What do you feel about the response to "Run"?
Ecstatic! I'm in Goa shooting for "Dhoom". But I've been in constant touch with my "Run" producer Boney Kapoor and the distributors. They all seem to be happy with the way the film has performed. No one is complaining. There's even talk of some profit being made. What more can I ask for?
"Run" looked like a run-of-the-mill film from the start.
Yes it did. It may be run-of-the-mill. But it wasn't stale. I always maintained it didn't have novelty value. It's not a life-changing film like "The Passion Of The Christ". "Run" was an out-and-out entertainer. And who says audiences don't like the clichés? I have chicken curry and rice everyday and I still don't get tired of it. The audiences have no problem with formula cinema as long as the story is told with verve.
I consider my grandmother and mother the greatest storytellers on earth. When I was a child they'd tell my sister and I the same story every night at bedtime. Every night I was intrigued anew. I'd like to think we've succeeded in telling a familiar story with a new spin in "Run".
What makes "Yuva" such a special film for you?
Mani Ratnam. The genius that he is, he has the knack of making everything seem just right. And when I say everything I mean everything from the dialogue to the costumes, set design, music, acting... To me everything felt right.
How did "Yuva" come your way?
I don't know. My luck I guess. I remember Shaad Ali who worked with Mani Ratham and who was a very good friend of mine told me Mani Sir wanted to meet me. I thought he wanted to get in touch with Dad through me. I went and met him. He offered me a film. When he narrated the script I was stuck by how simply he narrated a rather complex plot. Later, I was to realise that's how he worked. After he told me the story and my character he said, 'I forgot to mention the most important thing. Would you like to work with me?' I just laughed and told him what an honour it would be to work with him.
I'm thankful I got "Yuva" at a time when I really needed it. It boosted my confidence as an actor. I've evolved with Mani. When Maddy (Madhavan) who has worked extensively with Mani came to wish us on the first day he told me I was heading for big trouble.
According to Maddy, Mani spoils his actors. It's hard to come out of his spell. Now I know what Maddy meant. What I really love about Mani is that he's a very keen observer of life and people. He gives reference points for every scene. He's always watching even when the camera isn't on. That's scary. Because even when you aren't working you feel you're being watched. He'll suddenly say, 'You remember what you did last evening at dinner? I want you to do that.' An actor has to work with Mani to understand what he's all about.
The confidence he's given me is immense. I've never played a character like Lallan before. He's by far the most complex character I've played. He's so hard to classify. One thing that Mani and I decided about Lallan is that he isn't ambiguous. Lallan is very clear about what he wants in life.
This is the darkest character you've ever played?
I don't think Lallan Singh is dark. Through the process of playing him I actually got to understand and like him. When I see the film now, I feel a strange empathy for him. That's weird, because at times he's anything but likeable. But he isn't a villain or a grey character.
Your co-stars say yours is the best role and performance in "Yuva".
They're very kind. To be honest, all my co-stars -- Ajay, Vivek, Rani -- have been very supportive. My performance has little to do with my abilities. If it's effective it's because of the way Mani wrote the character. He encouraged me to play Lallan the way you see the character. And I got a lot of help from my co-stars, especially Rani who plays my wife. A character can flourish if it has the ambience and space conducive to growth.
Your father could flourish in the most cramped spaces.
That's why he's the chosen one. That's why he's the best.
Did you have to be a serious student of cinema during the making of "Yuva"?
I've had the time of my life working with Mani. He has a terrific unit. I've worked with many of them in the past. All of them were very well. On top of that I had some wonderful co-stars. So the whole experience was amazing. Mani is wonderful with his actors. He talks to us, makes us feel comfortable. One can talk to him about anything. Even after pack-up he spends time with us.
Since "Yuva" is a film about male bonding did you feel closer to the guys than the girls?
Quite frankly, I didn't work much with any of the girls except Rani who's my co-star. We guys did spend a lot of time together. It was great fun. It may sound clichéd to say we were one big happy family. But that was a fact.
What do you think of Madhavan playing your role in the Tamil version of "Yuva"?
I haven't seen much of it. But from whatever little that I have, I can see Maddy has done a fantastic job. Maddy has worked a number of times with Mani and I admit I'm jealous (laughs). I don't think there's any real competition between the two versions of the film. I'm very fond of Maddy. I want both the versions to work. I've seen how hard Mani has worked on both. "Yuva" has a universal theme, though for the life of me I can't classify what kind of film it is. What Mani said about "Yuva" makes sense -- that 'it's about three individuals and their choices in life.'
Two Abhishek Bachchan starrers in two weeks!
And what is wrong with that? Approximately one billion people watch Hindi films. I'm sure there're enough people to watch "Run" and "Yuva". I've no control over my films' release. My job is to act. The rest I leave to those who know about marketing. But I must say "Yuva" is a very special film because of Mani Ratnam and because of Lallan Singh who is the most special character I've ever played. I'm very keen to see how audiences react to it.