‘I will cherish my time with Vivekh sir forever’

Express News Service

Actor-comedian Shiva, who broke into the Tamil cinema scene with the cult hit, Chennai 600028, draws an analogy between his latest outing, LOL: Enga Siri Paapom, and cricket. “While watching cricket, when the batsman plays, we tend to react with our own advice on what he should do. In a way, this show is about spontaneous responses too, but to jokes. You simply cannot plan your reactions beforehand. Hosting the show felt like playing a game, and this is why I agreed to be part of it,” says Shiva.

Merely minutes into the conversation, it’s easy to see that the actor’s onscreen persona is a faithful extension of his real-life personality. Shiva is known for his comic timing, and almost every time, he lands the joke perfectly. “It’s not a style I can say I acquired with practice. Honestly sollanum na… ivlo thaan theriyum,” he says, breaking into laughter. “Filmmakers have never approached me to play characters who save the world. They generally begin the narration with, ‘Sir, you play an unemployed man,’ or a crook, thief, or a vetti person. It helps that I have a lived-in experience; I mean, in being idle, not in being a criminal.” 

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The Thamizh Padam-actor, however, admits that there have been instances where he was approached by filmmakers to play serious characters too. “I was once offered a tear-jerker in which my character donates all his organs to his loved ones. By the end of the story narration, I was certain that if I played the role, it would end up being the biggest comedy film of my career,” he remarks. “I have turned down many such serious scripts.”  

Shiva is one of two judges in LOL: Enga Siri Paapom, the other being the late comedian, Vivekh. While the show has met with mixed responses, what has been widely loved is the presence of Vivekh. Reminiscing his experience of working with the celebrated actor, Shiva shares, “We all grew up watching Vivekh sir. He’s a legend and it’s an honour to have worked with him. Beyond the working experience, I am grateful for the time I got to spend with him. We were staying on the same floor of the hotel, and I had the opportunity of meeting him every evening and listening to all his stories of how some of his famous comedy sequences came about. I will cherish those memories for my whole life.” 

The conversation then moves to the topic of the passing away of the comedy legend, and Shiva shares that like millions of others, he too was devastated. “Two incidents left me shell-shocked during the pandemic. First, it was the passing of SP Balasubrahmanyam sir, and second, Vivekh sir. I couldn’t digest these tragedies that serve as cruel reminders of the unpredictable turns life can take. Having interacted with him, I can tell you that we will have their blessings forever.”

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In this age of cancel culture, social media doesn’t take kindly to political incorrectness. We have seen comedians and actors being called out for ‘offensive’ remarks, that might have been intended or not. Is Shiva cautious about being politically correct? “Definitely. We have to be mindful of our speech and I have always been thoughtful about not hurting anyone. In fact, while accepting films, I have two major policies: one, I don’t encourage double entendres, and second, a big ‘no’ to rape scenes. I try to talk filmmakers out of such ideas if they plan to incorporate them,” he says. 

Just as we near the end of the chat, Shiva notices that my t-shirt has the words, ‘Lockdown Survivor’, emblazoned on it. He asks rhetorically, “Do you know who the real survivors of lockdown are?” and proceeds to answer: “Those who have understood life in the pandemic and made up their minds to live as happily as possible going forward.”

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