It’s impossible to not be charmed by his good looks. As we settled down to chat about his films and more, Harish Kalyan has caught the attention of every single passer-by at Citadines, Old Mahabalipuram Road in Chennai — our venue for this interview. Not a single person passes without turning around and stealing a glimpse of this good-looking, proudly-Chennai’ite Tamizhazhagan (good looking Tamizh man).

“I’ve been an actor for almost a decade now and have had the joy of starring as the lead in a lot of my films from the very beginning. Every single movie has been a learning experience. I’ve also done a few multi-starrers, and those were very different learning experiences in themselves,” begins the actor.

“I never really decided to be an actor; so much so, I pursued a degree in engineering for a while. But I come from a film-related family — not in the traditional sense — but films we’re always a part of my life. My father was in the business of cinema and not necessarily a technician. My home was often used for shoots and so I practically grew up around cinema,” he adds.

So how did cinema happen then?
When I decided to quit engineering (once I was sure I didn’t want to spend four years on that), I decided to pursue my varied interests in music, dance and sport. I still think I would have done something music-related if I didn’t end up in films. That or I would have become a cricketer. I love singing and love to sing in the films I act in (he sang the hit single Yei Kadavulae in Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum along with Vijay Sethupathi). I also dabbled in theatre, went to a theatre school and danced my way through school quite literally. And I mean I was a part of dance teams and often danced on stage, just in case you misunderstood me.

You’ve been stereotyped as the lover-boy… how comfortable are you with this image?
I am not too comfortable with the lover-boy image, but I am fully aware that it works for me and that people like seeing me in such roles. I am consciously trying to change that image. I am okay with roles having an element of love, but I would like for them to have other characteristics too. For example, I am doing the remake of Vicky Donor in Tamizh and we have had to rewrite the story for the local audience. The role is pretty exciting and I am looking forward to see if the audience will appreciate the effort. We’ve managed to make it a family film and I think the audience is aware about these fertility problems, which are openly discussed in society today. That said, at any given point of time, a love story, shot well with the right mix of music, emotions and drama is bound to do well at the box office.

You’ve also been called a ‘good boy’ in Kollywood… choosing roles that show you not possessing any bad habits… is that a conscious choice?
I’ve chosen to play these roles out of choice. I’ve chosen to be ‘the good boy’. That said; I might have an unconscious bias towards films that portray me in that ‘good’ role. That and the fact that I mostly seem to get offered these roles! I would however be open to playing roles that show me smoking or something similar if there was a justification in the narrative. If these characteristics/habits are being added for no reason — I’d probably say no to them.

Any role that you would like to play soon?
Being a typical city boy, I would really like to play a character from a rural background. I think that would be pretty challenging as I have never really experienced rural life and I think audiences from that background would appreciate me playing such a role.

You’re pretty popular in Tollywood and Mollywood too?
I’ve been getting constant offers from Telugu and I would love to take up another full-fledged role in a Telugu film if I like a script and find the time. I am pretty comfortable speaking the language and so it’s a no-brainer for me. The Malayalam industry excites me; I do have relatives from Kerala and am familiar with the language so that’s a definite yes too. I am a fan of the kind of cinema coming out of Kerala these days. My focus is definitely on Kollywood, but good offers from Tollywood or Mollywood are always welcome. Bollywood will have to wait.

We’ve heard that you’re very concerned about education?
My father runs a trust that helps people who require financial assistance for education and I try and do my part for the cause. I really believe that basic education is a right and everyone needs to be able to access it. Money should not be the reason why someone is denied basic education. An individual can decide what they want to do with their life once they have received at least the basic level of education — we all require it and I am very driven to do anything I can to ensure this.

Any other social causes that you feel strongly for?
I also feel very strongly about the deteriorating environment and the little I can do is to grow more trees. I began planting trees when someone suggested it to me for my last birthday and now I’m stuck with the idea. I hope to use my influence to get more people to plant more trees and save the environment in the smallest way one can.

As someone who fought your way to maintain your place in the industry — any words of wisdom?
One has to realise that the competition is severe and so you need to discover what’s special in you. Anyone can become popular these days. Social media gives you many chances to become famous overnight. What’s tough is to stand your ground and sustain that popularity. And often more than not it boils down to what is special in you. Discover what is special in you, showcase it and you will find success.

What can we see you in soon?
My upcoming films include Dhanusu Raasi Neyargale releasing this month, the Vicky Donor remake, a film with director Sasi and a Telugu remake.

Lastly, as a thorough-bred Chennai boy, what would you like to change about the city?
I am a proper Chennai paiyan, born and brought up here. I love my city and the only thing I would change would be the level of cleanliness and the dwindling condition of the roads.