Back in the game!

Back in the game!


Back in the game!

The heartthrob from Roja, Bombay and so many more South Indian films, made a comeback last year with an anti-hero’s role in the Tamil film Thani Oruvan, and is now back on the Hindi screen too with Dear Dad, a father-son saga that releases on May 13. He also has a new spelling to boot — Arvind Swami, minus the extra ‘a’ in his first name after ‘r’ and an ‘i’ instead of ‘y’ in his second name.

By and large, Hindi movies have never seen South Indian heroes making it big, despite massive hits like Ek Duuje Ke Liye (Kamal Haasan), Andhaa Kaanoon (Rajnikanth) and Anari (Venkatesh). But the first significant dubbed film was Roja (1993), and its hero, Arvind, later did a few more films (Bombay, Dalpati, Sapnay) which flopped. Despite this, the actor enjoyed and still enjoys a huge fan following, especially among women, across India.

“I can only be thankful for that,” Arvind smiles when we meet up in Mumbai. “I have no explanation for it, though. I was told by a young journalist that 22 years ago when Roja released, his mother was my fan, and today, she was ecstatic that I was meeting her son. So I thank all the ladies for their love. I am touched.”

What does his wife think about all this female adulation? “Oh, she isn’t bothered at all! I am a recluse and that’s largely because of her,” he smiles in reply.

A reluctant actor

But it is this very nature in him that led to Arvind taking a break from cinema, a few years into his stardom. He explains, “I was 20 when I became a reluctant actor, after Mani Ratnam auditioned me for Roja. Mani had to come home to ask my father’s permission and was told that I had to go abroad on a scholarship the following year.”

Arvind grins, “When Roja released, I was studying abroad. But after its success, I started doing more films, enjoying the process of acting, but not relishing the trappings of stardom. I did not know how to deal with them at all, and in fact, found them stifling. I had other ideas in technology and business, and thought I would quit acting for a while.”
The break kept becoming longer, as Arvind experimented in other fields, then went abroad and focussed on implementing his ideas. He goes on, “Then I wanted to raise my kids well. After that I had an accident, and was paralysed for some time. So it took me almost 15 years to come back to acting,” he says.

Would he go for a negative role in a Hindi film too? “Why not? I have never been bothered about my image,” Arvind replies. “Thani Oruvan in any case had me as more of an anti-hero. My character was never beaten up, never had vices, and I was also the protagonist. As for Dear Dad, I shared the script with my son, as the story was such that I did not want him to be uncomfortable watching me on screen.”
Language no bar
After a long gap, was it difficult to face the camera? “Not at all. It is an actor’s dream to do diverse roles. For Dear Dad, I was a shade nervous on the day before the shoot. I would keep looking into the monitor after giving a shot. Then my director asked me why I wanted to keep looking at my work.”

How proficient is he in Hindi? And Arvind replies, “Although I am okay with doing Hindi films, I am not articulate in the language. I had Hindi as my second language till Class 10 in school. But Dear Dad is in Sync Sound, so I had to do a good job.”

Are there any changes in his approach to a role after his comeback? “These days, I do question a lot, debate and argue and come up with suggestions,” he states. “This is an important process for all of us, as improvements can be made in the dialogues and in a character’s details.”

And what does he think has changed in cinema? “Technology above all!” he stresses. “It makes a complex craft like filmmaking accessible and easy for the young generation. Today, my son can shoot a film on his cellphone, edit it and put it on digital platforms. The Internet has brought in a lot of exposure to world cinema with accessibility to knowledge. The audience is more aware.”

What are his future plans? “I do have 2 scripts ready, as I am planning to take up direction,” he says. Will it be a Tamil, Hindi, bi-lingual or multi-lingual film? “Let us see. It depends on the kind of setup. South Indian films made in Hindi need some pan-Indian association, like in Roja, Bombay or now, in Bahubali — The Beginning.”

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