Udhayanidhi Stalin: I wanted to stop acting after OKOK

Udhayanidhi Stalin, who juggles several roles within the film industry and state politics, talks about the balancing act, working with Kamal Haasan, and his new release, Kalaga Thalaivan

author_img Gopinath Rajendran Published :  22nd November 2022 07:20 PM   |   Published :   |  22nd November 2022 07:20 PM
A still of Udhayanidhi Stalin in Kalaga Thalaivan

A still of Udhayanidhi Stalin in Kalaga Thalaivan

Udhayanidhi Stalin might be the son of a CM, a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly and one of the most important producers and distributors of Tamil cinema, but from how self-deprecatory he is, you might be forgiven for forgetting his importance. When speaking about his latest release, Kalaga Thalaivan, the film's director Magizh Thirumeni recalled meeting Udhay for the first time, along with his wife, director Kiruthiga. The actor’s wry response: “Well, who else was I going to be with?” It’s humour that we remember from his earlier films, but that which we don’t see anymore in his new films that have been loaded with political meaning. Here’s Udhayanidhi speaking about many topics, including his new film and its significance:

The new film and the delay

"Thadam (2019) was written for me by Magizh (the director of his new film as well), who waited a year and a half for me. I love that film and I'm also a fan of his other films like Thadaiyara Thaakka (2012) and Meaghamann (2014). His filmmaking is intense, yet stylish. I longed to work with him and that's how Kalaga Thalaivan happened. I play a role from two different timelines, and to show the passage of eight years, the younger character will have me clean-shaven. I was also shooting simultaneously for two other films—Nenjuku Needhi and Kannai Nambathey—alongside this one. Then, the pandemic happened and so did the Legislative Assembly elections, and hence, the delay."

Working with strengths and limitations


"I wasn’t sure I would fit into the action template. Magizh gave me the confidence, but I still told stunt choreographers to make stunts as realistic as possible because I didn’t think people would believe me defeating 10 men in hand-to-hand combat. However, my character has a history of being trained in martial arts and I underwent training as well. This film has very few dialogues for me, and that’s probably because my directors are aware of my strengths and weaknesses.”

The importance of ideology

"It’s important for me that the ideology of the filmmaker matches with mine. I selected Arunraja Kamaraj (director of Nenjukku Needhi) because of Kanaa and how it spoke about social justice. He did better than I expected. Magizh shares this ideology too, and he has read a lot. Periyar, samooga needhi, idhu ellame Magizh kittayum irruku. We spoke about politics, my speeches, and my grandfather's writings. My collaboration with Mari Selvaraj sir, just like his previous films, Pariyerum Perumal and Karnan, is again a strong subject. It's a political film, unlike Kalaga Thalaivan which is about an IT employee. Kalagam means disruption, and it’s about a regular guy being stuck."  

The boon and bane of comedy

"The success of my first film, Oru Kal Oru Kannadi, was also my biggest drawback. Its run made me believe that comedy was my comfort zone, and I did three films in that genre. Not only did I get bored, but the audience were too, I think. That’s what made me do Manithan. I hope to do OKOK2 but I'm not sure it's possible anymore. Santhanam sir's Partha is the hero of OKOK and even now, people ask me about Partha (laughs). But now, Santhanam sir has become a hero. I still love comedy though, and instead of Nenjuku Needhi, I was offered Badhaai Ho's Tamil remake (which RJ Balaji later did as Veetla Visesham). But then, I wanted to do something serious and opted to remake Article 15."

The tight rope walk

"Balancing both films and politics is difficult, but I don't have any choice. When shooting for an intense interval sequence for Kalaga Thalaivan in Trichy, the Legislative Assembly election was announced. It took me two months to get back to the film shoot. This is why I wanted to stop acting with Maamannan, but then Kamal sir's film happened."

Monopoly?

"People cry foul about Red Giant Movies distributing a lot of films. Silaroda kanne urutha dhaan seiyum. We are buying a lot of films, but no one is talking about the films we watch and reject. Our success is thanks to how healthy our industry is, and people, after the pandemic, have proved that they will watch a film with good content in theatres. The best example of it is Love Today which has turned out to be more successful than we anticipated. Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu was a film Simbu wanted us to buy because he felt that after Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (Udhay's first film as a distributor), this would be a sure-shot hit. While we approached Kamal sir for Vikram, the success of the film along with how we were transparent and honest with the financial aspects has made him come forward to produce my next film. Producers want us to be attached to their products and we do our best."

A decade of rising to challenges

"Over the years, I have seen lots of learning and trolling (laughs). I am now being approached with a number of challenging scripts. It's interesting to work with good directors from whom I can learn and unlearn. After OKOK, I thought I'll stop acting as it will make me the only actor with a 100 per cent success rate (laughs). But then, I had to succumb and after Maamannan, I wanted to stop acting again because I have a lot of work in politics. But when Kamal Haasan sir approached me with a plot, I wanted to produce it. He wanted me to act though and said he would handle the production. He is now busy with the shooting of Indian 2 and still, sits for a story discussion. Avaru sollurappo, adhukku no solla mudiyuma?"

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