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Arya: Ranjith says okay for a shot only if we got punched in the face

Arya, who is excited about the release of Sarpatta Parambarai, gets candid on the various preparations he underwent to play a boxer in the film, his first collaboration with director Ranjith and the reason he believes the movie is unique.

Thinkal Menon
Jul 22, 2021
 
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Following his recent outing, Teddy, which was an OTT release, Arya is back with Pa Ranjith’s Sarpatta Parambarai, a film with expectations riding high. Though the makers were keen on a theatrical release, the current situation compelled them to opt for a digital release and the film released on Amazon Prime. An upbeat Arya, who has pinned his hopes on the movie, which is set against the backdrop of the boxing clubs in North Madras, believes he has given his best as an actor, both physically and emotionally. The actor speaks to OTTplay about the rigorous workouts he underwent for the film, working with Ranjith for the first time, challenges faced by filmmakers during the pandemic and his forthcoming releases.

The film has been creating quite a buzz since the time its first look was released. How excited are you?

I consider this to be the biggest project of my career with regard to budgets and the big names involved in it. All eyes are on Ranjith as he directed Rajini sir in his last two movies. I am quite aware of the expectations the film has been carrying since the day it went on floors. We are thrilled with the response received for the film’s trailer and we hope everything falls in place. We have tried to narrate an intriguing story in the best way possible. I’m now looking forward to people’s verdict.

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How did the project take off? Were you Ranjith’s first choice for the lead role?

I have been learning boxing for quite some time and when I got to know through Kalaiyarasan that Ranjith has a script based on the sport, I approached him. Apparently, he has been doing research for several years for the movie. I expressed my interest in collaborating with him and he said he will revert soon. Later, he narrated the script to me and I asked him if we could start the project immediately. But he said he needed at least six months’ time for pre-production.

What was the kind of preparation that you underwent to slip into your character’s shoes?

Since it is a film set in the 70s, we had a 45-day workshop for all actors which involved numerous script reading sessions and training to get the right body language and North Madras dialect. All of us were familiar with our dialogues and pronunciations before the film went on floors.

Your beefed up avatar has been one of the prime attractions of the movie. How taxing was the project physically for you?

Since I’m a fitness freak, I could pull off certain things easily, but there were no dearth of challenges. We trained under Thiru, a national-level boxer, for more than three hours for several months. Ranjith insisted that the film should not have ‘cinematic fights’. Each and every punch you will see in the film is real. He would say okay for a shot only if we got punched in the face. I followed three workout sessions – cardio in the morning for an hour, one-and-a-half hours in the gym in the afternoon and boxing for two hours in the evening. My co-stars like Santhosh, Shabir, Kalaiyarasan and John Kokken followed similar workout sessions. After a point, we used to jokingly say that even Mike Tyson wouldn’t have spent so much time on the sport. The hard work all of us had put in for more than a year was as if we were preparing for a world boxing championship.

Were there instances where you got badly injured?

While filming boxing scenes, Ranjith would often say ‘punch with more power’. There were times where I had to go home with a swollen face or cuts and bruises on my face and my wife would be worried. But after a point, she got used to it. But such instances never deterred our spirit. We were quite determined to enjoy every moment. I’m sure a lot of people will take up boxing after the film’s release.

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A few portions of the film were shot after the first lockdown. How difficult was it to keep the spirit intact during such unprecedented times?

The biggest challenge was to come to terms with the uncertainty. I was not sure if I should continue the rigorous workouts as we were clueless about shooting the remaining portions. With gyms and other public spaces shut down, it was difficult to follow the earlier workout sessions.

How is Sarpatta Parambarai different from those movies which had boxing as its backdrop released in different languages in the recent years?

Apart from boxing, the movie also touches upon the culture and lives of people of North Madras in the 70s. One can come up with at least 1,000 stories from North Madras with just boxing as the backdrop. Boxing was a religion of sorts for people back then in the area, akin to the popularity which CSK enjoys now among cricket enthusiasts. There were several clans who religiously participated in the sport and they used to invite boxers from other countries whenever they felt short of people in their group. Thanks to the euphoria associated with the sport among people of North Madras, none other than Muhammad Ali had visited the place to watch the final of a prestigious tournament. What makes the film special is the authentic portrayal of people’s love for the sport.

Ranjith is known for portraying stories of the underprivileged and downtrodden. How was the experience working with him?

I love the way he stages every scene. Some filmmakers depend on different properties to convey the time period in which the stories unfold. He believes in the authenticity of emotions, body language, costumes and the overall atmosphere of a place where a story is set.

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The collaboration between Ranjith and music director Santhosh Narayanan never disappoints film lovers. How has music played a big part in the project?

This is the first time Santhosh has composed music for my film. The songs have really come out well, especially the celebration song and an inspirational track. After the completion of shooting, I remember Ranjith saying ‘We have done our best. Santhosh will take care of the rest. He will elevate the film to another level’. That’s the mutual trust they share and I believe it has worked wonders for the film.

More Kollywood films are expected to opt for an OTT release. How do you look at this scenario?
We had planned our film as a theatrical release, but the ultimate aim is to reach as many people as possible. With a platform like Amazon Prime Video which has millions of subscribers and presence in 240 countries, we are excited that everyone has access to our content at the same time. The best thing about OTT avenues is that it has erased the language barriers. It is a great time for movie lovers. The biggest challenge for filmmakers is to come up with great content as pleasing film enthusiasts will not be easy henceforth. That being said, watching movies in the theatre is an unmatched experience.

You have two more promising films, Enemy and Aranmanai 3, up for release. What can the audience look forward to?
Enemy has Vishal and I sharing screen space after a decade. This time, I am playing the antagonist. It is a stylish action flick which has an interesting screenplay. On the other hand, Aranmanai 3 is a horror-comedy, which I think can be enjoyed to the fullest only in theatres. I hope things will be better soon so that every film gets the deserved platform for their release.

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