With his versatile performances and captivating on-screen presence, he has captured the hearts of audiences in the Tamil film industry. From humble beginnings to unexpected opportunities, we delve into the layers of his unique journey, celebrating the triumphs of “Por Thozhil,” and embracing his unwavering passion for creative endeavors. We had the pleasure of speaking with talented actor Ashok Selvan in an exclusive interview. Here are some excerpts…
Can you share a little about your background? Who or what inspired you to become an actor, and how were your initial years in the film industry?
The only question I ask myself is, “Why am I an actor?” I’m really not sure of the answer. While my actor friends used to tell me that they dreamed of becoming one since childhood, I never even considered it. During my first year of college, I did a role in street theater (Therukoothu), and I really liked it. I used to be a sportsman before that, and have never participated in any cultural activities. My seniors were working on short films, and they called me. I started acting in many roles going forward, as I liked the process, work, and performance. Fame, money… of course, I have a desire for it. But the work itself is what takes priority. That’s how I became an actor.
But we heard that you also have an interest in direction. Could you please elaborate on that?
Yes, I do have an interest in direction. I enjoy watching films, and the magic of cinema lies in the joy of creation. I have directed a few short films that brought me a level of satisfaction surpassing acting. As a director, you are not just an actor but also the writer and creator of the entire project, breathing life into it. However, I somehow ended up becoming an actor.
I met Vignesh Raja during our time as directors of short films and became friends when my work won the Best Film Award in the “Reels of Fire” contest at SSN. When Vignesh started directing, he asked me to act in his project. Although I currently lack the confidence to fully pursue directing, I have an undeniable urge to create films that offer a defined experience, like fantasy, rather than overly realistic ones.
Are there any specific genres or types of characters you aspire to explore in the future?
There are many genres and types of characters I wish to explore. Right now, I feel like I’ve just started, and there is so much more to do and explore. Specifically, I have a strong desire to work on a biopic and a historic film like “300.” I have a specific person in mind for the biopic, but I prefer not to share it openly. What if someone else does it before me? (chuckles). Additionally, I also have a strong desire to be part of a sports-related movie.
I definitely have to ask you about the movie “Oxygen.” It didn’t go on as expected. Can we know why? If it had succeeded, how would it have affected your career?
It stopped due to production issues. However, if it had been released, it would have been a massive hit. The entire crew, including myself, was amazed at how terrific it turned out after just 6 to 7 days of shooting. We were stunned by the outcome. Although the movie was ultimately dropped, it will always hold a special place in my heart. If it had succeeded, it would have been a pivotal action film in my career. Perhaps that’s why it didn’t happen, as it opened the door for me to explore rom-coms like “Oh My Kadavule” and “Manmadha Leelai.” The release of the Oxygen movie now rests in the hands of the director Metro Anand.
Congratulations on your latest release, “Por Thozhil.” We all know it has received a phenomenal response. What drew you to this project?
The reason I chose the film was very simple – a superb script and 100% confidence in the director. We had previously worked together, so I knew his approach to the craft and how he would bring out the best in any project. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the effort the director put into “Por Thozhil” was remarkable. I witnessed his meticulous attention to detail and thorough planning. However, the level of success, audience response, box office numbers, and overwhelming love surpassed our expectations by 200%. It’s all about how the audience embraced the film as their own, promoting it and playing a crucial role in its successful run.
When a movie such as “Por Thozhil” becomes a success and resonates with people, they naturally anticipate and eagerly await a sequel. What are your thoughts on this?
Sure, there are plans and a purpose now, but the story and all the other elements need to come together. That’s how a movie takes shape, and it’s in his hands to write a story that surpasses and meets the expectations set by “Por Thozhil.” We need to delve into the characters’ journey. It’s a huge process, and I have full confidence that Vignesh will excel in it. So, I strongly believe that there might be a second part.
What valuable lessons or experiences have you gained from working with Sarath Kumar sir in the film?
I still learn from him every day, both onscreen and off-screen. With over 150 films under his belt, his approach is impressive. He is a meticulous and well-prepared actor. I had always assumed that most senior actors would come to the set casually, listen to scripts, and improvise on the spot. Working with a senior hero for the first time, I was astounded. He diligently read the scenes, prepared his dialogues, and arrived on set with a clear understanding of his character. I felt truly inspired. I used to think that maybe with age, we could become more relaxed, but after observing him, I realised that we should always approach our work with such dedication.
You have showcased a remarkable range of characters in your filmography. How has your approach to acting evolved over the years?
There has been a significant evolution. If you compare my past and current films, you’ll notice the difference. I believe in constant growth and avoiding stagnation. It’s definitely problematic if someone tells me I’m the same. We are not buildings, we are humans, we should be evolving everyday. Acting goes beyond mere performance; it involves a deep understanding of the craft and the ability to explore its technical aspects, to play with it more. So, I think it has become a little easy for me to understand what the director is trying to convey.
If you had the opportunity to meet your past self, the person who strived to create short films, what advice would you give him?
To be honest, I wouldn’t say a thing. My past self-did well. I would be in frenzy, searching for a breakthrough. Looking back, it’s emotional. I created a magnificent album with my photos on cardboard, spirally bound. I would stand in front of every office, showing my photos to anyone who approached. If they said it was too big to go through, I had a smaller version with my name, number, and email on it. I even had a CD burned with my story. At times, I would lose hope and doubt whether I would get a chance. There was no backup plan, and I was unsure if this would work. I used to worry a lot, but there’s no specific strategy in this industry. I just kept working. But if I could meet my past self, I would reassure him that everything will work out, to be happy and never give up on the work.
You mentioned losing hope at times. How do you regain it during those moments?
A lot would run through my mind, especially while staring at the ceiling. Numerous questions would arise, particularly after facing constant rejections in auditions. Whenever I feel exhausted and ready to give up, a voice inside me urges, “Let’s try once more.” Even in moments my hard work doesn’t yield the expected commercial success, like when “Nitham Oru Vanam”, that voice reassures me and encourages me to keep going. It’s my own voice, pushing me to move on. That’s why I seek and choose to do feel-good movies, to help people like myself find that confidence through my films.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from your experiences in the film industry?
One valuable lesson I’ve learned is that hard work pays off, even if the results aren’t immediate. My experience in “Por Thozhil” taught me this valuable lesson. The efforts I invested in previous films are now yielding unexpected benefits. Behind every success, your effort will shine through. If we truly dedicate ourselves to our goals, the results will follow. I would advise my brother, “Persistent effort will surely bring results, even if they take time.”
Tell us something about your upcoming projects and how excited you are for them.
There are three upcoming films that I’m excited about. Firstly, I have a romcom with Yuvan Shankar Raja Sir. Secondly, there’s “Saba Nayagan,” directed by CS Karthikeyan, who previously assisted Kamal Haasan Sir. It’s a Leon James musical that has come out really well. Lastly, “Bluestar,” a Ranjith production, is set in the 90s and revolves around a small-town cricket gang. I’m eagerly looking forward to these projects!
Can you share a few memorable fan encounters that you will never forget about?
In college, a memorable incident occurred when a girl cried tears of joy upon seeing me outside the caravan. It was my first fan moment. I happily granted her request for photographs and an autograph. Despite her exams, she chose to wait for me. I encouraged her to continue and thanked her for everything. What amazed me was the realisation that I could bring someone so much joy without even realizing it. Another impactful message came from a Sri Lankan Tamil person in Canada who drove for hours to watch my movie “Thegidi.” Despite enduring childhood trauma from wars, she expressed that my movie helped her forget about it. It deeply touched me to know that my art form could have such a profound impact on someone’s life.