Mumbai: Tamil superstar Vikram, who makes his Bollywood debut with Mani Ratnam's Raavan, says co-star Aishwarya Rai was equivalent to a hero in the film as she braved wounds, fever and insect bites while shooting in the forests. And Abhishek Bachchan, he adds, is the perfect brat.
"There are three main characters, me, Abhishek and Aishwarya. I've done a lot of tortuous sequences in the past. But this one takes the cake and the ache. And Aishwarya suffered all the wounds, pain, fever and insect bites heroically in the forests. For all the dangerous scenes she hardly ever used a duplicate. She was totally up to the task," Vikram told IANS.
The 44-year-old actor endured quite a bit of pain too.
"Bruises, wounds, sprained ankle...you name it. During the climactic fight I had a catch in my back. I couldn't walk, let alone fight. I had my physiotherapist with me to relieve my muscle pain," he said.
But Vikram can't stop praising Aishwarya, specially her dancing skills.
"I always felt Madhuri Dixit was the best dancer ever. But then I saw how Aishwarya held her own in Devdas. I thought it was fantastic. It was really nice to see her dance. I just forgot my own steps and kept staring. Every hero from the south wants to work with her at some point in his career...I got my opportunity finally.
"It's wonderful that I'm making my Hindi debut with her...She has some kind of an enduring aura. Over the years she has really evolved as an actor," Vikram said.
In the Hindi version, he will be seen in a positive role as Aishwarya's husband while in Tamil he will play Beera, a negative character being essayed by Abhishek in the Hindi version.
"I had to do two characters. But she had to play the same character twice in two languages one after another. For example, if she had to climb a rock with me, she'd do it, climb down and then do it again with Abhishek."
And what about Abhishek, who helped Vikram with his Hindi?
"Abhishek is one of my best friends. I am known to be the prankster. But with Abhishek around, I had to withdraw from the brat race," he laughed.
Playing Aishwarya's noble husband in the Hindi version and then the dark outlaw, who kidnaps her in the Tamil version, was not easy.
"And we had to do it in two consecutive shots one after another. It was very exciting for me...Though I'm known to change my look, but going from the husband's look to the outlaw's look after six-seven months didn't seem feasible. So we decided to do both versions simultaneously.
"When you see Raavan in two languages, you won't recognise me as the same person in both. I had to change my body language and get-up completely."
Vikram has taken his time making an entry into Hindi films. "That's because my work in the south has been time-consuming. All my Tamil films take one to two years. I like to take my time over my projects. I didn't want to enter Hindi cinema until I was ready."
"The work in Mumbai is so exciting. When I saw Rang De Basanti, Lagaan, 3 Idiots and My Name Is Khan, I wanted to be part of them. I wish we could make films like that in Tamil...Most Tamil films are rustic, rural, rugged and violent. Many of them are set in Madurai, which is known to be an aggressive city."
Vikram's wife Shailaja is a psychology teacher and the couple have two children.
"My daughter is 12 and my son is 8. My son is totally hooked to cinema. He wants to be an actor. But I'd rather he concentrated on his studies. I'm sure he'll do great in movies some day. I'm also moving towards direction with every movie. It's subliminal... But I'm learning on the sets all the time," Vikram said.
Now Vikram's family is fighting over which version to watch first on release.
"Tamil or Hindi is a toss-up. But I'm not leaving Tamil cinema for Hindi. I've four films to shoot in Tamil. I've already started my next Tamil film, a psycho-thriller, where I've three roles. I've a film about a stage actor from the 1930s...Even if I do Hindi films I want to be Chennai-based...always."