Actor Karthi tells Malathi Rangarajan All In All Azhagu Raja, his Deepavali release, will enhance the festive mood by keeping the audience in splits throughout

Conversing with Karthi is an engaging experience. Friendly and formal at once, he meets my ‘Q’s with ‘A’s that come along with generously sprinkled chuckles. When you get talking about All in All Azhagu Raja, expectably another laugh riot from Rajesh’s stable that will roll out this Deepavali, the exchange cannot but be light-hearted.

“It isn’t easy to make my mom laugh. But she was in splits when she watched Rajesh’s Boss Engira Bhaskaran. Director Rajesh’s brand of comedy that’s both situational and dialogue-oriented has really caught on. It’s almost a genre in itself. From Siva Manasula Sakthi and Boss Engira Baskaran to Oru Kal Oru Kannadi, it’s been a clean sweep at the turnstiles every time for Rajesh. And as a classy comedy, Azhagu Raja should follow suit,” is Karthi’s confident stand.

Stand on smoking

But recently, the teaser spelt trouble for the team. Activists objected to the way a serious health issue was made light of. Sakthi Saravanan, the cinematographer of AAAR, it was said, had given up smoking during the making of the film and Rajesh decided that henceforth his films would not have smoking scenes. Therefore the dialogue was brought in, was the explanation. “But once the teaser was out we understood our responsibility, and the sentiments of the people who resented it,” Karthi says.

Not just the film, Karthi found the 90 days at the shooting spot equally fun-filled. “It was like living in a men’s hostel. But Rajesh works really hard. I was impressed with the detailing that has gone into the creation of every character. For example, a single child is supposed to be slightly selfish, right? Even these have been seamlessly woven in.” Is he the single child in the film? “Yeah,” he laughs. “The number of prominent actors in the film is astounding! It will be a mela out there.”

Roles and laughter

Prabhu and Saranya team up again, probably after the heart-wrenching film of the 1980s, Manasukkul Mathaappu. This time in a comic caper! “And in their flashback sequences, I appear as the young Prabhu. I had to follow his mannerisms, expressions, style and emotions of the 80s but the role isn’t a spoof,” says Karthi. “I have a song sequence in the flashback and I found the entire segment very challenging for me as an actor. Prabhu plays his dad in AAAR. ‘Aadukalam’ Narain’s timing for comedy will be a revelation for filmgoers. And then there’s Kota Srinivasa Rao to add to the treat.”

If Karthi has two roles, what about Santhanam? “He has three. “He plays a female character — Kareena Chopra — and is part of the flashback too. Santhanam is in perfect form. He rehearses his dialogue at least 20 times in various ways before a take,” Karthi heaps praise on the comedian.

AAAR will be Karthi’s second film with Kajal Aggarwal, after Naan Mahaan Alla. Isn’t it exasperating when the heroine doesn’t understand the language you speak? “Kajal follows Tamil now,” defends Karthi. But heroines he has worked with earlier, for instance Tamannah, Reema Sen? “The urge to know their lines was there and they put in the effort. And between Naan Mahaan … and now, Kajal has evolved as an actor. I’ve been lucky to get co-stars who follow Tamil.”

Changing tack I ask him if his family has been a major reason for his success in cinema. “Can it be so,” he counters. “Getting into the industry, yes, it was easy because dad and brother belong here. But honestly, family background can’t help you sustain your position, can it?”

Glimpses of the line

So far, he’s done serious roles with a melange of comedy, romance and action. AAAR should be the first film where he’s funny throughout. “But I’m a no-nonsense person in the film. Only that my serious disposition appears funny to others. I’m from a small town, where I own a local channel that is most local of the lot. The channel is known as AAA. That should explain the title, that’s based on Goundamani’s popular piece of dialogue. Santhanam is my assistant, cameraman, Man Friday all rolled into one,” Karthi laughs aloud even as he talks about the roles they play.

Watching a new film is an indispensable part of the Deepavali celebration for our folks here. “Yes, and isn’t it even better that the film is going to enhance the festive mood by making you laugh throughout?” AAAR will be Karthi’s first film to release on the festival day. “I’m very excited. Other big releases are lined up. I hope every film succeeds. After such diligence and slogging, don’t all the festival releases deserve to win?” A magnanimous thought indeed!