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October 16, 1997


Winning, vulnerable Vineeth

Vineeth Click for bigger pic!
Vineeth is one of the sweetest youngsters in the Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu film industries.

Unlike many Tamil film stars, he is friendly and accessible; messages left on his answering machine are always answered

The appointment was fixed for noon on Sunday. On Saturday evening, Shobha Warrier got a call from Vineeth. He had to attend a preview in the morning, so he could meet her a little later, say, at 1.30? Not many stars would have cared to let a journalist know of a change in schedule.

Getting there was hell, though, driving a two-wheeler 15 kilometres beneath a blazing sun, the mercury at 39 degrees Centigrade.

"On a bike? You must have got roasted." Vineeth was aghast and hurried inside to return with two glasses of refreshing cola. How many actors are as solicitous?

Vineeth came to the limelight in Kerala after he started winning the Kala Pratibha dance award (for the best overall performance in the state youth festival) year after year, at both school and college.

Since he is the nephew of actress (Jis Desh Main Ganga Beheti Hain) Padmini, and a cousin of actress (Dalapati) Shobhana, his terpsichorean talents quickly paved his way for his entry into films. At 14, he played a gawky teenager in Nakhakshathangal, a very successful film by the hit pair M T Vasudevan Nair and Hariharan. Though his films impressed both critics and front benchers, he did not become a super hero, a sought after actor. Or even a guy girls fell for.

All that changed with Kunjumon's Kadal Desam in Tamil and Telugu. Vineet become a sensation in Andhra Pradesh; in Tamil Nadu though it was Abbas, his co-star, who had the women swooning. He doesn't mind though. A very cool guy is Vineeth. Excerpts from the interview:

You made your name as a male classical dancer who beat girls in their domain and won prizes at state youth festivals consistency. How did you get interested in classical dancing?

It was all because of my aunt, Padmini, my father's sister-in-law. At my uncle's wedding, Ragini aunty (Padmini's sister) saw me dancing to the music and immediately sensed that I could dance well. I was three or four then.

Click for bigger pic!
It was they, Padmini aunty and Ragini aunty, who forced my parents to send me to a dancing school. In my parent's family, nobody had learnt dance or music before. Even though my parents are professionals -- my father is a lawyer, my mother a doctor -- they were encouraging. If not for them, I would not have achieved anything.

Did dance disrupt your studies?

No, it didn't . My parent's were very particular that I study well.

How did your first break in movies come through? You were only in school then, were you not?

Yes, I was in school, a tenth standard student. Kalamandalam Saraswathi teacher, M T (Vasudevan Nair) sir's wife, was my guru. It was she who recommended my name to MT sir. That's how I came into movies.

Do you think if you had not been a student of hers, you would not have got a break?

If not for her and MT sir, I would not have been in movies at all. However talented you are, who presents you to the film world matters a lot. People take you seriously if you are introduced by a person like MT sir.

What was your ambition when your were in school? Did you want to take up dancing as a profession? Or, was it a passing curiosity for you?

Dance was always with me. Ever since I could remember, I was going to dance classes and dancing.. You can say I grew up dancing. But I never had the ambition of taking it up as a profession. I was just interested in dancing. It was not a pastime also because I enjoy dancing. Dancing gives me pleasure.

Were movies part of your plans then?

No, they weren't. I became interested in movies only after I really started acting. My first film just happened. I was only in the tenth then.

When the first film was offered to you, did you have a long discussion with your parents? Could they accept you as an actor as both of them are professionals and in no way connected with films?

They had no objection as such. The only condition that they made was that I should not neglect my studies. They were only worried about my education.

Vineeth and Abbas in Kadal Desam. Click for bigger pic!
Were you not worried about shooting affecting your studies when you accepted your first film? You had to write the Secondary School Leaving Certificate exam then.

I knew films would not affect my studies. The truth is that I wanted to try a hand at the movies.

What attracted you to the movies? Glamour, fame, or just acting itself?

I think it was the process of acting. Name, fame and glamour will come only if you are lucky, and talented.

Or was it because your cousin and aunts were acting in movies?

I don't' think they were the reason for my being in films. No, not at all. I was basically interested in movies. I was also curious about films and film-making. Whenever Pappi valliama (Padmini) visited us, I used to go after her with tons and tons of question and she used to tell me all about films, how they are made, etc. Even though she was a famous actress, she was very humble. She used to even dance for me. It was she who taught me how to use eyebrows effectively in dances. Whenever she visited us, they to come once in a year, it was like a festival for us.

You said you shot for your first film when you were in the tenth standard. How did you fare in the final examination?

My headmaster was magnanimous enough to give me permission to go for shooting. I think I was an okay student. I got 89% in the final exam. That's okay, I think.

How difficult was it acting as a romantic hero in MT's Nakhakshathanagal, your second film when you were still in school?

Yes, I was still in school. And I was the romantic hero of the movies. It was very difficult in the beginning. The only consolation was I knew what I had to do because MT sir gave the full script for reading before the shooting itself. I still cherish the feeling I had when I read the script for the first time. It was like reading a story of his. I have 5 to 6 films with him and it is always a treat going through his scripts.

Vineeth and Tabu in Kadal Desam. Click for bigger pic!
After reading the script of Nakhakshathanagal, I didn't know how I would do the romantic scenes. There were quite a few... Once the shooting started, it was real fun. The only problem we had was myself and Monisha (the national award-winning actress who passed away a few years back in a car accident) used to laugh a lot. We couldn't control our laughter even in very serious romantic scenes.

When I looked at her romantically, she used to burst out laughing and soon I would join her. One day, Hariharan sir got so fed up of our laughter that he asked everyone to pack up. "You finish laughing first, then we will start," he reprimanded us like a schoolmaster. We got so scared that we did not laugh after that.

How did you finally manage to do all those romantic scenes?

I just did what Hariharan sir asked me to. Sometimes it was just a look or a touch. I did not think of the impact a look or a touch would have on the big screen then. But when I saw the movie on the big screen...

Were you embarrassed then?

No, I don't think I was embarrassed.

So, after the first success, one film after another happened...

To be very honest with you, I got a lot of offers. All in the same mould. Adolescent romantic films. But I was very particular that I would act only in good, meaningful films. My next film was Aravindan's Oridathu.

Who helped you take the decisions?

No one. I myself decided which film to choose and which to reject. Of course, I did consult my parents whenever I was confused. As they had their work to attend to, I did everything myself. They could never come with me to shootings, so initially they sent a man to help me. And I had my monkey accompanying me to all the shootings. Finally I found it difficult to take care of both monkeys, and I chose the animal.

You mean a real monkey?

Yes, a real one. In fact, she also was a character in Nakhakshathanagal. She was my friend in the film. See, she was a very friendly monkey. I named her Nandini. I love animals a lot. I always had a lot of pets with me. I had pigeons, eagles, rabbits, cats, dogs and... You should have seen the way me eagle used to swallow big fish when I threw it to her.

Were you very close to Nandini?

Very, very close. But you can never trust monkeys. They can turn violent anytime. They behave exactly like human beings -- unpredictable. Nandini was very scared of big noises, like the sound of vehicles, so the noise of the generator at the shooting site scared her a lot. She used to cling to me, frightened.

You said the decisions convening your films were taken by you even when your were a boy. Do you feel you became an adult very fast?

I don't know. I really do not know whether I grew up fast or became an adult fast. I took all the major decisions concerning my films, dates, even money matters. I never had any difficulty in that.

'My boyishness is a drawback'

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