settai, which is a Disney UTV production, you are also working with another corporate studio, Fox Star, on your film Raja Rani. What impact have corporate studios had on the South industry?

Corporates have changed the industry a great deal. Earlier, filmmakers would make films on the basis of a vague idea or concept and without any research or even a proper script in place. Not only would that disrupt the budget, it was also a waste of time. Corporate studios have brought in order and discipline and there is a lot more emphasis on a bound script. They won’t sign a film if the script is not in place. Things like budgeting are also under control. It’s a very good thing that studios like UTV, Fox Star and Reliance are coming into the picture.

You have your own production house too. Would you be comfortable co-producing a film with a corporate studio?

Of course I would. I am confident that even if it’s a co-production, there will be room for independence and creativity. There will be no interference because that’s the way they function. It’s a great way to acquire financing too.

What kind of films do you plan to produce?

I have already produced a few films and I am looking at many scripts right now. But I haven’t decided on anything yet. I also plan to produce films that I will act in so that I have complete control over production as well. I am open to producing all kinds of films, even edgy ones.

Do you think there are any differences between the Hindi and Tamil film industries?

I have always maintained that the Tamil film industry is way superior in terms of technical aspects. But the Hindi film industry has more visibility, not just because of the language but also because of the size of marketing and production budgets. In the South, you can’t make a ‘multiplex film’ because there are merely four to five multiplexes there. So while Bollywood has a huge market, Tamil films are restricted in terms of audience. But I know that, as we speak, the exhibition space is opening up in the South, so hopefully that will do us good.

You have worked with actresses like Asin, Sameera Reddy and Genelia D’Souza down South, and all of them moved to Bollywood. When do we see you making your foray here?

As soon as I get a good script. I have been getting offers but the roles are very basic. I don’t want to do films that are not compelling, just for the heck of doing a Hindi film. I’d much rather wait for a substantial, meaty debut in Bollywood.

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