Actor Vikranth, who will be next seen in Lal Salaam, talks about working with Rajinikanth and Kapil Dev, being compared to Vijay, failures in cricket, and more
When he entered the Tamil film industry, actor Vikranth got a lot of attention thanks to the facial similarities he shares with his brother, Tamil star Vijay. But that was not enough for the actor to be able to shine. But that looks all set to change on February 9, when Vikranth's eagerly-awaited film Lal Salaam will be released in theatres. Not only is the film special for Vikranth because of its magnanimity and the fact that he will be seen sharing screen space with superstar Rajinikanth, but Lal Salaam is also a film that combines Vikranth’s two passions: cricket and cinema.
It all started for Vikranth at the age of five. “My father was working in Salem then. He used to bowl for at least 30 minutes a day, because he was also interested in cricket. After that, when we shifted to Chennai, I used to practice every day, and somehow it got ingrained in me,” recalls Vikranth. Despite representing Tamil Nadu and playing until the First Division, the actor adds, “I continued that and when I was about 19 years old, I gave up because despite performing, I could not go anywhere. I gave up on cricket and took up acting.”
In a slew of cricket films that have been incoming in cinema, it might come as a bit of a surprise when Lal Salaam is Vikranth’s first cricket-based film and second sports-based film after Vennila Kabaddi Kuzhu 2 (a co-incidence that the film is a sequel to his co-star Vishnu Vishal’s debut film?). “I always wanted to be a part of a film on cricket. I will not say Lal Salaam is completely a cricket film, but there is more to it. Cricket is just the core of it. But whatever it is, I am happy to share the screen space with Rajinikanth, work with Aishwarya (Rajinikanth) ma'am, and be in a film of a production house,” he adds.
When asked what Vikranth has learned or realised during his stint in the industry so far, the actor gets candid. “To be blunt, in the first 10 years of my film career, I was disappointed because I was not able to make it as a cricketer. Since I was Vijay’s brother, it was easy for me to enter films, but I did not prepare myself for it properly, and I faced the repercussions. For the last 8-9 years, I have become serious and introverted, and things are getting better. I admit that it will take time and now that cinema has also changed. Marketing also plays a big role. For that, you need good support and financial stability. I did not have both, so all I could do is improve my talent onscreen.”
Inevitably, as the topic moves towards Vikranth’s brother and actor Vijay, the former is proud of how he has never approached the latter for any of his films’ mileage. Having made a name for himself, Vikranth says, “Vijay anna is a youth star. A lot of people have asked me to introduce them to him and they will make a film for me. But I have not done that. Even during the first 10 years of my career, I was compared to him for our looks. That was hard for me, so I worked on my appearance and the way I conduct myself. I am not a very open person , but since Vijay anna is also like that, I consciously changed that as well.”
Acting alongside a host of talents like Vishnu Vishal, Vikranth, Senthil, Thambi Ramaiah, and others, Vikranth says that Laal Salaam is set in the 90s, and look wise, he did not have to make any dramatic changes. But performance-wise, Vikranth says that cricket came easy to him, and the reactions were natural. “I have a lot of scenes with Rajini sir. I wanted to learn as much as I could. He has heaped so much praise on me for how good an actor I am,” Vikranth says.
The actor spoke about working with Aishwarya, with whom he is working for the first time. “She was very clear and would ask me to perform a certain way. She would constantly give me updates about my performance, whether I should level it up or down. It was an easy process. She has given her best to the film and has worked very hard on the field. I really wish that Lal Salaam does well, especially for her.”
Vikranth might say Lal Salaam is not a hardcore cricket film, but that didn’t stop the lead actors from playing as much as cricket cricketers do during ODI matches, with each of them bowling about 50 overs a day. “That was the most difficult part because we don’t know which shot would get okayed and we have to put in full effort each time.”
In Lal Salaam, Vikranth shares a once-in-a-lifetime moment, which many actors have not been able to achieve. The actor shares screen space with Rajinikanth and veteran cricketer Kapil Dev in the film . Calling it a “very special moment,” Vikranth says that it is the literal imagery of the best of both his worlds. “I have some scenes with both of them. Kapil sir shot for a couple of days and by the way we bowled, he understood we were professional players.”
When asked about what the future holds for him, Vikranth says that he draws inspiration from director-actor Samuthirakani and wants to follow in his footsteps. “I have my limitations. If I need to be a star, there is a different route and respective efforts. I want to do something like what Samuthirakani sir is doing. He acts in a film as a hero, but he also plays the role of a villain and makes cameo appearances. I want to be a part of good films and contribute in important ways. It can be any character.”
On his expectations for Lal Salaam, Vikranth says, “I have not seen the film yet, but I know that it is a film for everyone. It talks about humanity, merging stories from people in Mumbai and Tiruvannamalai, and addresses Hindu-Muslim riots. The film talks about unity and how sports uphold it.”
Vikranth also spoke about how cricket is part of everyone and evokes a universal bond among people. “I am happy that a film like Blue Star is becoming a success. I am happy for Ashok Selvan, Sonu (Shanthanu Bhagyaraj), and Prithvi’s success. But more for Sonu and Prithvi, who have tasted success for the first time. In the same way, I hope Lal Salaam too will entertain the audience and give us much-needed success.”
Vikranth wishes to do a cricket film again, more fully concentrating on the game. He is also teaming up with Diary director Innasi Pandiyan. “It is kind of my dream film. I am looking forward to it and am sure it will take my career to another level. It is a film that I have never tried before and will be new to Tamil cinema,” he concludes.