Vishnu Vishal’s filmography is an interesting one. The choices are versatile, and it is evident from the list that the actor doesn’t take an easy way out. Even a commercial comedy-drama like Vellaina Vandhuta Vellakaran is a bit more eccentric than the typical fests. However, Vishnu opines that despite such hits, he is always judged for the ones that didn’t work. “I have understood that it’s going to be like this in the future as well, and it has taken some time for me to realise it,” he says while talking about his upcoming film Gatta Kusthi, directed by Ponram of Rajini Murugan fame. During the conversation with indianexpress.com, the actor opened up about his struggles in convincing producers to trust him, the reason behind releasing Gatta Kushti in Telugu simultaneously, and teaming up with Rajinikanth for Laal Salaam.
Excerpts from the interview:
The Gatta Kusthi trailer suggests the film is not a sports drama like everybody thought.
Gatta Kusthi is not a sports film. It is a family drama about a just-married couple. The difference in opinions and their unmet expectations lead to a fight between the two about who is right and wrong. Gatta Kusthi is a form of wrestling in Kerala. As the bride is from Kerala, we went with it. I am aware I have a good reputation when it comes to sports films with hits like Jeeva and Vennila Kabaddi Kuzhu. That’s why I wanted to create similar expectations from the audience with the title and surprise them with the trailer. And when they see the film, there will be more surprises.
How was it teaming up again with Chella Ayyavu after Silukuvarpatti Singam?
Even while making Silukuvarpatti Singam, Chella told me he has an idea like Dangal. I laughed it off and told him not to fool around. But when he told the one-liner, I told him that it would be our second collaboration. But then Silukuvarpatti Singam didn’t do well as it got a bad release date. Then people started saying I actually don’t have a market and Ratsasan worked because of luck. About nine of my projects were shelved, and no one came forward to produce my projects. That’s when I decided I have to trust myself more than anyone. I thank producer Vishnu Vishal for trusting this actor. And I thank that actor for staying with him for five films. Time and again, I had to consistently prove myself to industry people that I can pull it off, and there’s something I am doing right. With the success of FIR, I have earned that trust. That’s why films like Laal Salaam and another big project with Sathya Jyothi are coming my way. That’s also why Gatta Kusthi has done great business even during the scripting stage as Netflix has bought it for an amount I have never dreamt of. I thank Chella Ayyavu for trusting me and waiting all this while.
It’s good that you are able to produce your own movies.
That’s because I just invest whatever I earn from my previous movies. I am putting all the money I earned from FIR back into making more films. I also have support from people like Ravi Teja sir, who trusted Gatta Kusthi even before the release of FIR. That’s the reason why I am a bit emotional about this film. I need someone like him to trust and believe in me. I keep asking producers to back me telling that I won’t run away with just one film. But nobody did, but that’s how things are. Earlier, I used to be miffed about it, but now I have realised this is how my life is going to be.
When you were already fighting to prove yourself, why chose a sensitive story like FIR, which takes on Islamophobia? Weren’t you a bit worried?
Nobody asks an actor why he is playing a Hindu in films. Why ask him when he plays a Muslim? This is the mental attitude the society has created for all of us. In an interview, I told one of my best friends is a Muslim. What’s the need for such a disclaimer? Have we ever found the need to tell anyone that I have a best friend who is a Hindu? So, there’s an evident perception flaw in the way we think. I wanted to break that construct with FIR. Good and bad people are in every religion. I knew there will be backlash, but it worked because people know it was not showing anyone in a bad light. I knew it involved risk. Even with Gatta Kusthi, there’s a risk involved. The hero in the film is a sexist, who wants his wife to obey him. I am taking that risk because I know it is for the story and the content. Without risks, I wouldn’t be here.
You are now a successful producer and actor. Will we see Vishnu Vishal as a director as well?
Not at all. I am a good judge of myself, and I know I am very bad at creating things. But one important thing I have learnt over the years is that never say never. I never thought I would become an actor or a producer. For now, I will choose to be an assistant director in my movies.
Tell us about teaming up with Rajinikanth for Laal Salaam.
I can’t tell if it is a dream-come-true-moment because I have never imagined myself acting with the Superstar. And top of that AR Rahman sir is composing the music. It’s just magic. Or maybe, people are finally noticing me and destiny is favouring me. I always thought if I somehow stay in the industry for a long time, the industry would sympathise with me and give something back to me. Maybe, that’s happening now.