If there is a story that deserves an on-screen adaptation, it must be Kenny’s journey to becoming Chiyaan Vikram. It is not new information that Vikram’s biggest break Sethu happened a solid ten years after he entered the industry or that he suffered a serious accident that could have nearly cost him his leg, well before he stepped into tinsel town. But his biopic would be not about these incidents but rather about how he handled them. The movie would showcase his indomitable spirit, impregnable optimism and of course, the insane sacrifices he makes for his characters.
When you have been an actor for a while, the audience becomes well acquainted with the artiste’s body language. We recognise how face muscles move as the artiste traverses through emotions. With Vikram, the canvas that is his body changes so much, that you get a new person on most occasions. For Sethu, he had lived on a fruit juice diet for six months and lost 16 kilograms. For Kasi, where he plays a blind musician, he practise rolling his eyeballs into their sockets for extended amounts of time that after the shoot, his vision had changed. He needed glasses to drive, watch movies etc. He lost twenty kilograms for Shankar’s I — from a beefed up Mr.India look, Vikram transformed into a frail hunchback. The film might not have worked, but there was unanimous appreciation for Vikram’s performance. Even in his commercial films where a visual makeover isn’t necessary, Vikram doesn’t ‘look’ the same. In a 2013 Caravan magazine profile, Vikram is quoted saying, “In Dhil, my character wants to become a cop and those who want to become cops have a small waist. In Saamy, where I play a cop, my waist is thicker. Because after you become a cop, that’s how you look.”
The grit and determination not only manifests in his physical transformation, it is about pushing every tangible boundary for what you love. Vikram, who has an issue with heights, had to climb up a prop for a crane shot when shooting for Ravanan. In the Caravan article, the film’s director recounted that while he noticed some inhibition, Vikram made no hue and cry. Instead, he avoided looking down during shots and close his eyes when they were done. And when he had to ‘fall’ into a ravine, Vikram confessed that he had a problem with heights but it won’t deter him as this time, ‘he would be looking at the sky’. It is this kind of grit and commitment that can inspire anybody.
This is why it hurts when an actor of such calibre gives us underwhelming projects such as his latest film, Sketch. Maybe, the story of a gangster who inspired a few youngsters so deeply that they end up killing him seemed interesting on paper. After all, he is seeking out unconventional roles, as he mentioned in a 2016 interview. Vikram was talking about another misfire, 10 Endrathukulla. “It just did not work out. It’s a genre I’d never done before, and the director Vijay Milton tried to make each frame seem unique. Perhaps the lack of seriousness in the character undid the quality of the film. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the end result does not match the expectations. 10 Enradhukulla is still a movie very close to my heart.”
Maybe, it is the refreshing candour about his career or his ‘never say die’ attitude and his ability to constantly amaze with the limits he can break that makes Vikram a star to look out for. And despite more 28 years in the industry, a star we are never tired of.