Kalyana Raman
It wasn’t a great film. But the characterisation was challenging. I gave myself a new look, sport ed buck teeth and made myself ugly. Those days we didn’t have the kind of make-up facilities we have today. We used tracing paper, spirit and gum to work out the look.


Padinaru Vaidinile
It was Bharatiraja’s debut film as director. In a major change of image, I played a village bumpkin. Until then I was identified with the disco-dancer kind of hero. The accent I deployed in the film was strange for any hero to adapt.


Again I tried a differnt accent. I played a ventriloquist in the film, for which I had to learn the art. The film was directed by K. Balachander.

Ventriloquism became my pass-time after this film.


Sigappu Rojagal
It was quite a modern film for its time - in technique and execution. It had almost the same cast as Padinaru Vaithinile (Sridevi and I played the lead), and the film stood out for some outstanding performances. The Hindi version of the film (starring Rajesh Khanna and Poonam Dhillon) lacked the violence of the original, and was too cosmetic.


Moondram Pirai
I liked the story as Balu (Mahendra) narrated it, but the climax I thought was too straight and low-key. The man is left behind in a sad state of mind. So we worked on the climax, gave it a lot of padding, made it very dramatic. We had the car hitting the hero and he comes tumbling down in the rain, looking funny with a black eye and swollen lip ... he keeps on stumbling, hits against a couple of pillars... and we kept on improvising.

Its success was a morale-booster. The film, an award-winner, ran for 25 weeks. A rare feat.


Sagar Sangamam
It was a brilliantly crafted film. It had one of the best screenplays I have come across. Perhaps K. Vishwanath’s best film. A tragic love story, it show-cased my talent for classical dancing.


Appu Raja
I was part actor and part engineer in it. I created the character myself and designed how the film would be shot. Today with blue mat, I could have worked wonders. For example I did nothing about the hand magician even though I needed to. It was a physically exhausting exercise.

I have never discussed how we shot the dwarf. It would be like a woman explaining what’s inside her bra.


Swathy Muthyam
Another great effort from K. Vishwanath. It was an actor versus director duel. We had to match each other punch for punch. We improvised our way through this film. It was a very cleverly made film and you don’t see the conscious crafting. Not a single scene was done out of passion, but out of sheer calculation.


The hallmark of the film was a perfect combination of authenticity and ethnicity, which made it universal. The general perception is that ethnicity limits. But it doesn’t. On the contrary, it makes it universal. And that’s what made Nayakan work. The Hindi version (Dayavan) lacked audience backing. The theatre of action should have been UK - the Southall area - and the protogonist would have commanded the backing of the audience.


I played a very simple, but real character, far removed in from what I am. He looked as if he lacked Kamal Haasan’s confidence. It seemed to go against the film, though, at the box-office.


Avvai Shanmughi
It was like looking at the other side of a chromosome. The crucial thing was the choice of the actor and the age of the character. The age of the woman was crucial to eliminate vulgarity and to keep out elements of homosexuality. I had thought of the film before Mrs. Doubtfire, though the idea crystallised after I saw Mrs. Doubtfire.

Everybody thinks that Avvai Shanmughi was based on Mrs Doubtfire. But its genesis goes back several years. Avvai Shanmugham was my guru’s name. He had done a perfect enactment of a poetess on stage. So, the late S S Vasan wanted to cast him as a woman in Avayyar. But somehow things didn’t work out and he cast K B Sunderammal. I got the idea from there. I wanted to play a woman, but not a young woman because it could lead to lewdness.