With his fifth film Siruthai, will actor Karthi maintain his box office agility, asks subha j rao

Every role he essays strikes a chord with the audience — be it a lovable ruffian (Paruthiveeran), a load-carrier destined for greatness (Aayirathil Oruvan), a carefree youth in the flush of love (Paiyaa) or the boy-next-door-turned-avenger (Naan Mahaan Alla).

And, now, in his fifth film Siruthai, Karthi takes on two diverse avatars — as a police officer and a pickpocket. The film, all set for a Pongal release, is a remake of the Telugu hit Vikramarkudu. “I saw the film three years ago, and enjoyed it so much. It was so reminiscent of the 1980s Rajni Sir and Kamal Sir movies — lots of emotion, but in a commercial format,” he says.

The actor's cousin K.E. Gnanavel Raja of Studio Green bought the rights for the film, and once director Siva came on board, Karthi and Tamannaah joined hands for a second outing at the turnstiles after Paiyaa. “Frankly, I was quite scared, wondering if I could do justice to a film of this scale. I'll go as far as to say this is my dream project. Luckily, by the time things got rolling, I was through with Paiyaa, and confident I could pull it off,” says Karthi.

Contrasting roles

The two roles in Siruthai can't get more contrasting. How easy was it for the U.S.-educated Karthi to get down and dirty as the pickpocket? “People seem to have seen and accepted my ‘local' side, even in my debut Paruthiveeran. So, that was easy,” laughs the actor, who's turned out in peacock-print shirts and Neptune blue trousers for the role.

Slipping into the character comes easy for Karthi. So does forging a bond. “I used to be terrible with children. And, then, my nieces Diya and Tanvi happened. Life changed. So did my bonding with kids. That helped while shooting with child actor Rakshana for Siruthai. It helped that she was a huge fan of my Ayirathil Oruvan number, ‘Un Mela Asathaan'. Like the director said, I was the lollipop to get her to do what he wanted'!”

So, how has the film shaped up? “The confidence we had in the project shows on screen. Also, though Siva's retained the emotional core, about 60 per cent of the original was rewritten. And, there's loads of slapstick comedy,” he discloses.

Ask Karthi if his winning trot in tinseldom has sunk in, and he says: “Not exactly. In this field, you can't dwell on past work or afford to get comfortable or complacent. And yes, never let success get to your head. That's the easiest way to lose one's humility.”

Is he happy with the choices he's made so far? For instance, NMA was criticised for excessive violence. “As an actor, one has to take an informed call. And, probably because NMA was realistically shot, the violence hit harder. That was both an advantage and a disadvantage,” he says, candidly.

About his rapport with Siruthai-co-star Santhanam, the actor says: “He's hilarious. I've never worked with a full-time comedian before. We shared a great camaraderie off-screen, and that reflects on our on-screen antics too.”

It was not all fun, though. As part of researching for this role as a pickpocket, Karthi spent time with some of them. “They are very God-fearing, you know? And, go on pilgrimages regularly. It's all very strange. They are criminals, but they don't hide. Most important, they are a jolly bunch,” he says.

So, has he learnt any of their sleight of hand? “Ha, not much. But, I can use a blade and cut a lady's handbag, all right,” he says, in all seriousness.

Any luck with stealing hearts? His voice suddenly softens. “Well, my parents are looking out for a nice girl. And no, I don't want a makku ponnu as has been reported. I would love to be with someone who's friendly, mature and smart,” says one of K-town's most eligible bachelors.

The T-factor

Our chemistry in Siruthai is vastly different from the one we shared in Paiyaa. This one's laced with comedy.

Shaking a leg

I've always loved dancing, but no choreographed steps for me please. I had to give in though, for the ‘Rakamma' song. It was a blast.

Direction dreams

They're still there. But, only when I qualify myself enough, and have a story to tell too!

Keywords: KarthiTamil cinema