We’re at the landmark ‘Annai Illam’ at Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan Road, T Nagar. The sprawling one-and-a-half-acre property wears its’ age gracefully. After a bit of waiting, Prabhu walks in, apologising for the delay. With a cup of filter kaapi, we settle down for a chat. Excerpts follow...
Meen Kuzhambum Mann Paanaiyum is your 200th project...how does it feel?
It didn’t strike me until Dushyanth (my brother Ramkumar’s son and producer of the film) told me this! I am feeling young because I am working with such artistes. I still have the urge to act in more movies. But I am a content man today. I have been lucky enough to work with popular actors and directors over all these years. I have no complaints.
Tell us about your journey.
Till date, I make sure I bring a good name to my father’s legacy. If I can be half as good as my father, that would be my greatest achievement. The ride has been wonderful so far, and I am enjoying my work today more than what I used to earlier. Every film that I’ve been a part is special.
You were one of the sought-after heroes during the 70s and 80s. How has the transition from a hero to a character artiste been?
Though it was tough, I was sportive about it. Things change over a period of time, and I am still here doing supportive roles. I’m glad that I took the smart decision of branching out. Now, I have the freedom to choose the best from what I am offered.
While you have shared screen space with your father, why haven’t we seen you with Vikram Prabhu yet?
(Laughs) Those were the good old days, and I still remember how Appa used get tensed about my performances. He used to ask people if I was upto the mark or not. Though he supported me, he didn’t want me to act in films. I became an actor accidentally. Of course, I’d love to act with my son, but the final call is his.
How comfortable are you doing films with the younger generation?
I can relate to them easily and everyone is equally talented. In my second innings, I got to be a part of some wonderful pictures like Unnakum Ennakum (2006), Billa (2007), Raavanan (2010), Kaaki Sattai (2015). Up next, I have Muthuramalingam (starring Gautham Karthik), and others.
Can you name some of your own films that are your favourites?
Sangili (1982)! It was my first film. Then, Miruthanga Chakravarthi (1983), Raagangal Maaruvathillai, Kanni Raasi, Duet, Pasumpon, Agni Natchathiram (1988) and Chinna Mapillai (1993).
What keeps you occupied when you are not shooting?
I am spending more time with my grandchildren, like how my Appa did. I take them shopping, drop them at school and pick them back. I am a committee member with the Madras Riding School. I have a great passion for horses. Back then, I was into sports like football and javelin. Nobody would believe all this as I have put on weight now! (Grins)
Was it a conscious decision to not do a full-fledged villain role?
People always see me as ‘Chinna Thambi’, and why would I spoil it? (Smiles). If something interests me, I’ll definitely take it up. Maybe, in the future, I might do grey-shaded roles, subtle characters.
Do you have any unfulfilled desire?
I have had everything in my life but I wish Appa and Amma had been alive to see Vikram’s progress as an actor; they’d be extremely happy.
Is direction on cards?
I don’t think I can direct. It’s a very tough job. But I can always assist my son, who might get into direction later.