As Porali is set for release this week, filmmaker-actor Samudirakani talks about juggling two areas of creativity

Within minutes of the conversation I gather that nothing can bog Samudirakani down. Resilience is his middle name. Struggles, blame game, hibernation, humiliation, he's seen them all, yet the man is unbelievably cheerful. “I take them in my stride. Otherwise you'll stop striving for success. And even after a win you have to keep running because then the question of sustaining comes up,” he laughs. The actor-filmmaker's Porali, with Sasikumar and Swathi in the lead, is releasing on Thursday.

Samudirakani and Sasikumar make an interesting duo — they are directors and actors, who alternate between the two areas of creativity, directing or being directed by the other. Subramaniapuram, their maiden outing, had Sasikumar directing Samudirakani, while Nadodigal for which Samudirakani wielded the megaphone, had Sasikumar as hero. Next came the Sasi's Easan, in which Samudirakani played a crucial role and now arrives Porali where the roles of the two are reversed once again. Has Kani restricted himself to direction in Porali?

“Yes, the script didn't want me,” is his straight-faced reply. Come on, it's your story after all, I goad him. “All the more reason why I can't force it to add me to the cast,” he chuckles. “But frankly I prefer concentrating on one job at a time.” Then why did he direct and play a role inShambo Shiva Shambo, the Telugu version of Nadodigal? “The story asked for me,” he guffaws.

Unfazed, he moved on...

Samudirakani entered cinema with dreams of making it as an actor. “People said I don't have the looks or the physique for it. I was unfazed. ‘Insults are a part of life,' I told myself and persevered. So when did he finally get a chance to don the greasepaint? “Pandiarajan's Padikkira Vayasu in which I had just a line to say! And to squeeze myself into the scene I had to cringe and crawl before the assistant director!” Not a tinge of self-pity! “Why at all? Slights can't hold me back.”

And that's when he started writing out scenes and dialogue which he would enact within the confines of his room. Soon it led to the discovery that inside him was a capable storyteller.

Subramaniapuram showcased Samudirakani as an actor with potential and Nadodigal helped him prove his mettle as a director. From maker of megas to director of films that began withUnnai Charan Adaindhain, Kani has always been busy, primarily because he's absolutely egoless. The lukewarm response to his debut film and the disaster of his second —Neranja Manasu with Vijayakanth as hero — didn't deter him. “If the film is a hit everyone vies for the laurels. And if the result is negative, it's the director who has to bear the onus,” he shrugs. He went back to television, joined his mentor K. Balachander's unit, worked as an assistant of Ameer for ParuththiVeeran and kept himself as busy as ever. “I continued working till better things came my way.” And the best did happen — Sasikumar gave him that solid role in Subramaniapuram, followed it up with another in Easan, played hero under Kani's direction, and is back with him for Porali.

“We are thorough professionals and don't encroach upon each other's territory,” he cites, as the reason for the rapport. Now that he is into his second Malayalam film, Reporter, and Saattai, a Prabhu Solomon production, directed by his assistant, Anbazhagan, is the yardstick the same? “Of course, when I act, I follow the director's instructions to a T. I never interfere.”

Sasi's reaction after watching Porali? He gave me a hug and said, ‘You've taken me to the next stage in my travel as an actor.' The words say it all.”

You couldn't have forgotten Swathi, that appealing, homely face inSubramaniapuram.She returns to the unit that launched her. “She plays the role of a small time dancer in cinema, and has done a brilliant job of it. Even during the making of Subramaniapuram, I told her I'll bring her back to Tamil, and I have. She's an excellent find.”

Again Vasundhara, who played heroine in Then Maerkku Paruvakaatru, will be seen in a 20-minute role in Porali. “But her part will be unforgettable,” Kani commends.

Nivedha, the child actor of Radhika's mega, ‘Arasi,' graduates to the second lead in Porali. “During ‘Arasi' I saw the spark in her,” he says.

Surprise package

Allari Naresh is a surprise. The actor who had a not-so-impressive Tamil debut some years ago, with Kurumbu, is part of Porali. “I know his potential. He's worked in 39 films in Telugu, including my Shambo Shiva Shambo. He was reluctant, but I wouldn't take a ‘no' from him. His forte is comedy and Porali is a hilarious film.”

But humour and the S2 team seems an incongruous proposition. Generally, they toe a bloody line! “Let me tell you, viewers will be in stitches, though I've also dealt with an issue, which you encounter every day,” he says. Porali, Samudirakani's sixth as director, is coming out in Telugu as Shankar Shama. Has he ever thought of going abroad for song sequences?

“I don't know anything beyond the areas I traverse. Why should I go to unfamiliar places?”

Fair enough!