Indian cinema has been inundated with Vijays, both real and fictional (Big B’s favourite screen name). So when the relatively new Sanchari Vijay, 31, walked away with the national award for best actor for his role of a transgender in the Kannada film Naan Avanilla … Avalu, there was confusion all around. “Who is this Vijay?” they chorused. For that matter, even the recipient of the award seemed dazed. “I thought someone was pulling my leg, I was shocked at first, it took three days for the news to sink in,” confides the actor. Incidentally, Vijay ended a 27-year-long drought in the Kannada film industry by becoming the third actor (after Charu Hassan for the 1987 Tabarana Kathe) to win the national award.
Before this author-backed role came to him, Sanchari Vijay, from Chickmagalur in Karnataka, had only a few small roles in Kannada films, including the multi-lingual Oggarne, to his name. And to top it all, around the same time the actor who has an engineering degree was juggling careers teaching in a polytechnic college in Bengaluru. “Being part of the faculty in college, I was also involved in the cultural events there. Eventually, I got involved with the theatre group Sanchari and that’s how the name Sanchari Vijay stuck,” he grins.
Naturally, he had his eye on films next and thus began doing rounds of directors and producers. Actor-director Ramesh Arvind gave him a break with a small role in the comedy Rangappa Hogbitna, while his role of a mentally and physically challenged person in Dasavala won him plaudits. Strangely when Naan Avanilla … Avalu fell into his lap, he rejected it at first as he felt that it was too close to the character he had essayed in Oggarne and felt he would be typecast. But thankfully for him, writer Jogi and Oggarne director Prakash Raj persuaded him to take on the role for which “a search had been made throughout India”.
The role of a transgender that Vijay essayed in Naan Avanilla... is in fact based on the autobiography of transgender activist Living Smile Vidya. So, was he up to the task? “It was tough all the way, with each and every scene proving to be an unknown territory,” reveals Vijay. He adds, “It helped that we had many transgenders on the sets who would coach me. Also, I went through dozens of videos on YouTube to get a feel of the community.” Sanchari is all praise for producer Ravi who had the guts to make a film like this.
Vijay’s fears of being typecast might have dissolved the moment he got to play the lead in the movie Harivu, a heartbreaking tale of a farmer. Harivu was also based on a real-life incident with the movie clinching the best movie award at the national awards this year.
The actor refuses to be pigeon-holed when it comes to acting. “I would like to play all kinds of roles,” he says. Right now, he has been roped in by the maverick director Ram Gopal Varma for the film Killing Veerappan where he plays an STF officer. “It’s a role short on speech and big on expressions,” says Vijay. Let’s hope it is another vijay for him.