Ajith came to the Tamil film
world from a family that had no connection with films
at all. With no godfather to support him or recommend
him, or any mentor to
advise him. He was injudicious
and imprudent in the beginning.
But he learnt from his mistakes and,
now, is sensible and cautious in his approach and
careful and intelligent in the choice of roles. There
is variety in his selection; each new character he
plays is quite different from the ones he had done
In Vaali, his first hit after
a series of five flops, he is a deaf-and-dumb man
lusting for his younger brother's (also played by
Ajith) wife. In Amarkalam, he is an
uneducated ruffian, in Nee Varuvaaneya, a
loving army officer and now, in Mugavari, he
is a very ordinary young man earnestly trying to
realise his dream of becoming a music director.
Mugavari is Ajith's sixth hit
in a row. But he is not the excited and impulsive
person that he used to be. Instead, he is rather
composed and collected. He has, indeed, mellowed down
as a person.
met him in his new, aesthetically designed office. One
big photograph of Shalini and another one of Ajith
collecting an award from Vijay, his competitor in the
film industry, adorn his notice board.
You have had five consecutive
hits before Mugavari. Were you nervous before
the release of the film?
No, not at all. I think I have stopped
being nervous about the outcome of a film. The five
consecutive flops in 1997 and the five consecutive
hits in 1999 have mellowed me in many ways. I don't
get too excited or depressed these days. What is more
important to me now is job satisfaction. As far as
Mugavari is concerned, I knew it would be a
success the moment I heard the script.
Vaali too, was very close to
my heart and I gave it everything I had. That was the
first time I was playing a dual role and I received a
lot of bad publicity initially. People said it was too
early for Ajith to do a double role and the film would
never get released. There was a lot of scepticism.
Were you not scared to play
the role of the elder brother who lusts after his
younger brother's wife in Vaali? Of course,
you also acted as the younger brother. But was it not
a very bold subject?
You had it in the Ramayana, you had it in the
Mahabharata. It was nothing new. If you read
the interviews I gave before the release of Vaali,
you will find that I was pretty sure about the success
of the film. I knew Vaali would silence my
After Vaali came
Amarkalam, in which I was playing a bad character.
But I was happy with all these films, and happiness
and satisfaction were very important to me. The
reaction of the audience comes only later.
So personal satisfaction is
more important to you now.
(Personal satisfaction) is
also important. For me as an actor, that's more
important. Success is left to the people. The film
might be good and successful, but my character might
not be that challenging. It's okay by me. But the
actor in me will not be satisfied with that kind of
film. Even though the way Mugavari ended was
totally different and offbeat, I personally liked the
film and the character a lot.
After playing the brothers in
Vaali and a bad thug in Amarkalam, this
was a totally different, homely character. In
Mugavari, people will relate to me as a part of
the family. So, on a personal level, that is much more
Much more important than the
commercial success of the film?
I don't work for the commercial
success of the film. I work to satisfy my producers
who give me the money. I work to satisfy the director
who has written a script for me. Of course, I have to
satisfy the actor in me, but I want to satisfy them
first. All of us work together and give something to
the public with the hope that they will like it. Then,
it is for them to judge.
I know there are a lot of people who
want to capitalise on me because I am saleable today.
They may think, okay, we will have Ajith in the film
to sell it. I don't like to work with such people. I
like to work with people who want to make films
because they are passionate about films and not
because they want to sell films and make money. I am
not for people who get the most saleable actor and
then the most saleable director and sell the film. I
need a producer who will look for a good script. I
need a director whose purpose to make a film is not
for his survival, but because he loves making films.
Do you feel that is only now
that you are able to satisfy the actor in you? It is
because you have had five hits in succession?
I don't think so. I had five flops in
a row. Still, films came my way. But I did not accept
all those films. I was choosy then too. I chose a film
like Vaali. I waited for Amarkalam.
I waited for Aanada Poongatrae.
It is not that I act only in films that are 100 per
cent commercial. Now I am doing a film called
Citizen. I have given seven months of my time
only to that film. I am planning to completely
concentrate on Citizen.
Now, I want to do only one film at a
time. That's what I am doing now. I had to share my
time between Mugavari and Rajiv Menon's
Kandu Konden, Kandu Konden this time. Two films,
that's the maximum I will do at a time.
In Citizen, I have seven
different getups. That's one film I am really looking
forward to. I am doing that film to win an award, a
National award! I want a National award.
Let me ask you about
Mugavari. The protagonist of the film, Sridhar,
had a dream but couldn't realise it in the end. It was
quite an unusual end for a Tamil film. Were you
doubtful about its acceptance by the audience who were
fed on happy endings?
Do you know some people told me even
before the release of the film that the film wouldn't
do well? They felt people wouldn't like the ending.
But my producer, my director and I were confident that
it would do well.
So many people come to this city with
an ambition to become an actor or a music director or
a singer or... the list is long. But how many make it
big? Not everybody succeeds. How many Rajinikanths are
there? Just one. How many MGRs are there? Just one.
How many Kamals? Just one.
For every Rajinikath, there are
hundreds of people who have landed on the streets
because they tried to pursue their goal of becoming an
actor. For one A R Rahman, there are a hundred
unsuccessful music directors here. There are so many
people who come to Madras with the dream of becoming
somebody, but they land up being nobody.
The intention of making Mugavari
was to bring people face to face with to reality. For
several years, we have had this hero worship. We had
films where heroes are projected as a supermen, which
is not the case in real life. Just look at Malayalam
films. They portray the hero as a very, very normal
human being who behaves like a normal person. There,
the hero can also get beaten up.
But, in all our films, the hero wins
in the end. Does everybody win in life? In
Mugavari, the hero does not realise his dream. He
sacrifices his dream to support his family, the family
which has done everything for him.
Were you confident that people
would identify with the character?
Every single person will. He could be
a cricketer, he could be a businessman, he could be a
musician and he could be a rickshaw-puller.
Mugavari is a realistic and believable film.
Do you see yourself in the film? You wanted to
be a racing car driver, you wanted to be a
Yes, I saw myself in Sridhar. I wanted
to be a garment exporter. I wanted to be a motor-racer.
Yes, I could relate to Sridhar. So I was not acting, I
was relating to his dreams. I was just being myself.
But when I saw the film for the first time, I couldn't
see myself on the screen. I saw only Sridhar.
With this kind of an offbeat
end, do you think you will be able to change the kind
of Tamil films that are made now?
No, I am not here to change anything.
I am here to satisfy the people, the producer, the
director and myself as an actor. I am just doing a
See, winning for the first time is
easy but maintaining it is so difficult. I find it
difficult to handle success than failure.
Do you feel a lot of pressure
I feel a lot of pressure now. To be
honest, I have lost my sleep. When I was not doing
well, I was sleeping much more peacefully because I
had nothing to lose. But now, after six successful
films, it is very difficult.
That is why I asked in the
beginning -- were you nervous?
The pressure is always there. The
nervousness is there. But I don't work with the
thought of making a film a grosser. But, as far as
Vaali and Mugavari were concerned, I was
sure that they would be successful. That's why I
gifted a Santro each to both the directors before the
release of the films. That was because I was very
happy with them and the film. I am just giving you an
When you were down, there was
a lot of criticism against you. Now that your films
are doing well, everybody is complimenting you. Do you
feel the attitude of the people changes once a person
Everybody knows whatever little
success I have achieved today is after a lot of
hardship and struggle. The audience knows this man
went through failure, a bad relationship and three
surgeries on his back. They know he lost a lot of
money and he is on his own and he doesn't have any
godfather in the industry. In spite of all the odds
against me, I came back. I will not say, I fought
back. I came back. I didn't come back because people
were sympathetic to me or they felt sorry for me. I
came back because I gave good films to them.
There are two films I am looking forward to. One is
Rajiv Menon's Kandu Konden, Kandu Konden. But
it will not be an Ajith film. It will be A R Rahman,
the musician, and Rajiv Menon, the technician's film.
The star cast is big with Mammootty, Tabu, Aishwarya
Rai, etc, in it.
But I can confidently call the next
film my film. It is produced by R B Choudhary and I
play the role of an army recruit. We shot with actual
recruits. I cut my hair short, I underwent physical
training and weapon training. We did the passing out
parade with the actual recruits. It is going to be
released on May 1, my birthday. Last year, we released
Vaali on that day and it was a success. So,
this year, we are releasing this film.
Are you superstitious?
I am not superstitious. I am
God-fearing and I believe in astrology.
You said the success of your
films makes you happy. Does the failure of your
competitors' films make you happy? Of late, all your
films are successful but Vijay's films are failing at
the box office.
I know only one thing. When I was
doing badly, he was doing well. Today, I feel bad that
they are criticising him when they shouldn't be. They
should be encouraging him. When a man is doing badly,
you should bring back his confidence.
I try to sympathise with him because I
know what it is to go through a string of failures.
The feeling is very bad. But, believe me, it is a
circle. I tell you, Vijay is going to come back with
lots of hits. He is just going through a bad phase,
Yes, there is a lot of competition
between Vijay and me and I respect the competition.
Do you enjoy the competition?
I do. I enjoy the competition because
competition is what gets both of us going. There is
not one bit of jealousy between the two of us.
Honestly. We talk to each other. We
are friends. I don't encourage anyone to bitch about
him in my office. I like people telling me whether my
film is good or bad, but not about the box office
failure of his films. The moment I hear somebody
bitching about any other actor, I ask them to get out
of my office. I respect my competition.
How do you feel about the fact
that your fiancee is acting with Vijay?
It is purely professional. I know
where my relationship with Shalini stands and I don't
feel threatened by anybody.
When are you getting married?
Very soon, on April 24.