What do you think is the significance of The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir, your first major international project?
It is a crossover film and can set an example of collaboration, blurring of the boundaries and reaching a wider market. Dealing with an international cast was a learning experience for me and helped me understand how actors from different parts of the world work. I had so much to observe, learn and unlearn. So far, it has been received well in some key markets. It has already released in Spain and it’s going to release in the US, the UK, India, and Japan. I am curious to know how the Indian audience will receive it.
Was it overwhelming that many fans turned up for the movie’s trailer launch in Mumbai?
I consider myself blessed. It must be the result of my parents’ prayers and my good deeds in the past life. There are always better, talented and more good-looking people out there waiting for a break. Then out of nowhere, a normal, mediocre actor is sitting here. This is something extraordinary, something you can’t see with your eyes, which has played a major part in this.
What about you, do you think, connects with the fans and has given you pan-Indian acceptance?
I’m very ordinary and that’s my strength. I have never worked towards a pan-Indian recognition as such. It is great to enjoy popularity across India. I am not going to say no to it. I do my job sincerely and wait for the right script. There are times when a beautiful script comes my way but I don’t see myself playing that role. I have missed a few opportunities because of this. I regret some of these decisions. Some, I don’t. I always wait for that one story which urges me to be part of the movie regardless of the language it is in.
How did you prepare for the role of a Mumbai slum boy who tricks people with street magic?
I had no time to prepare. Director Ken Scott was very helpful and he guided me through its making. I tried to understand the character and do justice to it. I hope I did that.
You have a dance number with Bérénice Bejo, who dances beautifully in the Oscar-winner, The Artist (2011).
We are used to the kind of dancing shown in our movies. But it must be new to her. We should give her credit for the hard work she must have put in and for doing it beautifully. We canned the sequence in two days.
Today, even though we are watching a lot of regional content, do you think the language barrier is still there?
When you create good art, be it music, painting, poetry or literature, it manages to reach people. So many good books have been translated and read widely. I have read Hindi and English books translated in Tamil. We come from a country where people speak in different languages, yet art finds a way to communicate.
You have produced a bunch of movies so far. How do you decide which project to back?
The reasons are different for each movie. However, the most common reason is that I want to tell a story and I believe it is going to make a difference.
Did the urge to tell a story turn you into a director with Power Paandi (2017)?
Yes. I wanted to tell the story that once our parents become old, we take them from for granted. We forget about their happiness and the fact that they need love. My directorial debut was about that. I wanted to tell this story in a light-hearted manner and convey that even after you turn 60, you can still enjoy life.
As a producer and director, how hands-on are you?
When I am acting, I do what’s asked of me. As a producer or director, I get involved with everything and give my feedback. I enjoy directing the most. I am writing something at present. It would take a while for me to start the project as I have other projects to wrap up. It should go on floors in mid-2020.
Do you always write what you direct?
Till date, I have been writing what I direct. It may change tomorrow once my thoughts slow down. I love writing. I also love jamming. I never feel tired. They are like those fun activities that kids do between their studies.
How important is music for you?
Without music, I will perish. Music is my lifeline and keeps me going. I am not talking only about the music I make. I am talking about music in general. As long as I remember, I have always enjoyed music.
You were reluctant to take up acting initially. Which profession would you have liked to pursue other than acting?
I wanted to be a chef. I don’t cook but I always wanted to.