The more they bring up my caste, the stronger I assert my identity: TK Vinayakan
The ‘Jailer’ villain speaks about his real self away from the spotlight, his struggles, politics, passion, and Sanatana Dharma and the Udhayanidhi controversy
Actor Vinayakan TK, who typically shies away from media interactions, gave an interview to the Malayalam online media outlet, SARK, following his outstanding success in the Rajinikanth starrer Jailer. Excerpts from his interview with Sahin Antony translated from Malayalam by Rajeev Ramachandran.
Vinayakan: Reel and real
The real Vinayakan and actor Vinayakan represent two distinct aspects of my identity. The actor Vinayakan is a character confined to the film sets, a persona little known to the public. On the other hand, the real Vinayakan, introduced to the people through my new media handles, encompasses who I truly am beyond the spotlight of my profession, a side I prefer to keep private.
I prefer to act exclusively within the realm of cinema and have no interest in acting elsewhere outside of it, in life, to be precise. I’m not one to readily share smiles with strangers, hence my tendency to avoid frequent public appearances. I prefer solitude and value genuineness, believing that constant, indiscriminate smiling is often insincere. As a result, I choose to remain reserved and introspective.
On social media interactions
The management of my social media is a personal responsibility I undertake myself. I carefully curate and post content with specific individuals or groups in mind. Once I ascertain that the intended recipients have received the message, I remove the content, not wanting it to linger as unwanted residue in my online presence.
In recent times, I’ve reduced my phone usage. Phone calls have proven to be a source of distress, as I struggle to brush off hurtful remarks and may react harshly. To mitigate potential conflicts, I’ve opted to limit my accessibility to phone calls. Words are potent tools, and they should be wielded with great care, as their impact can easily spiral out of control when misused.
Struggles within the industry
I hadn’t realized that it took me 20-25 years to secure a place in the film industry. The film industry has certain unspoken rules, and during those early days, my sole passion was acting. It was the production folks who supported me whenever I felt a bit down, and I will always be grateful to them until my last breath. However, I don’t harbour any regrets or sadness when I think about those days because the same industry has now provided me with a caravan and other amenities. It’s all a matter of time.
Rajeev Ravi’s Kammattippadam served as my launchpad, and without it, I might still have been a junior artist. There were some other successful films before that, but some people were hesitant to accept me until Kammattippadam came along. It’s a fact that after Kammattippadam, they couldn’t ignore me anymore.
No regrets regarding politics
I have no remorse for my words thus far. If anything, I believe I should have expressed myself more. Despite being a film actor, like many other Malayalis, I have a deep interest in politics. However, this doesn’t imply active involvement in party politics; I align myself with the left-wing parties through my vote. While I’m not an official member of any party, my entire family leans towards the Left. My siblings are affiliated with the CPI(M). As a socialist and a person of faith, I cannot commit to membership in the communist party. Above all, my core identity remains that of a socialist.
I love to hang out with my friends and fellow comrades. They are the ones who shout “inquilab” (revolution) slogans; so, I too join them. I prefer to shout slogans with them than sitting on a dais and delivering speeches, especially during elections. You know, elections are like festivals for us.
Passion for music and creative expression
I have done only two songs for films — one in Kammattippadam and one in Trans. But have composed more and I intend to release an album very soon. I have as many as 56 songs composed already. Acting is my profession; so is dance. I still dance, not in films though. But music is my ultimate passion, I would love to be known for my music.
Addressing caste, colour, and identity
A small number of individuals may harbour prejudices based on my skin colour or caste or religion. The caste — it’s their real issue, not the religion. The more they bring up my caste, the stronger I assert my identity. They seem unable to accept the fact that I earn a substantial income. This could be the reason behind the false information circulating that I received a lower payment for the movie Jailer. In reality, my remuneration was significantly higher than the reported Rs 35 lakh.
The spread of such misinformation can be attributed to negative and malicious individuals. I received the amount I had negotiated for, and I was treated exceptionally well during the shooting of the film. What more could I ask for? We cannot alter everyone’s perceptions, so we simply focus on our work and continue moving forward.
Sanatana Dharma and the Udhayanidhi controversy
The term “Sanatana” remains elusive to our understanding. While “Dharma” can be comprehended to some extent, the true essence of “Sanatana” is unclear. Does it imply “something that should remain unchanged”? If so, what is that which should remain unchanged? It seems that nobody knows or is willing to provide an explanation. What are the various elements that constitute the concept of “Sanatana” and what should remain constant? All the television channels held discussions but they, too, did not know what it is. Look at what Udhayanidhi Stalin expressed and the response he received. Someone sought to behead him, but I admired his witty reply, suggesting they should offer him a comb for his hair — it was epic!
Critical view on media sensationalism
(He faced severe public backlash for allegedly using disparaging words against former Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy after his death)
I haven’t engaged in any wrongdoing, and I harbour no regrets whatsoever. Regarding the controversy following Oommen Chandy’s death, my criticism was aimed at the media. In fact, I believed they deserved even stronger criticism. They were the ones relentlessly pursuing Oommen Chandy while he was alive and shamelessly praising him after his passing. The sensationalism created by the media over three days was unbearable. My intention was to highlight this, but some individuals twisted my words and turned them against me.
Reflection on Jailer and future rolesThe biggest accolade I’ve ever received in my life came from Rajinikanth. Working on Jailer was a unique experience; collaborating with a legendary actor and maintaining a character for a whole year was a novel challenge for me. Rajinikanth treated me exceptionally well, even organizing a designated smoking area for me on the set. I believe Nelson, the director, is also content with my depiction of the character Varman. Following Jailer, I need to be a bit more discerning in my roles.