Arvind Swami shot to fame with films like Roja and Bombay. However, after attaining stardom, the actor preferred to stay away from the limelight for a couple of years. At India Today Conclave South 2018, Arvind Swami talks about stardom, why he left the industry and his subsequent return to the industry.
I just wanted to be an actor. Stardom just happened. I accidentally became an actor and continued to do so because I like it. When I was in college, I took up modelling that gave me hefty commissions. So I started doing commercials and then Mani Ratnam saw me and called me for an audition for Thalapathi. So, I’ve been lucky.
ON MANI RATNAM FILMS
We hit it off from the word go. He knows what I can do or cannot do. We have a good vibe and synergy. He’s a tough taskmaster but I’ve learnt so much from him. There’s a strong sense of discipline on sets. But that’s how I’ve learnt to work.
WHY HE LEFT
None of this [stardom] was planned for me. While I enjoyed acting, I was not prepared for stardom. It was not something I enjoyed. I wanted to do other things and that’s why I took a break. Stardom stifled me. The attention and the lack of privacy were things I couldn’t cope with. This was all new to me and I hadn’t anticipated this and it was uncomfortable. After Roja, I went to the US to do my Masters. I wanted to do that.
And then we started a business. It blew into something that spread across countries. I left it in 2005. I had to single-parent my kids and so I had to take my time off. I also met with an accident. I had no ambition to come back for films.
WHY HE CAME BACK
Mani Ratnam called me back for Kadal. Because Kadal wasn’t received well, I wanted to make an impact. if Kadal hadn’t done well, I would’ve have come back. I didn’t want to sign off on a low. I know I have the capability to sign off on a low.
HOW THE INDUSTRY HAS CHANGED
The biggest change has come from the audience. They’re exposed to many things, thanks to YouTube. Communication and visibility are major factors as well. Filmmaking has become so accessible. My kids make films on Iphones and edit it. The mystery of filmmaking has been demolished. Young directors know how to cater to the audience.
There is a censor board. But the parameters are not relevant anymore. In Tamil cinema, if you show a man and woman kissing, you can’t get a U rating. I grew up seeing films about violence against women, but you’re not rating it U on that. But you’re not okay with kissing scenes, which is an expression of love. And then there is political censorship. There are angry mobs. But they should know we will not do something that will hurt sentiments. An artists job is to make you think, not to hurt sentiments.
SHOULD CINEMA CARRY A MESSAGE?
I don’t think the job of the film industry is to preach. It is to entertain. But I do like if I take something home from the cinema.
ON DOING CONTROVERSIAL FILMS
I will not do something that will deliberately be provactive.
ON ACTORS STAYING SILENT ON SENSITIVE TOPICS
An actor’s job is to act. Why should we expect them to be in politics? I do express my views though, if I feel the need to. When I think something is not right, I talk about it. But I am not a politician. What matters to me is the policy someone makes and how it impacts society. I can bring attention to a cause, but I can’t solve it. I’m an actor, why would people expect me to lead a cause?
ON VARAIMUTHU SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIMS
If you’re going to be specific and make an accusation, I need to have more information before I can say anything. Until then, it is somebody else’s opinion or hurt. But I don’t support people ganging up against the complainers. They shouldn’t be punished, it’s illogical.