When he made his debut in 2012 (Oru Kal Oru Kannadi), not many would have bet on Udhayanidhi Stalin becoming a bankable actor in the industry. Fast forward seven years and Udhayanidhi is a confident actor with an impressive lineup of films involving names like KS Adhiyaman, Mysskin, Ilaiyaraaja, and PC Sreeram.
“I used to feel tense about everything from dance to fight. It was only after the positive reception to Manithan (2016) and Nimir (2018) that I shed inhibitions and began seeking roles out of my comfort zone. That veteran directors have now started approaching me gives me great confidence.”
Despite hailing from one of the most powerful political families in the country, Udhayanidhi’s films have hardly touched upon politics — until this week’s release, Seenu Ramasamy’s Kanne Kalaimaane (KK). He agrees: “KK is my most political film yet, and touches upon current events wherever necessary, including the plight of farmers, farm loans, and the NEET exam.” He feels there is a vacuum for such films.
“There are many that criticise politics, but barely any that talk about constructive politics, the need of the hour. This is such a film. The commercial success of KK is secondary to me.”
His character in KK is loosely based on an organic farmer based in Chozhavandhan. “We shot a major portion of the film at an organic fertilizer manufacturing unit. On the second day of the shooting, Seenu sir introduced me to a youngster named Karthik whose dressing was similar to my character’s. It was then that I realised that the character was based on him and that we were actually shooting in his manufacturing unit.”
Is this the first step to a full-fledged political film? “People have asked me to do the remake of films like Leader and Bharat Ane Nenu. But I refused, as the lead character becomes a CM within a few minutes into the film and I’m not yet ready for such roles. But I’ll make sure that my films henceforth have a social message.”
A glance at Udhayanidhi’s filmography reveals a shift from entertainers to content-oriented film. “The first three films of mine were based on the success of OKOK and were all identical and formulaic. I thought the audience wanted only those films from me, but I was proved wrong. And then, I decided to get experimental, and did films like Manithan and Gethu,” he says.
He’s quite aware of the negative reviews he got during the initial stages. “But when my films — like Saravanan Irukka Bayamaen — become commercially successful, I try not to let negative reviews bog me down. But I accept all kinds of reviews and believe no film is beyond criticism.”
He may have started doing more serious films, but he’s been careful to play only boy-next-door characters. How about say a role with grey shades? “I guess most of the directors view me as an appavi pakkathu veetu paiyan. But I can guarantee that Mysskin’s Psycho will showcase a different dimension of me.” He goes on, “Three psychos, Mysskin, Ilaiyaraaja and PC Sreeram have joined hands to make a psycho film. They say this quite often. I enjoyed every moment shooting for this film. I sat back after shooting to observe how PC Sreeram sir sets up the lighting. Seeing such legends at work is nothing short of magic.”
The actor has a couple of days shooting left for Psycho, his next after KK. He also recently began shooting for the crime thriller, Kannai Nambadhey, with Iravukku Aayiram Kangal-fame Mu Maran. Apart from this, he also has a film with director Adhiyaman in his kitty.
He’s grateful to all the directors he’s worked with. “Rajesh sir taught me minute details like how to position myself in front of the camera. Priyan sir taught me so many basics. Seenu sir is particular about getting the emotional scenes right, and if I go a bit overboard, he would ask for another take. Mysskin sir has an adamant nature when it comes to getting what he wants,” he says. “He won’t leave you till he gets what he imagined. But once he gets that, he will celebrate the actor with all his heart. He shoots only about 6-7 shots in a day, but takes a lot of time to film each of them.”
Despite being shot at a brisk pace, Kanne Kalaimaane has had to wait in the cans for six months, due to some release issues. “These days, even the release of big stars’ films are restricted to festive days. Films like KK can pick up only by word of mouth publicity.
The Tamil Nadu Producers Council (TFPC) launched a release committee to govern the release dates, and yet, some films broke rules and got released. Now that committee has been dissolved, and they have resorted to the traditional method of releasing films as per the will of the distributor and producer.”He urges more unity in the industry. “They don’t have oneness in the council. There’s too much politics going on with the Nadigar Sangam and Producers Council,” he says. “I’d rather concentrate on real-world politics for the betterment of people than on such pettiness.”