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Arun Vijay’s experimentation with roles began with Yennai Arindhal as Victor, the antagonist opposite Ajith. With his 25th film, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam he experiments again with a character called Thyagu. Vijay talks about his dream moment and his journey with Mani Ratnam.

Tell us about the moment when you received a call from Mani Ratnam?

I was spending time with family when I got a call from Bejoy Nambiar [director of Shaitaan, David, Wazir]. I was supposed to work on his last film Solo but couldn’t take it up. I presumed this must be for his next film. When he mentioned that he was calling from Mani Ratnam’s office I was surprised. He said that there was a role in Mani Ratnam’s new films — one of the leads — and Mani sir was considering me.

I was damn excited. I have been waiting for this moment all along. I met Mani sir the next day and he narrated the script.

Who is Thyagu?

Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is a family drama with greed taking over emotions. Thyagu is a very classy guy. He is a businessman who lives abroad. There is a lot of transition in his character and he carries many emotions throughout. He is charming and a sweet talker who gets things done. It’s an interesting role. After a point, the transformation and transition in his character was important. I had to unwind myself to prepare for the role and get into his shoes. I worked on his body language and learnt to speak Arabic, as Thyagu deals with top notch people in Dubai. I knew that I had to play Thyagu in a different way to impress Mani sir. Thyagu will be one character to be remembered in my career.

How was it working with Mani Ratnam?

He is clear about what he wants. During the reading session he explains and preps us before the shoot. He describes the situation and how the character will react in that situation. He is a director who gives space to the actors and is really good at getting the best of us. Mani sir guided me all along right from the script reading stage to several discussions. It was wonderful.

What about working with an ensemble cast?

It was a blast working with so many stars. Arvind anna [brother], Vijay Sethupathi and Simbu, we spent a lot of time together before shoots to get easy with one another. Everyone was clear about his role.

While acting with good actors, there is a healthy give and take with a lot of improvisation. It brings out the best in you. That rapport is reflected onscreen as you will see. We followed Mani sir’s instructions. He knew the limits of each character and the zone they had to be in. More combinations like this should happen in future.

Which was the first Mani Ratnam film you watched?

That was Mouna Raagam. I must have been around six or seven. I grew up watching his films. Agni Nakshatram was a comeback film of my dad’s [veteran actor Vijayakumar]. I became crazy seeing that film. Every Mani Ratnam film is unique. Nayagan, a masterpiece, was a killer. It’s my best.

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Don’t miss it!

Chekka Chivantha Vaanam releases in the UAE on September 27.