Pa Ranjith’s latest directorial Sarpatta Parambarai is not a regular sports movie about boxing. Set in the ’70s, it showcases the culture, and lives of the boxing clans that existed in North Madras back then. At the centre of the story lies two rival clans - Sarpatta and Idiyappa, who are constantly locking horns in a duel for the pride of their respective clans. Tamil star Arya underwent rigorous training and diet to get into the role of Kabilan. He put in four months of prep, which included boxing, cardio and weight training for six to seven hours each day, along with a strict diet, to completely transform himself.
The result was a never-seen-before avatar of the 40-year-old actor, making him almost unrecognizable as Kabilan. Arya spoke to News18 about the struggles of getting into the role, and the film’s release on OTT owing to the pandemic.
You seem to have completely reinvented yourself to get into your role for Sarpatta Parambarai. What was the process like?
The three different phases of this character is shown in the film. Pa Ranjith had sketched different looks for each phase. And because the movie is set in the 1970s, he had to go with the looks that were quite popular back then. We had workshops where we were given the scenes, master the dialect from that area and the body language of the boxers. We had national boxers who to train us. We also had real boxers who were present at that time, from those clans, coming to our workshop and telling us how they used to practice, approach a match and what was the scenario back then. So all these inputs, these learnings went into preparing for this film.
You have been part of successful action films the past, was that another factor that attracted you to this film?
I’m comfortable with action but not okay with mindless fight scenes. This one is a sports film, so that action takes place in a boxing ring, which is a contact sport. That was quite difficult. It was very challenging, because we are doing it with such enthusiasm that we didn’t realize what kind of power we were putting into a punch. So either you get hurt or hurt your opponent. It happened so many times on the sets, because the director wanted very realistic punches.
How physically exhausting was it?
We’d be doing action scenes the whole day to shoot probably for two minutes of a sequence in the film. We used to be so fed up. Tyson and Mohammed Ali also wouldn’t have fought so much for a match. It would have been easier to do just do a match and get out in an hour. But we had to be boxing and rehearsing and doing the takes for the whole day, and continuously like that for each fight for like good five-six days. The climax was 10 days. So we would lose track of how many days we had been boxing.
A film like this deserved to be watched on the big screen. Do you regret not having a theatrical release?
Watching the movie in a theater would have been an altogether different experience. I personally miss that. But we are not in a normal situation right now. When we make a film what we want the most is for it to reach the people. So right now, when theaters are still not functioning, and you do a big film and invest so much of time and energy, but you cannot get it to the people that you want to reach out to, you feel disappointed. So in that sense I think that it is okay, at least I’m sure this film will reach millions of people at the same time.
OTT has brought content from different languages on the same platform. Are you looking for projects in other industries, like Bollywood?
I do get offers, but I want to do the right thing, not just for the heck of it. If something really good comes over and I feel that I’m good enough for that, then I will take it further.
With the fan following you have, does it build pressure each time you have a release?
You can’t take anything for granted. With each project, you have to take some calculated risks. That’s what I believe in. So I do I try to do my best. After Sarpatta, I have two other films which I have finished shooting for - Aranmanai 3 and Enemy. So I’m looking forward to them, hopefully by the time they release theatres will reopen.