A few days before the release of Vaanam Kottatum, the production house Madras Talkies put out a tweet. “His struggles are real, but his comebacks are stronger. His name is Shanthnu Bhagyaraj.” Sure, being the son of a celebrated filmmaker might open doors easily, but Shanthnu’s journey has also been defined by determination and struggle.
“I believe that one should let life flow, and go with it. In fact, I believe that directors, production houses, and the audience know what suits me well,” says Shanthnu, as we settle down for a heartfelt conversation about his cinematic journey, being part of ‘visible’ projects, and the attempt to diversify himself as an actor. Success in cinema is also a consequence of good timing. You seem to have missed some opportunities (like Boys) due to this. How do you see them now? I think the public needs to know what happened because there are multiple stories out there.
People believe that I opted out of these projects due to my arrogance. But only my family and the production companies know what truly transpired. I was regretting it. Had I done Subramaniyapuram or Kalavani, I would have been a bigger star today. But I realise that we can’t keep living in the past. If it is meant for us, it will reach us. Perhaps it was not meant for me then, which is why situations prevented me from being part of these projects. Since last year, I have been focussing only on the positives, on what I can do next. Also, enakku nadakka vendiya oru nalladhu, innorutharukku nadandha adhuvum nalladhu dhan. (smiles) You have said that you want to be part of projects that will take you to the audience, irrespective of the screentime afforded to your character.
So when I got an offer from Madras Talkies, I immediately said yes. I am a huge Thalapathy fan, so working with him in Master was a dream come true. En life la en padatha ethana makkal paapangalo, adha vida nooru madangu avaroda o ru padatha paapanga. Why would I say no? I also have Ravana Kottam and Kasada Thapara, both of which have interesting and different roles. I am also doing a Netflix film where I had to perform very realistically.
My experience with Vaanam Kotttattum helps there. I am learning to be a better performer. Being a star kid, no matter what you do, or don’t, he is bound to be drawn into the equation. He has done so much, in so many areas — screenwriting, acting, directing and so on. So no matter what I do, it won’t be a space without his contribution. I have stopped trying to beat what he has done. I have to come to terms with people attributing my success to him, or responding to my failure with lines like, “Avaru paiyan-a irundhutu ipdi panriye pa.” I can’t stop this from happening. I can only learn to focus on what I do and ignore such reactions.”
I love how Vijay anna transforms in a snap for a scene. He always stays on the spot just like everyone else. There might be several stars who are also so humble, but I’ve had the opportunity to witness it firsthand with Vijay anna.
He is a good listener. I feel that he has begun to interact more with people now, and I once told him that he should be this way. And in response, he told me, “I am always the same da. It is only the people around me who change.” That’s something I will remember always.