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I used to smoke 160 cigarettes a day as director: Rajkiran

'Power Paandi' Rajkiran speaks on working with Dhanush and his own plans to direct a film again.

Manigandan KR

Rajkiran is one of Tamil cinema's most loved and respected actors. Though he has been doing great roles that have received acclaim, it has been almost 20 years since he played the lead in a Tamil film.

Now, Rajkiran plays the lead in Dhanush's directorial debut Pa Paandi. He plays a retired stuntman in the film which also features Revathi, Dhanush himself, Prasanna and Chaya Singh.

Though the actor refused to divulge details about the film, he was willing to speak on a number of topics, ranging from working with Dhanush to his own directorial plans. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

Dhanush has played your teenage part in the film. Don't you think his body language and physique are completely different from yours?

It is not like that. The Rajkiran you see now is completely different from the Rajkiran people knew when he was 19. If you were to see a picture of mine that was shot when I was 19, you would say there is no connection whatsoever between the man in the picture and me (laughs). This picture that I am referring to is the only picture I have of my younger days and that was shot with a friend. In fact, I was like Dhanush when I was 19. Only the hairstyle was slightly different. I didn't have really curly hair like how I had when I did En Rasavin Manasile.

Where did you shoot the film?

We shot the entire film in Chennai.

Why have you limited yourself to acting in select films? Even when you had immense financial difficulties, you chose not to take up several offers that came your way... why?

Even now I have financial problems (laughs). I believe cinema is a very powerful medium and god has given me a place in this very powerful medium. I believe I must justify the place that I have been given. Therefore, I try to say good things to those in society through the position that I enjoy by virtue of being in this media. Whether they accept what I say is another issue altogether. But I have the responsibility of saying good things. In other words, any story that I choose to approve must have good things for society in it. If a story does not have such messages, I choose not to do it.

Any plans of directing a film again? There are rumours that you will be directing a sequel to the blockbuster En Rasavin Manasile.

Yes, it is true. I have plans of directing the second part of En Rasavin Manasile. I penned two stories for it but I am not happy with the way the stories have evolved. I am not someone who is easily satisfied. Now, I have begun work on a third story. But I can assure you, the story I write will be written with social consciousness.

Why don't you consider the possibility of directing your own films and acting in them as well?

Acting is easier (laughs). The director takes a lot of trouble for us. The same goes for the producer. They take a lot of trouble to enable us to do our job comfortably. So, acting is easier. Direction is very difficult. For instance, I would smoke 160 cigarettes a day when I was a director. Now, as an actor, I only smoke 20 cigarettes a day. That is because acting is easier.

I have given up alcohol. It has been 18 years since I gave up alcohol, but I haven't been able to give up smoking.

Tell us about your experience of working with Dhanush?

If I start speaking about him, it will run into hours. Therefore, I will just say two things. The first is that he has reached great heights today because of god's grace. He has made a name for himself in Tamil, Telugu, and the Hindi industries. He is now acting in a Hollywood film.

Now, someone like him can choose to cast anyone he wants in his debut project as director. Even superstar Rajinikanth would have given him dates if he had asked for them. However, his decision to make a film with me as the hero shows his confidence.

I could feel the confidence he had in himself every second I worked in this film. You heard others who worked in this film say that I paid attention to what the director was saying like how a newcomer would pay attention. That is the truth. That is because the way Dhanush explained the sequences to me, I felt myself being drawn into the script. It happened very subconsciously.

In fact, to be honest, Dhanush has demolished the old Rajkiran and created a new Rajkiran through this film. I have only delivered 50% of what he wanted. Had I delivered 100% of what he taught me, people would forget about Rajkiran entirely and only know PowerPaandi. I thank god for having given me the opportunity to work with such a good director.