- You are a very successful actor with almost 32 films in your career. How is it to work with a debut director?
I am very selfish when it comes to the debut directors. I try to use their brain. They have something different to say and I give them more importance because they are a league apart from the others. They can have a different version of Vishal. They might want to show a Vishal which the audience would have never seen before. I am basically trying to utilise their brain as they are hungry for success to make it as a director. It is not so easy to become a director. Nowadays, it is just a one time opportunity so one must make proper use of it. If you fail the first time not sure if you will be able to make a come back. It might take forever to get a chance. I believe and I am impressed with their honesty and style of working.
- Tell us about Chennai floods in 2015.
To be very brutally honest, when I heard of Chennai floods back in 2015, I was shooting in Madhurai. I did not really know the magnitude of it but I immediately picked up whatever I could like sugar sachets, milk sachets, tea bags from the room service and left for Chennai. I told my team that I had to be on ground as I was not going to be able to sleep or shoot witnessing the scenario where my own city was being destroyed and devastated.
We drove down to Chennai which was an eight hour journey. When we reached Chennai, we saw reality hitting us big time. We decided to start off by getting a lorry full of supplies to a particular school which gave us the permission to start a camp. we were just a few of us as a group deciding to start helping the needy but in all, the humanity was at it’s best at that point of time. It was not just the piticians or the government officials but even the laymen dreaded stepping in to certain areas. I would say it was absolutely a god’s calling because everyday people started dripping in from all quarters of the society such as IAS officers, police officers, doctors, people working in software concerns and it started working as a full fledged NGO wherein we started getting supplies from different sources which was unbelievable for us to see. It was not just the government at that point but also the general public who stepped literally on to the streets and began to help one and another.
I was so happy to see all my fellow actors forgetting the fact that they were actors and lifting up their jeans walking amidst the water upto their waist. They were offloading the the supplies from lorries. We started catering to entire city in such a way that by the end of fifth day every area was allocated to one actor so that we could segregate duties accordingly. The enquiries which came in from the city were catered to in an ordinary fashion. I should thank all the actors from the entire South Indian film industry who kept sending lorries time and again to keep the supplies in stock. At one point of time the supplies piled up to such a great extent which was unbelievable when we received the statistics. We had served almost five lakh families. There is one such incident which I would never forget is when I visited Northern part of Chennai, a learnt how not a single government had not showed up until then. It was filled with waste sewage water. We had to use a boat to reach out to the general public who were stuck in buildings on the first floor. We rushed with food, water and supplies to them. They had timely help which gave us a sense of satisfaction that we had arrived in time to help them. It was actually a full fledged NGO by the end of the stint. We decided not to disintegrate the database and decided to pursue the services even in the future. We have been following it till date. I renamed the group by calling them the “Social Architects”. We offer help to any enquiry that comes our way be it blood donation, animal welfare or any help the society requires.
- How do you deal with success?
I deal with success exactly the way I deal with failures. Success is something I have earned for going that extra mile, for performing the extra stunts or getting an extra stitch in my body. I take it very positive both ways. If it is not happening I tell myself that my time has not come yet but time will come. I do not drown into success but I just swim on it whenever I achieve it.
- What is that one quality Vishal looks for in a friend?
I don’t want them to be plastic. I don’t want them to be pretentious but remain the true themselves. Never portray to be someone else. Only my father, my mother, my sister, my brother and my close friends who have seen me since my childhood look at me as Vishal the human but mostly when I meet people they look at me as an actor. These days they look at you as an actor by the last Friday’s success. I intend to hang around with people who would love to be themselves. They should never fake it.
- You are very influential in South India. You are very well connected politically and otherwise. How do you maintain your relationship?
It is actually an extension to my previous answer. I am myself. I am not going to change just because I have to convince someone for them to understand me or do me a favour. Yes, ofcourse ! At times, I have been on the wrong books too. Politics is not for the weak hearted. You should be street smart. I meet people from all walks of life. You tend to learn so many life lessons which is probably not any school syllabus. People intend to pull you down as much as possible but trying to ward it off is the best part of it and that is a better success according to more than a Friday box office hit. When they see someone gaining popularity and attaining success, yes there will be a lot of jealousy and animosity. You must handle it with calmness.
- You have a new responsibility of being an uncle. How does it feel?
It is an amazing feeling. It is the happiest moment of my life to see my princess sister who means the world to me to have become a mother to a beautiful princess. My brother also has a daughter and now it is my sister’s daughter. It was a numb feeling for me. I did not know how to show my happiness when I saw both of them. I am looking forward to changing diapers. Since off late, I have been doing things which has been a challenge to me and leaving people around me appalled. People who have visited my room recently have realised that my room normally has a bed but it is now just an empty floor as I prefer to sleep on the floor and they are sheer shocked to see my clothes drying in the room because I wash my own clothes.
- You are venturing into direction. What can we expect from the most talented artiste like you ?
For me Thupparivalan 2 fell on my lap. I had a fall out with my director but as a producer, I did not want abandon my child. Hence! I decided to take up the script and complete the project. I re-wrote the screen play. It is about the Kohinoor diamond and how it returns back to India. It will be shot extensively in London. It is an Indian version of Sherlock Holmes. The visual effects and the action sequences again will be larger than life. A lot of execution will be necessary with a big team. It will be a collaboration with Indian and the foreign team. It will be a summer release next year. It has been almost 20 years since I have been waiting for that moment to say “Start. Camera. Action.”
- What is your vision for the South Indian Artist Association (SIIA)?
Yes, we have uprooted a thirty year old regime of senior actors and all the young artists have joined together. We decided to build a building which is more than 45 Crores. We conducted a couple of fund-raising shows where we collected some money. We are underway and in one year we would be showing the entire world an iconic building in Tamil Nadu which will make everyone want to have a look at the building when they visit Chennai. This building’s revenue will be utilised to help more than 3500 striving artiste families who belong to theatre all over Tamil Nadu. It’s our vision to change their lives and uplift their living standards.