The change is apparent. In his ramrod-straight physique and his new confidence. Six-footer Vishal is ready to go shirtless and show off his six-pack abs in his forthcoming cop film Sathyam.
One of Kollywood’s famous downsizing stories in recent times, Vishal’s lean-mean look is clearly the result of sweat. “It called for a totally new routine,” rewinds the actor. “My role demanded such a demeanour. Since I play an assistant commissioner of police, I wanted to look like a cop – an absolutely fit one at that. So workouts became an essential part of my routine. Besides, there’s a scene in which I go shirtless, so I had to get ready for that.”
Though not someone to be hit by pre-release angst, Vishal admits he’s quite anxious about Sathyam. “For the past 18 months my life revolved around the film that’s slated for release on August 14. A lot is at stake. This is my biggest film so far – in terms of canvas, technical expertise and budget. Besides, it’s a bilingual. It’s my first straight Telugu film. The very look of Sathyam is slick. It’s mounted on a grand scale like a Shankar film. There’s art by Thota Tharini, visual effects by Hollywood experts and music by Harris Jayaraj. Director Rajashekar’s hard work shows in every scene.”
Divulging details, he continues, “There’s a never-seen-before car chase sequence that lasts for eight minutes. It’s a crucial part of the film. There’s another scene shot at the Dubai airport in which Kannada star Upendra, who plays the villain, chases the hero. These are portions where you can’t tell if it’s visual effects or real! I was bored of my usual fist fights. So we had to try out different action sequences. Besides, there are so many misgivings about encounters in cop films. Sathyam digs out the truth.”
Talk about action being his forte, and Vishal says earnestly, “It’s not that I want to do only action flicks. I’m just choosing from the best that’s offered to me. Post-Sandakozhi, which ran to packed halls for 210 days, I wanted to capitalise on my strong points. Thimiru followed, and it looked like action was something the audience expected of me. Though I tried comedy in Malaikotai and soaked in family sentiment in Tamiraparani, action was the core of these scripts too.
Incidentally, Sathyam is something that came to him immediately after Sandakozhi. “But I didn’t take it up then. I felt I needed to fine-tune my histrionics and fine-tone my physique. I’ve done tremendous homework for my role in Sathyam. I picked up inputs about body language, etc., from top cop C. Sylendra Babu. I can’t afford to mess up.”
Vishal, who started off as an assistant director before turning actor, says, “It helps to have that kind of a background, because you know what a director expects. My chemistry with my directors is often better than that with my heroines (laughs). But I can be a nuisance sometimes. I poke my nose into a lot of things — right from the coconut that’s bought for the puja.”
Though a star of some consequence today, Vishal’s heart still beats for direction. He will soon direct his dream film on a superhero — to be played by him. “I love fantasy characters. The South must have its own superhero. I’m working on the script. If it does well, there will be sequels too.”
Vishal, who is in no hurry to sign films, says, “I’ll be doing Udayanidhi Stalin’s forthcoming film. I’d rather take one film at a time and go slow than goof up. Today, an actor kills himself for his role. You have to be a thorough-bred. But the pressure is good. It keeps you on your feet. Tinseldom today is like a garden. A new flower blooms every day. There’s no room for complacency. Either you are a somebody or a nobody.”