"I don't have much belief in the system": Actor Vinayakan talks to the Media

 

Rakesh Ram S

Vinayakan, a Dalit actor from Kerala, began his career as a dancer and has been an actor for more than 20 years now in Malayalam and other south Indian movies. Initially he played small roles, but the many strong characters that he did in recent times have given him a large fan following. His acting in the movie Kammatipadam for the role of Ganga received widespread applause from the audience.

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There had been protests in social media when different movie awards given by television channels in Kerala did not consider him for the best actor award. So when the Kerala State Award for the best actor was announced for Vinayakan it was widely celebrated by the people. This is the transcript of Vinayakan's interaction with the press after winning the Kerala State Award for best male actor for the movie Kammatipadam on 9th March 2017. It was translated by Rakesh Ram S. The video can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7BivI68lZ8&feature=share

~

Namaskaram to all. For me, receiving the film award for last year, felt like after some time the award left my hands and became a part of the people, I saw such a thing happening. I am not sure about what happened, and why it came like a protest. But since the day Kammatipadam was released, people have been talking about this, and while it was going on what I understood is that behind it there is some kind of protest, and I am of the opinion that it was neither me nor the film. We need to understand this in future and we shouldn't let it be a revolt and even if it comes out as a revolt it should be a good result. Other than that I can talk more if you ask me questions.

What I saw is - I will have to start from what happened in Delhi- from Delhi it has now reached even Ernakulam and it has entered this field of Cinema. It is really a protest by the youth, I believe the intelligence (agencies) knows about it, and as I said before it is not me or Cinema. At the front, it may be Vinayakan, Cinema and Kammatipadam but there is something else behind this. It is a protest of very young people. I also don't know clearly what it is.

Question : Are you happy about receiving the Award or do you want to protest?

I haven't clearly thought about the reception of the Award, such thoughts are not there in my mind, not even for the time that I spent sitting here, after receiving the award I don't have the award in my mind, the only time I felt I had the award with me was the 10 minutes around the time the government announced it. After that I moved away from it. My aim is towards another area. I do feel the happiness in receiving the award, I am not rejecting that, and I am realizing that bit by bit every day, today I feel there is something to it when so many people called and invited me here, I am just getting to know that happiness and all. I don't have it in my mind, even now it is not what is occupying my thoughts, it is filled with some other things that are lying far away.

Question : What is occupying your thoughts now?

If I say it as a joke, it is about removing the sugar problem from my body [Laughs]. Don't laugh, it is the truth. Everyone should jump, dance, eat food also without just drinking alcohol, and after that if you jump around some control can be brought to the sugar problem. And to jump we will need some music and so I am getting involved with some music, especially dance music.

Question : Didn't you have a dance troupe before?

It had started to disappoint the audience. Because when I was doing the show I would receive 2000 Rupees. We were 9 people. Costume would cost 10000. And 2000 Rupees was the salary. And next week when we carried the same sequence to the next stage, we used the same costume and audience would say (even I would) that they are still wearing the same clothes. That way I started losing money and I stopped it [Laughs]. Now the dance I do, I do it only for me.

Question : You plan to do choreography?

Definitely, I am coming towards that. That is what I said I have only started things now. Will definitely do and it will be great. Will make music and will choreograph.

Question : In Kammatipadam you have done a song. Can you talk about that?

When Rajeev talked about this project and the acting role what I said from my side is about doing a song, that is what I told him first. And so Rajeev gave me a reference and I created a humming sequence and Anvar wrote the lyrics for it, and from all aspects just like the Ganga character in the movie the song was also a match. This was the first time I did a composition. And I believe I liked it [Laughs].

Question : Are there other films that you plan to work on?

In cinema I have few friends who can make the calls and when I talk to them I have said that I can do some songs, one song in Rafi's movie, and the movie planned by director of "Ordinary", in that also I am doing one song and other than that I am doing four songs.

Questions : Are you more interested in music than acting?

I think a little too much on the spiritual side, I read more books on that, my thoughts are towards that, so the answers are as before. Want to see music and dance meeting, I haven't seen more happiness than what that gives.

Question : What are your thoughts on the villain roles you got?

Villain roles give the most freedom, I believe it allows us to turn in any direction. Even when some directors have strict vision on how the role should be, some freedom is there. It is a bit easy. Because of physical accidents I am staying away from such movies now, especially Telugu movies. For Telugu movies if I go for six days they will hang me by the rope for all six days and beat me up, so I stopped doing that [Laughs].

Question : Did anyone call directly to congratulate?

One, our respected Chief Minister had called, felt happy, I was sleeping [Laughs]. Then Mohanlal had called, I felt happy to receive his call, and there was some fear when some important person called [Laughs].

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Question : Are you going to be a rival for Mohanlal?

[Laughs] Me a rival for Mohanlal? [Laughs in a dismissive way]. Let me tell you one thing. Mainly I wanted to talk about two things to you. Just remembered it now. One is about the question on why I had never talked to media before. Why I never came to media? I evaluate myself, based on the acting roles I did, and for some time I never felt the authority to talk about my acting in front of the audience, the same audience who has been witness to the movies of the seventies and the eighties and the early nineties, based on my own judgement. Because of that alone I did not come in front of media. That is the real truth about it. Kammatipadam, I wanted to come after I got an appreciation, and from that day I had thought about coming to the media.

 And the second thing, I had mentioned that I don't have much belief in the system, the system I referred to, even if for happiness there is no need to give sugar to a diabetic. I felt that as a wrong thing, few things I saw as media scrolls are about first reaction by Vinayakan after getting award, it shouldn't be an artificial reaction. When someone goes to jail he eats jilebi and when he comes from jail also he eats jilebi but if I also have to eat it, it won't work for me, and my mother also shouldn't be brought to it. It is an artificial process and I am not interested in it. Because of that I refused it and from the media which has supported me also I have got calls about that but I cannot change that, I am just Vinayakan, even now.

Question : If you have to dedicate this award to someone whom will you dedicate to?

Instead of saying dedication, this also could be words from books, "hard work pays off", and that is an answer. There will be different hardships, many of you have seen my house, that has a roof. When I leave the house I reach the railway track, after that there is a stream and then the bus stand, and there my friends have no house or shelter, then how can I talk about my sorrow? I atleast have a roof, they don't have drinking water and no blanket when there is rain, then how can I complain about my situation?

Question : Will you be selective about roles going forward?

No, I won't be selective, don't have that many movies to be selective, that is the reality[Laughs]. That many movies are not coming. Just think about it how many movies I got in last 15 years.

Question : But you are a state award winner also now.

Yes, but only if good movies come I can do it. It cannot happen just by my interest. I had talked about it before, the eighties and the nineties, I had been a movie viewer in those times, was someone who liked cinema a lot, but after a time I stopped it and moved away. Those people are still around, and they will judge us even now, how many great movies were done. I saw a foreign movie recently, a road movie, twenty years back the same script was done here. So what can I say, we don't have such quality movies now. That is the truth, not enough movies. I have seen movies in seventies and eighties. Comedy movies were also there, the comedy movie that I loved most was "Ramji Rao Speaking", and in that we know their pains, we know that in their clothes, now we don't know their pains in the clothes, we don't know if they are rich also, we can't distinguish anything. It is part of cinema going bad. Now it is changing a bit, and I also got a chance in that, many movies are coming as part of that. It will come, it is changing and it should change.

Question : Are the new directors, new generation bringing this change?

Cinema, as per my thoughts, is hundred percent in the director's hand. Without director there is no movie. That is the truth. He should have the spine for that. The director alone is responsible for making a movie good. Only he has the right to do it and only he can. We can contribute a lot of things but finally in the shoot he only comes and decides what is to be done and what not to be done and so cinema is always his. When I compare movies by Mohanlal sir and Mammootty sir from before and now that difference is visible, even the clothes are not correct. That is what I felt at different places, the clothes they wear are not correct. If it is original cinema that should be done. If it is modern cinema then modern should be done. But that is not being done and this is also not being done. That was happening but it will change, it is starting to change. Kammatipadam and many small movies that came, and they are very small movies, "Maheshinte Prathikaram", Kali...

Question : Are you currently doing any movies?

I am doing a movie by Rafi called "Role Models", a fun movie.

Question : Salim Kumar and others have said that there is caste division in Malayalam cinema. Have you felt it?

In my life I thought about which caste I belong to just three years back only. When I thought about it it had created some problem in my mind. To not think about it, and to fight is another lesson I learned.

Question : So are you saying there is division?

It will be there everywhere. Yes, in Malayalam cinema, everywhere in the world there will be divisions, there will be black people, there will be white people, curly haired people, people from different regions, it is there everywhere. Isn't there division among media people? [audience laughing]. It is there, it is the truth, divisions are to be there, war will happen, world is standing at a state of war. It will be there till the end. There will be love. Existence of the world is in love only. For that war will also be there. All this has always been there. Peace will never be there. War is a must for the existence of the world.

Question : You received award for Kammatipadam, so will you be doing that kind of roles?

I can never say that. As I said before it is all in the director's hand. I can go when Rajeev calls for his next movie as someone I know, I never hear storyline before committing a movie, I hear the baseline but I don't read the script, because I don't have any belief in it. Why I don't have belief is after doing the shooting and doing the acting during editing it would have been removed. It is just the fruitless effort of acting in the sun. So I lost belief in it. Due to different reasons, maybe because of geography and nature of the place or sometimes scenes will change, a scene maybe dropped. So it doesn't matter, final product is only valid, script is just a memory lock, someone with good memory may not even need a script.

Question : In Kammatipadam were a lot of scenes cut?

In the movie, nothing was cut but as Rajeev said, the movie was very long, only that happened. So it was four hours plus originally, and as I told before it is in the director's hands, so he did the cuts and released it.

Question : Did you do any preparations to become "Ganga" in Kammatipadam?

I had to put effort for a long time to get a potbelly. Lived a messy life for some time. Lot of drinking and eating was there. Face had also become like that. Mainly it was that. Then I did a lot of work and within forty days I came back to my 62 kilos. That was lot of hard work for me. Ran at 9 in the night and cycled at 5 in the mornings. Food was restricted. But it was all good for me, was happy about being part of this project.

Question : Are you expecting a national award?

My target was not awards, as I told before, I wanted to come like this and talk as an actor of a film. I was not recognized as one before. It has just been three to four years that I am getting decent movies. When I say twenty years, the rest of the fifteen years I didn't get any roles for which I could have sat here as per my thoughts. I did not get such a movie. When others are saying I also need to feel that I did such a movie. But no, I am noticing everything and such a good movie did not come.

Question : You have been part of good movies before like Best Actor and now Kammatipadam. Do you feel that you did not get enough respect from media till you received the award?

I was this hyper energetic boy around nineteen-twenty years of age, so hyper that I couldn't be contained, then as I said before I did not think about religion/caste, it could be that which gave me more power, once we think we will go backward. At one time, not specifically media but if I take cinema industry, one of my wishes was to get on a movie poster, it was a big desire, and till the time "Big B" happened I tried for it, it took around eighteen years, to come on a poster. If my memory is correct "Big B" was the movie where they put lots of people on posters, almost everyone who acted got onto the posters. IT came and even if it is not printed it will be published online. So for my poster to come in the net, it took so much time. That I had in my mind, it is from the industry, and I didn't think about media at that time. When I say I didn't think about media it is the truth, I am not interested in lying. It is same as I said before, I did not do such great roles till then.

Question : In social media there was widespread demand for award to be given to you. Is it also a part of a protest?

As I said before it is a protest. It is not the award or Vinayakan, it is some other protest. It is about what I told before, same as in Delhi, there the girl died and the youth were angry against a lot of people, against whom it is I know and Intelligence knows what it is. I saw the same here, what is seen is me receiving the award, I don't know exactly what that protest is. I felt that same when I saw Nilpu Samaram. People were standing in front of my house also with candles. Some protest it was.

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Question : Can it be seen as a protest against the current system?

It could be, we have to think about it.

Question : Is there such a protest inside Vinayakan?

Not sure if I should talk about it. Yesterday's incident where people were beaten up on the road, not able to even understand this, some people just came with flags and started beating up people standing on the road. The world's existence itself is in love, so when it is getting attacked then why the world has to exist. If love is not there what is the world for? Who can say that love is not allowed? Aren't all issues about lack of love? What are the issues that happened recently. For the Delhi girl also this was the issue. Sowmya case was also similar. Recently what happened to our sister is also similar [Jisha case]. Problem is that. And if it continues like this, we need to think about it. If love is not there what is the point of living. Is it to make money and store it at home? Love is the ultimate thing.

Question : Are you in love with anybody?

I have so many loves [Audience laughs]. I am not like this, I am a big lover[Laughs]. It is the truth. We can love anyone, so many loves, without love nothing will stand. We might think that we are not doing any of that, but ultimately even the shirt we wear is for that. The things we write are for it. It is about women.

Question : Will there be a marriage?

If I marry again my wife will beat me [Laughs]. She sent me here with a gang, more people from her side [Laughs]. To tame someone like me.

Question : What is your comfort level with the different directors you worked with?

All of them are friends but they are all different in their work. They don't talk to me much, I have noticed that, they will tell what is to be done and all. Amal would just tell what should not be done. Rajeev just keeps taking shots. Anbu is very happy while shooting. For me they are all equal. I don't even listen to the story, just basic structure is known to me. Friends are all similar to me, just people who are not friends I feel as separate.

Question : Whom do you want to dedicate the award?

I talked about this before, if such people are there things will work for them, if work is done for it it will be successful. No need to be hesitant about it, your aim will be reached. Just today I was talking to the producer Prem sir, Rajeev Ravi had talked to me about this baseline around 95, 96, 97 times, based on a road in my locality - Salim Rajan road talk had started then. It was a main focus for Rajeev for so long, this movie Kammatipadam. Prem sir was also raising money for me. For me to come to this stage I was also working, I am just 20 percent, Rajeev 30 percent and sir has done more. Things will work out, it is not just what we think, other people are also working for us. If Rajeev has worked for 20 years for Kammatipadam and gave such a big thing to Ganga character, everyone's dream will happen, it is not just what we think. What we think may not happen.

Question : Did Rajeev Ravi receive suggestions from you, are you living in that area?

It is my place, the place where I live, most dirt gets piled in Ernakulam at my house. All the dirt from the city is coming to this place. And it leaves the last from my house. For six months we are in water and mud. The suicides I have seen, and other bad things I have seen, those are about the place where I lived, those are things I learned. I know what happens when one sees such things. So to see a Ganga or Balan I didn't take much time. Because I have seen many people like that in my life.

Question : Was there an emotional element because of that? Was there a thought that a life similar to what you have seen is being filmed?

In my thoughts, everything I try to think in my own way, I had told this before about the path through which Ganga's dead body is being taken, small path to the house, it is part of this system. There some fifteen families are there for around seventy years like this. Like that large number of such colonies were made. In Thevara or fisher's colony the people who came first were pushed to a colony, that is what I saw. At night time that is where the police come. Who should tell the answer for this?

Question : So did you share the sentiments of all this being the story of your people?

Before I had complained, if rain comes, it rains for six months there, while saying that I also have another thing to say. It is also a festival for us. No one will go for work and we just stand on the railway track, talk to each other, go to Ayyappan's tea shop for tea. When my relatives and my elders died we have walked on the same railway track with the body to Pullepady crematorium. So for me as I said before I had a roof and there are others without that. And it is not a sadness for me. I am happy that I reached here but I have not felt sadness about not having something. If I didn't have something I always believed that it was something wrong on my part.

~~~

 

Rakesh Ram S is a software engineer based in Bangalore. His politics is influenced by the present day Ambedkarites and the caste experiences of his grandparents and parents in Kannur.

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