Vikram, popularly known as Chiyaan, is the first amongst the South Indian acting fraternity to be conferred with an honorary doctorate for his excellence in fine arts (acting) by a foreign university. After the critical and commercial success of Sethuhe has been part of numerous other commercially successful films and has earned major critical acclaim for many of his performances. He has won three Filmfare Awards as well as India’s most prestigious National Film Award for Best Actor.
A simple and compassionate person, Chiyaan is known to celebrate his birthday through charity work each year. He is the founder of ‘The Vikram Foundation’ that aims to work for women and child development; education and literacy; and support and medical aid to the disabled and underprivileged. He has also inaugurated the ‘Kasi Eye Bank’ and was the first to pledge his eyes for donation.
ChiyaanVikram shares with Marie Banu his passion for cinema and how it can address social issues
Many of your popular roles depict issues/problems faced by the general public. What makes you choose these roles?
Frankly, I don’t believe in performing to carry across a message. I am very passionate about cinema. I would rather train my efforts towards cinema as entertainment and seek other mediums to advocate social issues. For all you know, I may play an assassin or a rapist in my next film. It would curb my creativity to confuse the two.
Certain roles like Anniyanor Samurai were purely the director’s need and want to delve on a social cause. I was just an instrument. But, I loved doing those roles. I chose these roles more for the performing potential than for anything else.
How would you rate the role of cinema in addressing social issues? Would you call yourself a catalyst in bringing about social change through these movies?
Cinema is one of the most powerful tools in reaching the public. Every actor has used it to a certain degree to meet or justify some end. For me, cinema per se, it will always remain a canvas wherein I can explore my art. But even as I say this, I am glad that few of my roles have addressed certain social issues with far reaching effect.
You are known to be a socially conscious person in the film fraternity and have been supporting people in need. Can you elaborate on your journey in social service?
I’ve always believed in what is said so wonderfully in the Bible—not letting the right hand know what the left does. Being socially conscious is what makes us different. And being an actor is a boon! I find it much easier to reach across people, much easier to influence people to help, and much easier to carry a message or movement forward. And I’ve been doing just that in my own small way.
It is learnt that the crew of Kandasamy had adopted two villages in Madurai and provided infrastructure facilities for schools. Any interesting experience with the rural folk here?
That was spearheaded by the director and the producer of the movie. I was glad to be a part of that venture. A lot of good work went into that project. And in a few months we had reached to almost 20 villages. But interestingly, more than providing amenities, we educated them on independence and sustenance.
If you would choose to be a social activist (like Anniyan), which issue would you campaign for?
I think what Anniyanadvocated suits me perfectly, because I identify with every issue that he addressed.
More than anything, change has to come from within each one of us!
Can you tell us about ‘The Vikram Foundation’ and ‘Kasi Eye Bank’?
‘The Vikram Foundation’ has done a lot of work in children welfare—helping under privileged children in reaching their basic academic goals; medical aid and post-operative care, specializing in heart operations.
The Kasi Eye Bank has always been a dream for me ever since I played Kasi! I felt that was the only way I could do justice for the deep want that he created in my soul. What was heartening was that when I announced that I was starting the movement on my birthday ,and that I was pledging my eyes, a thousand of my fans joined me in that endeavor on that very day! Since then, it has been only growing stronger.
The Agarwal Eye Hospital has associated with the Kasi Eye Bank and do quite a few operations free of cost every month.
As a brand ambassador for ‘VidyaSudha’, (a school for children with special needs), do you have any suggestions for “inclusiveness” of these children in society?
All it takes is realizing that these children could have been one of our own, and that they are born this way through no fault of theirs. Just like Kasi, I felt a need to do something for them too. Krishna, the character I play in the movie Deivathirumaganis my answer. Krishna will touch everyone in his own special way and has the beautiful message of “inclusiveness”!
Being a very busy actor, how do you find time for social work?
I have not done much. Whenever I am free or there is an opportunity to do something, I do it. My wife and my friend Suri have been a great source of help in this regard. So have doctors from Sri Ramachandra hospital, who take extra pain to do scores of operations for us.
What was your first reaction when you heard that the UniversitaPopolareDegliStudi Di Milano, Italy has chosen you for an honorary doctorate for excellence in Fine arts (acting)?
I am still reeling from that. It is a great honor that is bestowed upon me, and I feel humbled by it!
Your advice for youth who aspire to be social entrepreneurs?
Go for it! The youth of today are the pillars of tomorrow!