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Exclusive! Being a part of Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan was nothing short of a dream come true: Ashwin Kakumanu

Ashwin Kakumanu has starred in Zero, Thiri and Ajith-starrer, Vedalam

  • S Subhakeerthana

Last Updated: 08.50 AM, Apr 27, 2022

Exclusive! Being a part of Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan was nothing short of a dream come true: Ashwin Kakumanu
Ashwin Kakumanu

Ashwin Kakumanu, who rose to fame with Venkat Prabhu's Mankatha, understands that actors are only as good as their last film. Perhaps, why he's extremely careful about the choices he makes. Nothing gives him more satisfaction than working behind the camera. “I have been making short films since I was 17, and I find this exercise fruitful,” says Ashwin, who recently directed a bunch of videos that talk about gratitude, and how that has come to us from the little things around, in the post-Covid era.

Initially, he wanted to do a funny music video in the form of a PSA, but ended up doing something serious and real.

Ashwin tells us, “The idea was to be thankful for being alive, and remain grateful for having come a long way. During the second wave, I was down with Covid, and got admitted to the Covid ward. I was catching up on stuff that I had missed. I also started writing as I felt lonely and depressed. I witnessed how the women workforce, especially nurses, have been toiling hard to ensure the safety and health of people under their care. I was shooting in bits and pieces, when I wasn't occupied with acting assignments. For instance, I shot one of the videos in Ganapathyram, a vintage theatre in Chennai. It is a sort of love letter to the theatrical experience in the aftermath of the Pandemic. Besides the obvious things, lockdown definitely taught me not to take anything in life for granted.”

Ashwin had three people help him shoot. “I was keeping these videos to myself for a long time, and finally put them out. I wasn't sure if they would be met with good reception. But the whole experience was relieving, as I stepped out, and shot people. These videos tell a nice story, and have a proper narrative.”

Ashwin is hopeful about his upcoming releases, Idhu Vedalam Sollum Kathai (directed by Rathindran Prasad, starring Abhay Deol; doubling up as the producer) and Pizza 3. “It has been a while since I saw myself on screen. I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing how the audience would react to my roles.” Candidly, he admits, “It does feel weird to talk about the films that haven't come out yet!”

The actor, who was a part of web series like JS Nandhini's Nila Nila Odi Vaa and Vishnuvardhan's Fingertip (streaming on Zee5), is keen to explore the digital space, as well. “In fact, I was one of the first actors, who was open to experimenting with web series, even before it became a thing,” Ashwin notes.

So, what does he have to say about Mani Ratnam's Ponniyin Selvan adaptation? “The project is a pride of Indian cinema. I'm certain it will be a highlight in my career. Though I haven't read the novel, I heard different stories about the six-decade-old Ponniyin Selvan saga. MGR tried to adapt the book into a film; it didn't take off. Mani sir himself tried the same with Kamal (Haasan) sir in the 90s. Then, later with Vijay sir and Mahesh Babu sir in 2011. I'm glad to be a part of this prestigious film.”

Ashwin acknowledges working with Mani Ratnam has been a fantastic experience. "He is a man of few words. It was nothing short of a dream come true.” In the meanwhile, Ashwin got to show Mani Ratnam the videos he shot. “It was amusing to see Mani sir's face. There was a stoic silence, although he cracked a smile!”

How was it to be on the sets of Ponniyin Selvan? “I completely surrendered myself to him. There was lots of unlearning. When you step into his universe, you know it's going to be different. You don't know how he will stage a scene. You can't see the monitor. It's reserved for him, and the cinematographer. Even senior actors stand where they've been asked to. You can't ask Mani sir…questions! Yen indha shot ippadi irukku; adhellam kekka mudiyadhu. Adi thaan vizhum apram," he jokingly adds.

Ashwin wants to make more films in future. “This doesn't mean I don't want to act. But it is not easy to find like-minded people. I am passionate about making films; yes. But I always thought my ideas were niche, off beat, and difficult to monetise. I realised it takes a lot to convince someone to put money on you. Sometimes, the wait is frustrating. Hey, I don't mind doing something that makes me feel happy and content,” he signs off.