Kalidas Jayaram On Going The Extra Mile!

The young star talks of his roller coaster ride with Cinema! 

It was his deep passion for films that led him to renowned film maker, Mani Ratnam’s office. With just a college degree and no recommendations, they rejected his request instantly but he wasn’t ready to quit just yet and fervently persisted. Soon they realised that this young chap is not giving up that easily and eventually, they agreed to take him in. He was so excited to be a part of the team that he zealously went about doing every single task assigned to him– irrespective of the nature of the job! In the process, he got to watch and work with his dream film maker at close quarters! Later, Superstar Jayaram happened to meet Mani Ratnam during one of his trips and he casually enquired about his son’s apprenticeship. It was only then that the film maker realised that it was young Kalidas Jayaram who had been working at his office but he had never even once mentioned his dad. That is Kalidas Jayaram for you – a thorough gentleman, down to earth and charmingly unassuming! RITZ has a candid chat with the handsome young star, who, after having bagged national awards as a child artist, is currently stealing the hearts of the South Indian audience just like his iconic father!

Interview: Riya Sonny Datson

Photography: Navneeth Balachanderan

Styling: That1Too.com

Wardrobe Courtesy: Gatsby.aliph

Footwear Courtesy: Language Chennai

Location Courtesy: Trident, Chennai

Hair and Makeup: Sakthi from Vurve Signature Salon

What are you earliest memories as an actor?
I still have a very clear memory of my very first shot. It feels as if it happened yesterday. The shoot was in Goa for ‘Kochu Kochu Santhoshangal’ with Sathyandikad Sir. The boy who was supposed to do the role couldn’t make it as he was unwell and it was KPAC Lalitha aunty who suggested my name. My father himself wasn’t sure if I could perform. He asked me if I wanted to give it a try and I agreed. The first scene was with my dad – we are walking together and I see his friend approaching us and I say, ‘Dhe Jose Uncle….’ and run towards him. I got the shot right in the first take. But at that point, being a child I didn’t give it much thought. I came back and sat next to my mum and
someone approached me with a book. I didn’t realise why I was given a book and I examined it carefully. That’s when mum explained to me that it was an autograph book and that I had to sign it! Through the shoot, I realised that it’s not all fun and games at a movie set and that you have to work really hard but I enjoyed it all the same. In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

You discovered your passion for films as a child. While growing up, did you prepare yourself for the same?
Not really. After being a child artist in two movies, I couldn’t shake my mind off Cinema. I would be thinking about it all the time. Though there were offers coming my way, my parents wanted me to focus on my studies. But I literally grew up watching performances, films being made and visiting movie sets. So it was very much a part of my life always! As I reached 10 th standard, I tried my hand at mimicry. I started by imitating my teachers at first – for which I got into a lot of trouble (grins) and eventually once I got into college, I was very active
in cultural activities and stage performances. I always knew Cinema was my passion and the way ahead. There was a point when I was overweight, so I worked hard to get in shape and in the process, lost 45kgs. That was probably the first step towards my career. Post the make over, I accompanied my father to an award night, where I was asked to mimic actors like Vijay and Ajith on stage. My mimicry performance went viral and that’s how I bagged my first role in the Tamil industry! Interestingly, Appa also started his career as a mimicry artist.

How have your parents influenced your acting?
They don’t advise me too much or give me acting tips but my family and friends are my biggest critics and I treasure their feedback. It is like a reality check for me and helps me to stay grounded. I think that is very important for every actor.

Who is your biggest critic at home?
My sister! I am literally scared of her criticism (laughs)! But if she approves, then I can be sure that it was good!

What was the one piece of advice from your parents?
They told me very clearly that if I choose films as my career, the maximum support they would provide would be to introduce me to a couple of people but post that, I would have to handle it myself. There was not even the slightest possibility of producing a movie to launch me. Mom also told me that I have to be ready to accept successes and failures as Cinema is unpredictable.

Talking about family, what are your fond memories of your home in Kerala and your pet elephant, Jayaram Kannan?
We used to visit Kerala mostly during Onam or Vishu when our families met to celebrate the festival. It was a grand fiesta and I have very fond memories of the time we cousins spent together, playing, watching movies, making the Pookalam for Onam and relishing the Sadhya prepared by mum. Kannan was like a family member, almost like a pet dog except that he was bigger. We all loved him dearly and like all animals, his love was very unconditional! If we showed a little affection, he would return it to us multifold. We were very attached to him.

Do you share your dad’s passion in Chenda Melam?
I enjoy watching him and accompany him to his performances but I haven’t learnt the art myself.

While being superstar Jayaram’s son is a blessing in terms of your career launch, is it also an added pressure?
Yes, the pressure is always there. But I also think of all the young actors who are struggling to get a chance and I remind myself of how blessed I am. So I don’t let the criticism or pressure get to me as I know I have to move on.

Meen Kuzhambum Man panaiyum…how was the experience acting with the top actors in Tamil industry?
It is a dream for every actor to act with stalwarts like Kamal Sir, Prabhu Sir and Urvashi maam and for me, it was a dream come true. I got to watch them perform at close quarters and learn the nuances of acting, which was an amazing learning experience.

You also tried your hand at playback singing in Udayon. Can we expect some more melodies from you?
(Laughs) It is true that Ousepachan Sir had asked me to try singing the song in the Mohanlal starrer Udayon. But singing is not really my forte so I don’t really enjoy doing it. But if the need arises in a movie, I will definitely do it, provided the audience is willing to listen to me.

Coming to Mollywood, what attracted you to ‘Poomaram’?
My family has known Director Abrid Shine for a very long time. So when ‘Action Hero Biju’ released, I called to congratulate him for his work and the success of the movie. At that point he mentioned he was planning his next project and explained the crux of it in a single line and I was immediately convinced that I wanted to be a part of the project. The crew had mostly real students from Maharaja’s college and the experience was just awesome. We were together for almost a year – so by the end of it, we felt more like a family. No matter how many movies I do in future, I know I will never get the kind ofexperience I got from doing Poomaram and would always value it.

You have proved your mettle as an actor right from childhood. Poomaram was more like a homecoming in Mollywood but the movie received mixed reviews. What are your learnings from the movie?

You can never predict the reaction of the audience and can only hope that your movie is received well. For an actor, there are two kinds of movies to choose from – commercial and non-commercial. The latter might score higher in a realistic or artistic perspective and to me, both are equally important. I am glad I got to be a part of this project at such an early stage in my career. It was an immense learning experience. The projects I am taking up next are purely commercial entertainers. I want to be a part of good movies that have a good message for the audience.

What were your parents’ reaction after seeing the movie?
My mother was very emotional after seeing the movie as it evoked nostalgia. As a student she used to always take part in youth festivals. She was very happy that I got to be a part of the project. My dad was always apprehensive about the movie as there were delays during the making but after watching it, he was very happy. Both of them were very proud of my performance.

How has life changed after Poomaram?
I don’t think there has been a dramatic change. I feel very blessed that the audience have wholeheartedly accepted me as a part of their own family. My father too holds the same kind of acceptance, which is something we treasure for it doesn’t come easily to every actor. So hopefully, I will keep experimenting and continue to entertain my audience.

What is the trigger that guides you to a role?
The story or the idea behind the movie is the most important point. Also, the comfort level with the team also matters as it affects the performance.

What is your fitness routine like?
As I mentioned, there was a time when I was overweight and I lost 45kg to get in shape. Now I maintain a regular exercise routine but nothing very intense. I make it a point to spend about an hour everyday on workout.

What do you think is your biggest challenge as an actor?
Acting is my passion, I love my job! So I don’t see anything as a challenge. I enjoy every moment and I would do everything in me to make the movie perfect.
You are in an era of strong trolling and social media influence, how do you perceive it?

It has its positives and negatives. It helped us when we released the song in Poomaram. In fact, it was social media that kept the movie alive even when there was a delay in the release. But yes, negative criticism can be tough sometimes and initially, it felt like a rude shock to read some of the comments but now, I don’t take it to heart, I have learnt that we have to move with the tide.

What are your interests outside of movies?
I love cars and am a huge auto enthusiast. Whenever I get the time, I enjoy reading automobile magazines.

Any dream roles?
Right now, I want to transform every role I get into my dream role!

We hear you are doing Alphonse Puthren’s Tamil movie…
Yes, as of now there are two projects in the pipeline. One is a Malayalam project with Jeethu Joseph and the other is a Tamil project with Alphonse Puthren.

Who is your inspiration?
I draw inspiration from the positivity I see in people. Be it my family, colleagues, crew, friends or even juniors – I like to absorb positive things from people. Like for example, in the last 30 odd years, there has not been a single day when my dad has reached late to a movie set – that is something that I admire and try to do myself.

Favourite movies of your mom and dad: From among my dad’s movies – There are a lot of comedy movies but ‘Shesham’ and ‘Nadan’ are two of my favourites – would love to watch him do more such roles. From my mum’s movies– Vadakku Nokkiyanthram.

Kalidas Jayaram in three words: Passionate, Petrolhead, Movie Buff!

Rapid Fire:

 Kerala or Chennai: Both!
 One of my Favourite Movies: Vadakku Nokkiyantram
 Dream Holiday: Vegas
 I can’t resist: Biryani
 I love: Cars and Movies
 My proud possession: BMW 5 series
 Happiness is: Enjoying a good meal when you are really hungry!