Interview With

Hari Krishnan

Actor Hari Krishnan better known as "Madras Jaani" engages in a candid chat with me which seems more like that conversation you have with a co-passenger on a short train travel. He is quick, witty and adds a tinge of charm in every response of his.

Who was Hari Krishnan before he took the "Madras Jaani" avatar??

He was a normal guy who was born and raised in an area called Ayanavaram in Chennai. When I was in college I was always inclined towards culturals but didn't really take it seriously as hanging out with my boys gang seemed more important. But after a while, I discovered my love for miming and it took me places. The act of miming was interesting to me because it had no dialogs and the entire story is narrated using body language and expressions. I have been to all college fests in Chennai and won every other competition possible. I started involving myself in street plays and that opened up the avenue to understand the art of acting well. In this journey of mine, I also launched a studio where I could train people in miming. As days went, during one of my stage performances director Ranjith spotted me and casted me in Attakathi.

Do you miss the real "stage"?

Yes! Had I worked in a usual 9 to 5 job, I'd have missed it more. Now that my job involves the methods and gimmicks of theatre I feel much better.

Is there any disadvantage in being over recognised for the same character like "Madras Jaani" in your case. Does it dilute the impact of your other characters?

I wouldn't call it a disadvantage. In fact, people in Malaysia recognise me as "Tiger" (Character name in Kabali) and many now refer to me as "heavy load" after Vada Chennai. At the same time, it is undeniable that the "Jaani" character is more popular and it only makes me happy. If you observe, people tend to recognise me using my character name which actually is a compliment that any performer yearns to receive. And I'm indeed glad!

The look that was given to you for the "Jaani" character is extremely unidentifiable. As a beginner, was that a concern?

True. Even today people find it difficult to recognise me. And when they do, they are in awe. For me, that was never a concern. It was always important for me to give that specific look to that character to make it justifiable.

Does your previous role decide your future projects?

Sometimes I do feel like that way but I'm working towards breaking it. My role in Darling 2 was different from the lot. I did a stammering mannerism and had a modern look. I look forward to taking up new roles and prove that I can do a lot more. My role in Sandakozhi 2 is a similar effort.

What is your vision as an actor?

I want to be one of the best actors in the industry. I do not have any benchmark name but irrespective of my role, I want to deliver a good performance. Sometimes when you are an older person, the scope is wider as a supporting artist. I want to completely explore the scope that my age gives me in this industry.

The kind of relationship you share with director Ranjith...

He identified me as a performer in a very initial stage. According to me his growth in the industry is phenomenal but he hasn't changed even one bit from the good old Attakathi times. Whatever be the star cast, he'll never fail to encourage youngsters in his casting and characterisation. Ranjith sir decides what his film has to turn out as.

What was it like to work with Vetri Maaran?

In case of my "Jaani" character, I did a lot of homework but in Vada Chennai, I didn't know anything about my character. Vetri sir preferred spontaneity and he made sure that my homework or over preparation didn't shadow the other characters. Though somewhere I wish I did better but I'm quite surprised that people have recognised this character and flooded me with appreciation.

I remember dressing up like Dhanush sir after watching Polladhavan and it was the most iconic film for the youth then. I was called to play a role in Visaranai itself but I didn't get a call back after the initial talks. It is a honor to finally work with him and I learnt a lot in this process.

Do you have a writer or a director dimension to you?

I don't write but yes I have a director edge. Mainly, I owe it to my miming background as I had a group that I was training to tell a short story through the act of mime. Now I do direct each of my character by myself.

Has the fame hit you too hard?

I don't think so. I'm still very normal and casual in my lifestyle. People around me also know me for the kind of person I am so they don't judge me whatsoever.

Sharing the screen space with Superstar in Kabali...

I never got to interact much with him but I used to continuously observe him through the day. One cannot be tired of admiring him. His style is innate irrespective of the camera being on or off. In Kaala I used to regularly visit the shooting spot though I did not act in that movie and one fine day Rajini sir called me and asked me if I was doing well. I was surprised that he remembered my name and it is not a joke when people say legends are the most humble people on Earth. Not just humble but they are extremely aware of their surrounding.

Do you think you can be a full time comedian?

It is a challenging task and if I ever do something like that it will be action comedy. The fight sequences of Jackie Chan films are my inspiration and I'd like to explore that facet of comedy.

Hari Krishnan closes with his life mantra "Spread Love. Spread peace"
It was indeed a breezy conversation that I will always remember...