CHENNAI: It’s been more than five years since Silambarasan TR last met members of the press. During this time, he has starred in a number of films but Maanaadu, that will be out this week, is thought to be a comeback of sorts, as it comes in the wake of his physical transformation. The change, it seems, isn’t just on the outside.
He calls his philosophy 'Atman', and when asked about it, he says, "There's plenty to talk about it, and when I do, it will make an impact. 'Atman' is about how, beyond the physical self, there’s a soul that’s making us all function. We should all be faithful to that soul and follow its guidance," he says.
A weighty topic
"In a political film, one might assume that the hero will speak mass dialogues and rise against the odds. But Maanaadu is more about the concept of a time loop, and this story occurs in a political backdrop and is about what happens when a normal guy gets caught in it. Producer Suresh Kamatchi braved a lot to bring about this film. The pandemic caused havoc, but Suresh made sure everything remained on track. From our side, the plan was to shoot for 120 days; however, we finished that in half the time. The story demanded that I do fights and chase sequences, and that too, over and over again. When I was heavier earlier, I found it quite taxing. But now that I have lost weight, I was able to do more and found it easier."
Before and after
"During Silambattam times, I was able to reduce weight easily, and my body let me do that with ease. But after 30, if I take things easy, I begin putting on weight. This happened and I couldn't break the cycle. The lockdown came in handy, and I got into a liquid diet for two months. The first week was manageable but after that, I hit a phase where I was even skipping dinner and hitting the bed hungry. I thought I would die (smiles). It was just my body adapting to the new diet. I learned that Siddhars have put themselves through such a diet regimen and I read a lot before getting into it. I also engaged in sports like tennis, cricket and basketball, apart from the usual workout sessions. I also consumed proteins and vital supplements. The usual pressure of being part of cinema wasn't there during the lockdown, and I developed the habit of waking up at 4.30 am. I have lost 27 kgs in the process."
Keeping the audience in the loop
"Maanaadu has been designed by Venkat Prabhu so that it can reach the masses. The backdrop itself is to simplify the concept. I play a guy who doesn't understand what's happening, and so, when he discusses it with his folks, the conversations ensure that the audience is kept informed too. I do think though that the audiences understand everything, and I think it's wrong to believe that they can't understand lofty ideas or are resistant to them. Only when we give them good content will we know what works. In fact, there was a time when dark comedy was thought to be a genre that wouldn't work, but now, it does. When the internet came out, people thought society wouldn't take to it. But today, everyone has access, and we are talking about concepts like metaverse and blockchain transactions. By the way, I am also working to make NFTs."
Producer complaints and emotional outburst
"Many of my films have faced issues, as you know, and even till Vaalu, I had hurdles to cross. Maanaadu is an emotional film for me as it got stalled first, and then, we resumed work. I lost weight and then, there was the pandemic too. It was all overwhelming for me; that's why I couldn't control my tears at the pre-release event. Ennoda vali oda velipaadu adhu.
Producers might have levelled complaints against me, but I have never spoken against them. I guess that has been my issue. If I began to complain, I suspect it would never end. That's why I said, 'Ennoda prechanaiya naa paathukuren; enna neenga paathukonga'. There are so many who are so affectionate towards me, and I want to channel this love productively. I don’t mean this in a political sense as I'm not interested in politics, even though I will always voice my concerns. I have plans to guide them towards something effective."
Striking the right chord
"I keep nagging Yuvan Shankar Raja for the songs. There's a way to get the best out of Yuvan (laughs). There have been instances where we would have worked for four-five days for a song only for me to reject it and for us to start over again. He understands me, and the fact that he lets all that work go, just for me, comes from a bond I cannot expect from everyone."
Cleansing of the soul
"All of us would hit a point when we get stuck in life. Spirituality has helped me emerge from it. I have realised that only when you are clean inside, does the outside get better. I had to mentally purge the negative aspects that were taking up space in my head. I went into a shell, and I didn't like to go out and was contemplating a lot. I was in my own lockdown, and yet, I was working. Now I believe I can finally realise my potential.
In today's social media generation, we know what everyone is talking about us, which wasn't the case before. Irrespective of whether it's good or bad, we shouldn't allow it to affect us. When we take that all personally, inadvertently it gets accumulated inside us and ends up disturbing us. Mental health is a topic that should be understood by everyone."
"I don't have plans to take up direction for at least another year or two. Let my films come out. The shooting of Vendhu Thanindhadhu Kaadu should be completed in another 15 days. I'm nearing my 50th film, and till that time, I intend to focus on acting. The rest of my films haven’t been confirmed yet and the announcements can be expected soon. I have listened to stories from a lot of directors. When news of that gets out, people assume that I am working with those filmmakers, but it doesn't work that way. Both the filmmaker and I need to be free at the same time. Also, I would do a film for my father anytime; he is my guru."
A different future
"Cinema is on the cusp of change. We are attuned to OTT content and films from other languages. People don't really like 'cinematic' content anymore. We have to understand that to sustain. In the last five years, it might have looked like I haven't done much outside, but I have planned a lot in many aspects like films, songs, and even what I want to do for the general public's well being. I will execute those plans soon. The films I did were different when I was younger, and now, I'm in a different zone... a peaceful zone."