Arya’s love for fitness is something we all know. He took to cycling as he wanted to lose weight for Raja Rani (2013). But little did he know that pedalling around would fetch him a film down the line. “Magamuni director Santhakumar is a biker. He approached me with the script just because I ritually ride a cycle. Perhaps, he knew good cyclists had a high level of endurance and mental strength,” smiles Arya, who has done a dual role in Magamuni that releases today.
“Santhakumar and I are like-minded as we get high on road trips. You go through a gamut of emotions when you push the boundaries and do solo travelling. It’s hard to explain, but bliss to experience. Things like these got us to collaborate on Magamuni. I think it was destiny. Santhakumar is extremely passionate about cinema and the art of storytelling. The more an actor and a director understand each other, the output is better,” says Arya.
Magamuni isn’t the kind of film that the audience expects from him. “But that’s the catch,” Arya says, adding that he has stepped into a new phase in his career with the Santhakumar-directorial. “It simply happened like Bala’s Naan Kadavul. Not often such meaningful films come my way. You don’t question certain decisions. You go with the flow. It’s about conviction and a quest to do something different. Santhakumar could have done Magamuni with anyone, but it came to me and I consider myself fortunate,” he notes.
Arya acknowledges that Magamuni wasn’t an easy film to make. “Santhakumar has got the Mouna Guru brand and writes well-defined characters. Naturally, I surrendered myself to the script and did whatever Santhakumar asked,” shares Arya.
The conversation turns a tad philosophical. Arya sounds serious and we see the opposite of the fun-loving guy he plays in the movies. “Of late, I have been conscious that I pick good films. There have been hits and misses. Sometimes, you land up in a good film. Sometimes you see others grab the same opportunity. It has got a lot to do with time and timing,” Arya observes.
Magamuni required him to do a specific aasana that was shot in a single take. “Perfecting Brahmacharyasana was challenging. The body has to listen to what your mind says,” smiles Arya, who indulged in Yoga to pull off the Muni character. “He is saint-like. I had to stop cycling, so that my muscles were relaxed. But I continued fast-walking and jogging. Yoga is more than a mere workout,” he says.
Heaping praise on Santhakumar and his understanding of the cinematic process, Arya adds, “Magamuni discusses caste, God and makes the audience think constantly.”
Further, Arya says it was challenging to show variations in his characters. “Maga and Muni belong to different social strata and follow different ideologies. It took a while for me to understand them and get into the skin of the characters. As an actor, I would have an idea as to how a character should behave. But when a director is more specific, it’s easy to cater to his needs,” Arya elaborates.
Was it easy to switch between the Muni and Maga characters? “Of course. The moment someone says ‘cut’, I detach myself from the role. But it was tough to carry a calm expression on my face throughout. To achieve that, I kept playing songs in my head. Sometimes, it was Rowdy Baby. Sometimes, it was Theepidikka,” laughs Arya.
Did Magamuni remind Arya of his Naan Kadavul days? “To be honest, that took a toll on my emotional health. I don’t take my characters home, but while filming, I realised I wasn’t my usual self. I somewhat behaved like my character as I was away from home amidst aghoris in Kasi. I wasn’t even talking to my parents on the phone,” he recalls.
The makers had to shoot a sizable portion of Magamuni in a cramped house that Arya found difficult. “We shot for 28 hours at a stretch in a 100 sq ft house. Thankfully, we completed all the scenes the same day, so that we didn’t have to go back to the same spot. Also, we shot Magamuni for 55 days in 45 different locations,” Arya tells.
Is he nervous about the release of Magamuni? “Not really. I am sure the audience will like the film. And, if it becomes a hit, 99 per cent of the credit goes to Santhakumar,” Arya bursts into a sweet smile.
Arya believes he is attracted to good scripts post-marriage. “After Sayyeshaa came into my life, things have changed for the better. She is a bundle of positive energy and prays for my success. It has made a massive difference. Sayyeshaa is more mature and I listen to her implicitly,” he says, gleefully.
Arya is also a part of Suriya’s much-awaited political thriller, Kaappaan, which will hit screens on September 20. “Suriya is the sweetest person I have worked with. So is Lalettan. In fact, I came on board without even listening to the script. KV sir and I have been wanting to work together for a long time,” says Arya.
“I am used to doing multi-starrers and I love them. When we weren’t shooting, Suriya sir and Lalettan used to share interesting nuggets about their iconic films. It was great knowing them. Kaappaan happened to Sayyeshaa when we were shooting for Ghajinikanth. I had no clue I would also land up in the same film eventually. We weren’t married then,” grins Arya.
Up next, Arya and Sayyeshaa are sharing screen space in Teddy, directed by Shakti Soundarrajan of Miruthan fame. “The film is shaping up well. It’s a half-fantasy and half-family entertainer,” he signs off.