Vishnu Vishal on fighting back injuries and depression, and what prompted him to make ‘F.I.R’

Back in the limelight with the release of his film, the actor opens up on battling depression, injuries and financial challenges along the way

Vishnu Vishal had perhaps delivered the biggest blockbuster of his career in 2018’s psycho-thriller Raatchasan, now being remade in Hindi starring Akshay Kumar. However, even as he was scaling new heights professionally, his personal life was falling apart.

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In an attempt to cope with the separation from his wife in 2017 after 11 years of being married, and the resulting strained relationship with his then new born son, Vishnu took to alcohol.

He was dropped from eight films he signed on, despite Raatchasan being a success. His production house VV Studioz incurred losses. Then, he suffered an injury during the shoot of the Tamil-Telugu bilingual Kaadan (2021), in which he played a cameo. He put on 11 kilos and was in bed for two months.In January 2020, Vishnu shared pictures of his newly chiselled body along with a note on social media, letting the world know that he had been suffering all along, and how he managed to soldier through.

Now, after being out of action for three-and-a-half years, he is back with a new film, F.I.R, directed by debutant Manu Anand. “The journey I have gone through as an actor, human, father and son, has been devastating to say the least,” he says.

F.I.R, says Vishnu, is his most personal film and also his biggest — both in terms of budget and business. He adds that he did not let the past affect his work. “You cannot hide before the camera so I switched off completely. Whenever I’m shooting, I am in a happy zone. But for this film, even though I had pressure as a producer, I didn’t take anything to my head,” he adds.

A still from ‘F.I.R’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Set against a political backdrop, Vishnu plays Irfan Ahmed who is framed and accused of terrorism. “My best friend is Syed Mohammad and we have been friends for 25 years. We never had such differences as projected and highlighted in our society. It makes you think about the bigger politics at play,” he says, adding that he does not play a larger-than-life character in the film.

The comeback

For an actor who is constantly under public scrutiny, Vishnu took a brave step by sharing his journey dealing with depression and therapy. Was he at all worried about public perception? “My well-wishers advised me to think twice before posting it. They felt it would create a label that I’m a drunkard,” he says, adding “I was never an addict; my intake increased at that point. People started to judge me because there is little awareness about mental health.”

As it turns out, these well-wishers were right. When Vishnu shared a recent picture from meeting actor-politician Udhayanidhi Stalin, to announce the release date of F.I.R, a user commented saying he looked drunk.

“I always knew this would happen but I was never worried about how people would view me. I still see the positive side; I didn’t want sympathy for sure. I wanted to tell everyone that we all go through this. And just because I am a police officer’s son, I didn’t have it easy.”

Vishnu Vishal | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

He took control of his life or as he puts it, “took the Vaaranam Aayiram route”. The note also prompted bigwigs from within and outside the industry to reach out. Director Gautham Menon, whose Vaaranam Aayiram inspired Vishnu’s transformational path, said he was proud of what the actor has achieved. More than anything, the journey was a reminder: “That even if you fall into the trap again, you will have to come back,” says Vishnu.

B and C of cinema

For F.I.R, Vishnu had to double up as producer when the person who agreed to produce backed out after green lighting the project. Until about last week, the final content was not ready as Vishnu and his team were still unsure about release plans.

The film now gets a breathing space of two weeks, before it gets eclipsed by the Ajith Kumar-starrer Valimai. But Vishnu says the two-week theatrical window is enough. “Why I wasn’t prepared at all with the release was because we were expecting a superstar’s release on February 18 and also because of the 50% occupancy and night curfews were still in place. The moment restrictions were lifted, we decided to go ahead. Big stars need big collections but I needed two weeks,” he says.

As a producer, Vishnu says it is a win-win situation. “But as an actor, the real victory is when F.I.R becomes a hit and those producers who dropped me from their films go, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t have’.”

F.I.R is running in theatres.

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