‘Every actor requires some sort of eccentricity’

Seasoned actor MS Bhaskar opens up about his recent success Parking, the legacy of Patabhi, his jewelled appreciations, and voice acting
‘Every actor requires some sort of eccentricity’

Setting up an interview with actor MS Bhaskar was like revisiting childhood. The seasoned actor has cemented a long-lasting legacy with his roles. Isn’t that one of the perks of being a showman? The luxury of living rent-free in the minds of many? But to see a character from childhood sitting in front of you is special. His iconic and hilarious Pattabhi from the serial Chinna Papa Periya Papa was one of those characters that almost everyone grew up with in Tamil television space in the early 2000s. Over the years, we have seen him essay diverse roles and stack up a versatile filmography. Recently, Bhaskar delivered a resounding performance in Parking. His Illamparuthi was a beacon of dichotomy. The same man who is unable to hold eye contact after doing something wrong, transforms into an egotistical adversary who smashes a bottle on someone’s head.

Bhaskar, in all humbleness, begins by crediting Parking’s success to the entire team. “It has to be shared by everyone, including the director, actors and technicians. I am not the only one to take it.”  From Pattabhi to Ilamparuthi, over the years, Bhaskar has delivered inspirational performances, but where did he find his inspiration from? “There are many. For instance, Sivaji (Ganesan) appa’s performance in Thangai. His acting, beautifully accompanied by the song lyrics, voiced by TM Soundararajan, moved me. Another one would be from Deiva Magan, which I watched at 16-17. There is a scene involving three characters played by him and the moment where he knows about his son. They would have shot it separately and he would have reacted to an empty space probably while actually shooting it. His performance astonished me. Recently in 96, in a particular scene enacted by my son (Aaditya Bhaskar), he turns around and gives one melancholic look. In fact, I asked him who taught him that,” recalls Bhaskar.

Bhaskar has been a vocal proponent of the power of appreciation. “Kamal (Haasan) anna had once said that I am half of him. It was a rewarding statement,” says the veteran actor, who recalls another appreciation that will always be close to his heart. “A child innocently mimicked the mannerism I imbibed to my character in the serial, Vaazhkai. It means I am still relevant to those little hearts. Ella pugazhum iraivanuke.”

In a hero-driven industry, Bhaskar has no qualms about being an actor whom filmmakers approach for all kinds of roles. “In Parking, as much as the main cast got applauded, the same came to the artist who played the iron man too. This is where the talent of the filmmakers come through. Can they make memorable characters out of actors who are appearing in roles with less screen time? That is a talent.” he adds. Recalling how he started his acting career with a passion to become an actor, and not a hero or a villain, Bhaskar shares an anecdote that cemented his belief that his path to become an actor was the right one. “It was the time I was playing villain Aandavar Lingam in the serial, Selvi. I was called to my daughter’s school to meet the Correspondent. When I went there, she asked me why I was choosing such a character that does so many bad things. She couldn’t watch me as a villain. I explained to her how it was just my job, and later realised that it was the success of that character too. Making my characters a success has been my driving force. I did not enter the industry wanting to be choosy about roles. I just wanted to act.”

Speaking about playing a complex and grey-shaded character like Ilamparuthi, Bhaskar says it’s all about striking a balance between the director’s inputs and his own observations. “An actor shouldn’t put all the burden on the director. Then what would be your work? But at the same time, I have to ask the filmmaker’s permission to improvise because their travel with the character has been longer than mine. I draw inspiration from real-life characters, and match them with the roles. In the case of Illamparuthi, he isn’t a criminal but an egoistic man who fails to have the maturity for his age. Once when I was speaking to Kamal anna, he said that every actor requires some sort of eccentricity. Ilamparuthi is one such person whose ego is his label, and Parking efficiently captured the essence in its writing,” Bhaskar adds.

Apart from his stellar roles in front of the camera, Bhaskar has also developed quite a repertoire in front of the microphone as a voice artist. “After my son completed 96, I played the canteen scene from 8 Thottakal without the sound, and made him practice delivering the monologue. The vallinam and mellinam is something that has to be practised and when it comes to dubbing, we should pronounce and complete each word. You need to have a command of the language, the ability to play with words, and understand how other language actors might speak Tamil, develop accents, and nurture the enthusiasm to learn. Voice acting helps in improving memory power and it came in handy as an actor too.”

We come back to the topic of legacy before signing off, and the pragmatism of Bhaskar comes to the fore in all its glory. “I just want to be an actor. What is the point of thinking of legacy? Someone as legendary as Clint Eastwood, at the peak of his popularity, would walk on the streets without any hassle. When someone with such a legacy is like that, why would I even think of such things. The only thing that I want from my career... is to be myself. I am that, right?” he concludes.

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