Vishnu Vishal: FIR will show the world what I am capable of
The actor on why the upcoming FIR is an important film for him, the struggles he faced post-Ratsasan, collaborating with Ravi Teja, and more
"Who is a hero?" asks Vishnu Vishal with a sparkle in his eyes. The quest to find its answer has shaped his career, and now, ahead of the release of his much-awaited FIR, Vishnu looks back at the path he has crossed. He can't ask for a better time for a throwback, since the release of FIR might turn out to be what Vishnu calls the start of his 'hero's redemption. "The past few years brought out a lot of pain. I had my share of betrayals and personal setbacks. Also, who would imagine that an actor who gave a hit like Ratsasan would have nine dropped projects following it?" Ratsasan, the highly-successful thriller directed by Ram Kumar should have promoted Vishnu to the next league. FIR is the key to conjuring that magic again, believes Vishnu. "There's a dialogue in the trailer which suits what I wanted to do with FIR: 'I will freaking show them what I am capable of'."
His next statement gives us an insight into Vishnu's quest to find the hero within. "Most heroes never choose to be one - it happens on a chance encounter." For Vishnu, it happened when he had to end his cricketing career due to a stress injury, after which the cinema bug bit him. "I had always wanted to become famous. I didn't even prepare myself to be an actor. I just fell in love with films and I took that leap of faith," he says. Suseenthiraan's Vennila Kabaddi Kuzhu happened after six years of struggle, and luckily, Vishnu also got the opportunity to channel the sportsman in him in the sports drama. "I still remember the first shot Suseenthiran sir took of me. I remember that most of the shots were single-takes because sir made us rehearse for over two months," he reminisces. His first break-out role, however, came in Seenu Ramasamy's 2012 film Neerparavai, which turns ten this year. "It introduced me as an actor to the masses. Moreover, if Suseenthiran sir taught me the basics of cinema, Seenu Ramasamy sir taught me patience while approaching those basics."
Though Vishnu continued his streak of strong, content-driven films such as Mundasupatti, Jeeva, and Indru Netru Naalai, he still wasn't a hero for the masses. "Apart from acting, a hero also needs to do comedy, dance, and a full-on action film." And so he chose to do commercial entertainers such as Velainu Vandhutta Vellaikaaran, Kadha Nayagan, and Silukkuvarupatti Singam. "I had to learn cinema on the go. With every film I do, it's necessary for me to self-analyse and to understand my strengths and weaknesses. I knew how to do emotionally strong characters, but to try other aspects of becoming a hero, like comedy, for instance, I had to do these films. They were my testing grounds in a way," says Vishnu. The confidence he got from these films propelled Vishnu to do Ratsasan. "It had a detailed characterisation, and I had to bring it all into that role. That clicked well with the audience too," he shares.
Post-Ratsasan, the nine dropped films and personal struggles were haunting Vishnu. Additionally, the much-awaited multi-lingual Kaadan created unexpected troubles for him as well. "40 minutes of my portions were trimmed from the film. The director didn't even inform me. Had I known that this was to happen, I wouldn't have signed for the film," he says. For more reasons such as this, Vishnu feels that FIR is a film he looks out for. FIR is Vishnu's first full-blown action-thriller. "Now, I feel like a complete actor. I can perform any role confidently without any inhibitions." I point out how this is in contrast to the answer he gave to Cinema Express in an interview during Ratsasan. Vishnu had then said that one of the reasons he chose to play subtle, underplaying characters is that he was scared of losing his hard-earned position in the industry. "The change is visible even in the FIR trailer where you can see the protagonist hitting back. This is my first film with a revolt of the hero, and I connect that with my life."
Vishnu's struggles seem to have only helped him be a vigorous professional. He is staunch about not letting any of his troubles affect his performance in any way. "That will never happen. Especially because of all the effort we put into it. It has a huge star cast, and we had to shoot in difficult, real locations across the city. I had to think a lot as a producer as well," says Vishnu, who brims with excitement of what the future has in store. After FIR, Vishnu's much-anticipated Mohandas is again a thriller and he plays an anti-hero in it. Did the success of Ratsasan influence his decisions while choosing thrillers? Vishnu says no. "All these films are different. FIR is an entirely different thriller. Though Mohandas too has a psychotic streak, it isn't a psycho-thriller like Ratsasan. In fact, the character I play in Mohandas is so drastically different that you wouldn't find Vishnu in it," he says. Vishnu also hints at a bigger collaboration with Telugu star Ravi Teja, who is also releasing FIR in Telugu. Recently a picture of the two went viral, and speculations ranged from a possible Maanaadu remake to Ravi Teja starring in Ratsasan 2. Vishnu refutes to all of them. "Time for the announcement will come soon after FIR," he says with a heartening smile.
Being someone who is vocal about the importance of mental health, Vishnu ended our conversation by sharing what he has learnt from the battles within. "The first step is in accepting the realisation that a problem is a problem. Something can affect your mind even if you don't look at it as a thing of concern then. Once we have accepted it, then we can look out for the cure, and that cure can be anything. It can be art, a hobby, therapy, medicines, or even a shoulder to lean on. Will you be cured of it completely? May not be. All you need to do is analyse, accept, and take a step forward." In that very quote lies the answer to "Who is a hero?", for every revolution begins with a revolt within. That's why cinema celebrates heroes who fight back and heroes like Vishnu, who fight back beyond celluloid boundaries.