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‘It’s time for me to hit the refresh button’

Express News Service

In 2003, a college student in Coimbatore named Jayasimha watched Saamy in a local theatre as many as 17 times. In between rewatching the Hari film, he would catch re-runs of another 2013 Vikram film he was charmed by: Dhool. By the end of the year, he had learned every notable dialogue in Saamy by heart. So entranced was he by the sight of Aarusaamy crushing his idlis in beer, that he tried to do the same with omelettes to not so appetising results.

Fifteen years later, Jayasimha is today better known as Bobby Simha. He’s become a popular actor, and as destiny would have it, has played the villain in Saamy’s sequel that got released last week, Saamy Square. Nobody who watches a film almost 20 times forgets dialogues, and Bobby Simha hasn’t either. “Thodaikku mela lungi evanum thooki katta koodadhu!” he says, mimicking a Vikram dialogue from Saamy. From being a fan to inspiring fan-following, Bobby Simha has come a long way during the last decade.

It hasn’t come easily though — especially since the highs of Jigarthanda. In fact, Bobby Simha wonders aloud if he’s disappointed the many well-wishers who came his way following his breakthrough role as Assault Sethu in Jigarthanda. “I think I’ve made a few miscalculations,” he says, with unnerving honesty. “After Jigarthanda, I did almost 15 films in a year, and there was hardly any time for me to sleep, let alone analyse scripts.”

It’s been six years since his debut in Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Eppadi, four since Jigarthanda, and Bobby has decided that henceforth, “No means no.” He hasn’t yet made up his mind over whether he wants to pursue the rocky road towards stardom. But he does admit that every actor, on some level, harbours dreams of being a hero. “But when they decide that, they don’t do any other roles unlike me,” he says.

In any case, this whole business of slotting actors as heroes and villains is an Indian thing, he points out. “I’ve realised now that there’s no fighting it. I tried and failed. Now, I have to play the game their way,” he says. Chief among his new resolutions is the decision not to play villain anymore. “Unless, of course, I get a role that gives me plenty of fodder.” He’s not comfortable closing doors completely; it’s a trait, he admits, that has got him doing films he shouldn’t have. “You do some for friendship; you do some for other obligations.”

In last week’s release, Saamy Square, Bobby Simha has played a villain called Ravana Pichai. It’s not the first time he’s playing a negative character, of course. He did that in Karuppan starring Vijay Sethupathi (“He told me it’s a great role and I did it”), and there’s a case to be made for his role being negative in Iraivi as well. He disagrees with my colouring those characters in black. “There’s justification for the actions of my character in Karuppan. He’s genuinely wronged,” he says. “In Iraivi too, Jagan (Bobby’s character) is a loyal guy. He never understands why his friends treat women the way they do.” Ravana Pichai in Saamy Square lives by a code too, according to him. “He’s an all right guy till you get in his way. It’s important to me that I humanise them before playing them.”

I ask if it was easy for an actor like Bobby Simha to belong in director Hari’s fictional universe, which is home to loud protagonists like Doraisingam and Aarusaamy. Bobby responds that Hari’s energy on the sets automatically revitalises the entire cast and crew. “He operates with the energy of a man who’s had a hundred Red Bulls. He doesn’t take a break even to eat,” reveals Bobby. “This is why no viewer can ever claim to have slept in a Hari film.” Working with different directors is a lot like listening to lectures from different professors, he philosophises. “Be it from Hari or Karthi (Karthik Subbaraj), It’s all lessons; only the style of instruction differs.”

Save for Mercury, Bobby Simha has been a part of Karthik Subbaraj’s every film. “We go back a long way. He understands and knows me in a way other directors don’t,” he says. That perhaps explains why the crests of Bobby’s performances seem to coincide with Karthik Subbaraj’s films. “Maybe. Even for a film like Soodhu Kavvum, when I was offered the cop role and I wanted to play another character who’s smitten with Nayanthara, I approached Karthi for advice. He gave me much-needed encouragement,” says Bobby.

Now, of course, Karthik Subbaraj has helped Bobby Simha realise his ultimate dream: A chance to work with Rajinikanth. Bobby has already finished shooting for his portions in the upcoming Rajinikanth film, Petta. “I’d have given up everything to just meet him for five minutes,” says Bobby. “I can’t believe I’ve actually done a film with him. It all feels like maayaa.” Spoken like a true Rajinikanth fan.

Source: The New Indian Express