Lawyer-turned-actor AR Srinivasan, aka ARS may have done 114 films, of which 27 have been cop roles. But he holds his theatre artiste identity the closest to his heart! Looking enviably young at 80, he leaves you awestruck as he talks about his theatre journey with an unflinching passion. Having been associated with the United Amateur Artists (UAA) for most of his life, he belonged to the golden era of theatre. “There were days where we acted for free. It was about sheer passion for arts. I belong to a generation where playwrights paid attention to the diction and language. Theatre is a wonderful means to entertain, provoke, question, connect and engage with people from different walks of life,” he says.
Not many know that his debut play Under Secretary also had Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa making her first appearance in 1964. An urbane actor who has done a variety of roles in movies such as Kamal-starrer Nayagan, Sattathin Thirappu Vizha and so on, ARS made his entry into films with Sridhar’s O Manju in 1976.
“Several actors, who were quite successful in the film industry, including Sivaji Ganesan, MGR, MR Radha, Nagesh and Kamal Hassan, have had a significant stint in Tamil theatre. In fact, director Sridhar was present during one of my plays. He was impressed with what I was doing and then films happened,” reminisces ARS. With over 17 plays (out of which 14 have completed a silver jubilee) and more than 3,000 stage performances to his credit, ARS is a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar for his contribution towards Tamil theatre. “I was the fifth Tamilian to get the award after pioneers like Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar, T K Shanmugam, S V Sahasranamam and Poornam Viswanathan. I consider myself fortunate,” he smiles.
Did he always know he was destined for the drama and stage plays? “Initially, I had no idea about acting, but I was a cricket player! I was working for Philips then. My father was serious about my job. He never wanted me to act full-time. So, whatever I happened to achieve was a balancing act,” he adds.
A self-confessed Sivaji Ganesan fan, ARS couldn’t stop raving about his acting skills. “So if anyone tells me that Sivaji Ganesan overacted, I am never going to agree. There’s only good and bad acting, but no over-acting. Unlike actors who belong to the present time, Sivaji didn’t have any reference material or role model to ‘copy’ or ‘imitate’ styles. He was a pioneer. There cannot be another Sivaji any day,” he concludes....