Actor Karthi talks to subha j rao on what it's like to play a politician in Saguni, which is set to hit the screens on June 22

Meet Karthi the politician. After playing a lovable village ruffian, a suave city lad, a pick pocket and an honest-to-goodness cop, the actor dons a kara vaeti and thundu in Shankar Dayal's Saguni, which releases on June 22. After Siruthai, which released in January 2011, we've not seen the actor on the big screen. A lot happened off-screen, though. He got married to Ranjini and took a three-month break.

A breezy entertainer

“Post-Siruthai, I only got to listen to cop stories and took a conscious decision to wait for something different. That's when Saguni happened. It's a breezy entertainer set in a political background. And my character growth is interesting — a vibhuti-sporting boy from Karaikudi who enters the big bad city and goes through a transformation,” says the actor in a telephone interview.

The gap between the two films has his fans looking forward to Saguni. “Ah, expectation. That worries me,” he says. Speaking about Pranita, his co-star, Karthi says, “She's good. She's picked up the language and does not get rattled when the lines are changed at the last minute. Pranita is a great dancer and very committed to work.”

While doing Saguni, Karthi has also shot for Suraj's Alex Pandian co-starring Anushka Shetty. The film is slated for release soon. There's more to come — Rajesh's All in All Azhaguraja with Kajal Agarwal and Venkat Prabhu's Biriyani. “I'm going to shoot for All in All… sometime in July-August. Of course, there's Santhanam. Can you imagine a Rajesh film without him?” he laughs.

Karthi says he's glad to be working at a time when interesting films are being made and new directors are experimenting with themes. “I loved Mouna Guru and Vaagai Sooda Vaa. In fact, I took up Saguni impressed with the narration. It is all about fighting, but with a high level of intelligence. It is a film that strives to be different within the commercial format.”

As for the eternal actor versus star debate, Karthi says it is like choosing between salt and pepper. “You need both. An actor can't only do entertainers. When a strong script comes along, you have to take it up.” Another Paruthiveeran? “Why not?” he asks.

Though Naan Mahaan Alla did very well at the box office, there was criticism about the excessive violence in the film. “While making it, we never realised how raw the violence was. It was only in the theatres that we felt the full impact. Families react badly to on-screen violence. Now, I've decided to tone down the violence in my films, considering so many children watch them,” he says. “Kids seem to think I am some kind of Chhota ‘Bada' Bheem!”

Veer to the topic of his marriage, and Karthi's voice takes on a mellow tone. “Marriage changed me. Life's all about striking a balance. Earlier, I would discuss only films. Now, there's so much to speak about. It takes extra planning to juggle family and work, but it's worth it. It's nice to have a friend at home. Ranjini is that friend,” he says.

BATTING FOR A CAUSE

Karthi promotes awareness of lysosomal storage diseases, a group of rare, inherited metabolic disorders. He speaks with conviction about the need to spread awareness to facilitate faster diagnosis. “The focus is now on reducing the pain experienced by children, guiding parents and providing psychological support. Once I sign up for a cause, I give it my all. If dedicating a little of my time helps, why not? Meeting these children has been a wonderful experience. They are smart and full of energy!”

In the offing

Alex Pandian Freak-out action, that’s how I’ll describe the film. For a sequence, we shot atop a moving train in Mysore. There’s comedy too. I sport a different, stylish look and wear accessories (laughs). Wrist bands, chains, even an earring!

All In All Azhaguraja Rajesh has become a genre by himself. I always wonder how he manages to hold audience attention the way he does. He constructs his scenes beautifully. Like every Rajesh film, this one’s also a total comedy.

Biriyani It’s going to be a reunion of schoolmates when we start work on this film. Venkat was my senior at St. Bede’s, Chennai. Yuvan and Premgi too studied there. I’ve enjoyed all of Venkat’s films; Chennai 28 is a favourite. His films are so much fun.