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25 days of Nenjuku Needhi: I want to be known for my versatility, says Aari Arujunan

Aari Arujunan on being a part of Udhayanidhi Stalin’s Nenjuku Needhi, which completed a 25-day run in cinemas.

  • S Subhakeerthana

Last Updated: 10.45 PM, Jun 14, 2022

25 days of Nenjuku Needhi: I want to be known for my versatility, says Aari Arujunan
Aari Arujunan and Udhayanidhi Stalin

Nenjuku Needhi is Aari Arjunan's first release, after winning the title of Bigg Boss Tamil 4. Naturally, he was thrilled when the Udhayanidhi-starrer came his way. Although there are many characters in Nenjuku Needhi, Aari Arujunan happens to be one of the prime attractions. He plays Kumaran, a revenge-seeking man. “I am keener about playing characters that make an impression, despite the length of the roles. I prefer to view any role from the prism of impact. I just want to be versatile," he says. 

When it comes to picking roles, Aari Arujunan does not like to judge a film based on its genre. “Nenjuku Needhi, of course, is a remake. But I did not judge it for what it is. I thought the film had a great story, and immediately wanted to be a part of it. I was not the only one shouldering the film, and I was okay with it.”

As a performer, Aari Arujunan insists that his loyalty always lies with the script. “What matters to me, ultimately, is a good project, and an honest film. Nenjuku Needhi seemed a perfect combination. I have gone by instinct, always. Sometimes it may not have proved to be a good choice; in terms of commercial aspects, but I gained enough from those experiences to not make the same choices again,” he smiles.

Whatever films Aari Arujunan has done to date have meant something to him. “Some were hits and some misses, but with each film, I have only learnt. I didn’t succumb to the pressure of signing every other project that I was approached for.” He is beaming with joy at the success and response he has been getting. “It feels good to be acknowledged. You know when your efforts are paying off!”

Aari Arujunan was not the first choice to play Kumaran. He tells OTTplay, “I knew the team was in talks with Pa Ranjith, Karthik Thangavel and Arulnidhi. But it was destined that I played Kumaran. Arunraja wanted a director in that role, or a ‘hero’, as Kumaran’s character drives Nenjuku Needhi forward. I trusted Arunraja, and surrendered myself completely to him, as I knew I was in safe hands.”

Aari Arujunan got a broad idea of Arunraja Kamaraj's vision from the way he discussed Nenjuku Needhi with him. “I have burnt my fingers in the past. But my judgments have become better over these years. I was confident about Nenjuku Needhi and knew the film would be talked about, because of its core idea.”

After he came on board, the makers improvised the actor’s looks. “We didn't want the audience to get reminded of my role in Nedunchalai; seeing Kumaran—considering how both the characters have a beard. We decided to change my eye colour, too. And, it was my suggestion that I wear a black shawl on my shoulder. I focused only on getting the expressions and acting right. My job became easier as Arunraja was specific about what he needed from me. All I did was just listen to him!”

Aari Arujunan had a great time on the sets of Nenjuku Needhi. “For example, in the opening scenes, it required that I mouth my dialogues with anger and frustration about society. Arunraja told me I had to shed tears in a certain way. My character could have easily been melodramatic but Arunraja ensured that my act never crossed that line. I didn’t want to use glycerine to cry. I kept it as natural as possible when I was in front of the camera,” he explains.

The actor is all praise for the director, Arunraja Kamaraj, who made his debut in 2018 with the much-appreciated Kanaa. Aari Arujunan says the script and the director helped him breathe life into Kumaran. “Even though my character gets killed midway, I had no regrets choosing the film. I quite liked my role and the way it was written! I wanted to make the character as authentic as possible. Arunraja backed everyone, making the whole process and atmosphere comfortable to work in.” 

After a pause, he recalls how Udhayanidhi Stalin helped him, in the release of Nedunchalai (2014) when the project was stuck. “This is my way of showing gratitude to him.” Further, Aari Arujunan refers to Udhayanidhi Stalin as down-to-earth and a gem of a person. “He showed a lot of enthusiasm and felt I was the right choice to play Kumaran. Udhayanidhi Stalin floors you with his casual charm and simplicity. Avar kitta andha innocence apdiye irukku, which I like about him. When he’s on a film set, you don’t see his party members visit him. He’s a thorough professional.”

Recalling an incident that happened on the sets of Nenjuku Needhi, Aari Arujunan says, “There was a scene where Udhayanidhi Stalin and I were in a classroom set-up. While we were shooting, the chair broke and he fell. He neither made a fuss nor lost his cool. For the next shot, he was ready. I was impressed by the way he handled the entire situation. In all honesty, I don't think even I would have remained quiet the way he was!”

And, has the Bigg Boss experience helped his career? “The show does give you massive exposure, but I don't think it guarantees you a bright chance in films. I was a known name before I entered the house, but most people go to Bigg Boss with dreams of making it big in the industry. I’m not sure how your popularity converts into an opportunity,” smiles Aari Arujunan.  

More than winning the title, what Aari Arujunan cherishes is the time he spent in the Bigg Boss house. “It taught me what my strengths and weaknesses were. People like me for my honesty and outspoken nature, which fetched me a loyal fan base. Wherever I go, I hear them say nice things about me. For instance, there was this woman who said she would like to see her children grow up like me. Those words moved me. I was glad I had a platform to discuss issues that mattered to me. The audience saw their lives on screen; partly why the show remains a huge hit!”

And, the downsides of being labelled a 'Bigg Boss artiste'? “These days, they think twice before roping in two Bigg Boss artistes on the same film. Such limitations pretty much exist, which artists rarely admit.”

Although Aari Arujunan doesn’t mind being cast along with other actors, he is looking to explore lead roles. He has Ellam Mela Irukuravan Paathuppan, Aleka and Bhagavan due for release. Also, he's currently listening to scripts. “Movies, to succeed, today have to be story-driven, with interesting characters! So, the quest is always to do stuff you haven’t done before,” he signs off.