The world of Tamil theatre has given us some amazing acting talents and one of those is the YG Mahendra. With his impeccable comic timing and his ability to create an impact with his performance, the veteran has managed to stand the test of time as an artiste. In this chat with us, the actor talks about his six-decade-long career and passion for learning new style of filmmaking and more.
The world of Tamil theatre has given us some amazing acting talents and one of those is the multifeceted YG Mahendra. With his impeccable comic timing and his ability to create an impact with his performance, the veteran has managed to stand the test of time as an artiste. In this chat with us, the actor talks about his six-decade-long career, about his love for Sivaji Ganesan, and passion for learning new style of filmmaking and more.
From theatre to cinema
From the very young age, I know nothing but theatre. I grew up on the stage where my father performed, and went on to become quite popular as a theatre artiste during my college days. Though I was studying chemical engineering, acting has always been my passion.
Impressed with my characterisation and performance in a stage play, titled Nalandhana, actor Srikanth introduced me to legendary director K Balachander and told him that I will suit for one of the roles in KB’s Navagraham. Director Balachander, too, knows me well, as my dad was a popular theatre artiste. That’s how I began my journey in cinema.
First is always the best
Most of my co-stars in the film, Navagraham - Nagesh, Major Sundarrajan, Srikanth and Gopalakrishnan, were from theatre background. It was K Balachander sir who helped me to adapt to the transition from performing on stage to the front of camera. He taught me how to emote less in cinema, as there will be a lot of close-ups here.
There was a song in the film, 'Navagraham Neenga Navagraham', which was sung by all the actors in our own voice. I can never forget it as I got the opportunity to sing in my very first film. Also, I learnt what discipline is, from KB sir. There was an incident were the film’s hero, Nagesh came late to the sets. Though he was at the peak of his career then, KB sir didn’t resist himself from scolding him.
Friends for life
I knew Kamal even before making my debut in cinema. We enjoy acting together, as we are close friends, too. Raja Paarvai is very close to my heart. My character travels throughout the film, and I had a great time with him. It was the film in which actors dubbed using computer technology.
When AVM Saravanan asked Kamal to dub for the first time without any cuts or retake, he immediately called me to dub our combination scenes. We both have the same wavelength as we have been friends for a long time. Even during the dubbing sessions of Raja Paarvai, we added a lot of fun elements and dialogues.
Journey with Superstar
My first film with Rajini was Bhuvana Oru Kelvikuri. From then, we all know that he is going to rule the industry as we know that he is different and unique. However, I was not free with Rajini like I was with Kamal, as he is my friend from 60s. But it’s always fun to share screenspace with him. Even during the shoot of Pokkiri Raaja, Sridevi, Rajini, and I used to chat a lot and play pranks on the sets. Sridevi’s demise is still a shocker to me.
I had rarely shed tears in my film journey. But I cried only once and that too, during the demise of the legendary actor, my inspiration, Sivaji Ganesan. Even now, I always dedicate my plays to him. I can keep talking about all day, as I have acted more than 33 films with him. He blessed me during my first stage play, which was later made as a film, titled Paar Magalae Par. I can never forget that moment. I learnt modulation, acting and dialogue delivery only by watching his films.
Also, whenever Sivaji sir loses his temper, he never scolds or shouts at anyone. He talks to them with respect, in a way to express that he is angry with them. One day, when I was late to his film’s shoot, he said 'Vaanga sir Vaanga. En peru Sivaji Ganesan. Naan indha industry la 52 la irundhu iruken. Aana oru naal kooda shooting ku late ah vandhadhu illa.'
Cinema then, and now
80s cinema was more of a dream world. It was a beautiful mixture of both realism and fantasy. A time when makers like Balachander and Balumahendra gave some gem of films. Now I feel that films are too realistic, and highlighting negative issues. It would be better if there is a bit of fantasy as well.
I have no regrets in life. But sometimes I get this thought of not being in the place that I deserve to be, I listen to Kannadasan’s Mayakama Kalakama. 'Unakum keezhae ullavar kodi, ninaithu paarthu nimmadhi naadu'. This is my life.
But even now I have this wish to act in a Hollywood film. It’s only in a motive to learn their discipline, their kind of filmmaking, and more. Kamal’s Hey Ram, that I was a part of, was very close to Hollywood standards. I learnt a lot from that film. Well, there is no time limit for dreaming. Right?