If Tamil cinema opts to reflect contemporary politics on the big screen, as it so often does, then Udhayanidhi Stalin is, perhaps, the best candidate to play Rajinikanth’s villain in whatever film the latter chooses to work next.
Such has been the nature of his tweets — and he writes them with a certain slyness and wit characteristic of the lineage he belongs to — that makes it next to impossible for him to not expect questions about his supposed political ‘feud’ with Rajinikanth, when he meets a group of cinema writers ahead of this Friday’s release, Psycho (a film directed by Mysskin that stars Udhayanidhi in the lead).
“How do you know that my tweets are about [Rajini]?” he asks.
To which, he is asked, in return, if he will be contesting in next year’s State assembly elections, and whether he would prefer running against Rajinikanth (the actor has announced his intent to form a political party). For once, he does not deflect.
“First let’s see if he enters politics,” he says.
When another query about the Thuglak-Murasoli controversy is brought up, Udhayanidhi leans back on a swivel chair in the visitors’ conference room at MK Stalin’s Chittaranjan Road house and remarks, “He just gave publicity for Murasoli and Thuglak. That is all there is to it…”, before laughing.
Then, he adds: “Let’s talk about Psycho too.”
Learning by method
Udhayanidhi’s association with Mysskin stretches back more than a decade.
“I’ve watched all his films but he has not watched a single film of mine. He ensures to keep reminding me of that as well,” he laughs.
The actor-producer was to have made his debut in Mysskin’s film Yuddham Sei (2011), which was eventually finished with Cheran in the lead after he dropped out. Udhayanidhi later made his acting debut with M Rajesh’s Oru Kal Oru Kannadi (2012).
“It was my decision. I did not want to do a dark film on debut. Later, when I watched Yuddham Sei, I felt bad. It was such a brilliant film, and I felt that I had missed out on a glorious opportunity,” he says.
In Psycho, Udhayanidhi plays a visually-challenged music conductor named Gautham.
“I loved the character,” he says, adding that he spent a few days with a visually-challenged person to observe their mannerisms and communication style in a bid to help him prepare for the role.
- Udhayanidhi Stalin is already working a film directed by Mu Maran of Iravukku Aayiram Kangal fame. Titled, Kannai Nambathey, the film has an ensemble cast including Prasanna, Aathmika, Sathish, and the Roja Koottam pair of Srikanth and Bhoomika. “The shoot is 60 per cent complete. I think there is about 20 days of filming left,” says Udhayanidhi. The actor has also signed up Magizh Thirumeni of Thadam fame for another project, a film that will be produced under his banner Red Giant Movies.
But nothing would have readied him for what Mysskin had in store for him.
Udhayanidhi, inspired by Ayushmann Khurrana in Andhadhun, says he had bought a pair of special lenses — the kind that would bleach one’s vision.
“You won’t be able to see a thing. I asked my wife to shoot a video of me touching and feeling my way around the house with the lens on, and then I sent the video to Mysskin. He saw it and said, ‘Kannamma, super! But we don’t need to do all this. We just need a [black] sunglass,” he laughs.
Still, Udhayanidhi says, he went against the filmmaker’s wishes, and used the lens while shooting, much to the latter’s annoyance.
“He asked me why I was doing needless things, but I reasoned with him that it would add that bit of realism to my portrayal. I told him that it would feel nice if I brought that aspect to my acting,” Udhayanidhi says.
Disputes can be commonplace when working on a Mysskin project, considering the “perfectionist” he is.
Like when he banished all of his assistant directors from the film set for a day when the crew was shooting in Coimbatore.
“He was angry. The poor assistants were calling us from two streets away to ask if he had calmed down enough to come back,” he laughs.
“From my hair style and costume to determining what type of glass I should wear and what stick I should be holding, everything was decided by him. He is someone who gets what he wants. I was told that the ‘Unna Nenachu’ song was the 27th tune that Ilaiyaraaja had composed,” he adds.
Psycho promises to be a performance-heavy affair for not just Udhayanidhi but also for names like Aditi Rao Hydari, Nithya Menen and Raj Kumar (who plays the ‘psycho’ character in the film).
“Raj will go places after this. He has acted really well. At the end of the film, you will feel confused as to who the real hero is,” says Udhayanidhi.
He waxes lyrical about Nithya, who plays a character named Kamala Das.
“She is a bundle of energy. In fact, Mysskin offered her both the lead female roles in the film, and she chose to play Das. It is a very challenging character, and I don’t think I have seen a similar role in recent times in Tamil cinema. Kamala Das cusses a lot but there is a reason for it. She is always angry in the film,” he says, adding, “Though Aditi is my love interest, I had only two days of shoot with her. After watching the film, I realised that she has struggled a lot physically to play her character.”
It’s just business!
Despite the rawness in its depiction of violence and use of abusive words in dialogues, Udhayanidhi says that the Film Certification Board only demanded four mutes in Psycho.
“I don’t think they wanted any visuals to be cut but, of course, it is an A-certificate film. It is certainly not a film for children,” he says.
The topic is gently steered back towards Rajinikanth by a few diligent members of the questioning group.
The Superstar is acting in a film produced by Sun Pictures directed by Siva. The last Sun Pictures production that featured Rajini was Petta, a film whose Tamil Nadu theatrical distribution rights was snapped up by Red Giant Movies (Udhayanidhi’s film production and distribution firm).
Will the current political situation make it any different for when this next Rajini film is up for release?
“Why should it be any different? If Sun Pictures are producing, obviously, I will distribute it. If he (Rajinikanth) has no problem with it, then why will I have a problem?” Udhayanidhi concludes.