Actor Siddharth on why he wants to be more than just a pretty face
Actor Siddharth is no longer just one of the Boys. He has two back-to-back releases, which show him in diametrically different roles — in Karthik Subbaraj’s action thriller Jigarthanda, due for a summer release, he plays an aspiring filmmaker, and in Vasanthabalan’s epic drama Kaaviya Thalaivan, he plays a yesteryear theatre star. He’s also working on the Tamil remake of the Kannada hit Lucia, which made news for its crowd-funding and radical content.
Five years ago, no one would have expected to see Siddharth in a Vasanthabalan film; he worked in youthful films interspersed with the odd serious one. But, Vasanthabalan, known for his gritty creations, reached out to Siddharth for a project steeped in the past. “I have always thought as an actor and not limited myself. I never doubted my ability to do author-backed roles,” says Siddharth. He met Vasanthabalan two years ago for KT and decided he would be an active part of it, and help put the film together “Sometimes, you have to be pro-active and seize an opportunity,” he says.
Jigarthanda, where he is paired with the much-in-demand Lakshmi Menon, hits screens first. It is the second film of director Karthik Subbaraj, who proved himself with the path-breaking Pizza. Siddharth hopes Jigarthanda will set the momentum for his coming films. “I normally never put pressure on a film by praising it before release. But, this one’s very important. I genuinely believe Karthik will become a special name in Tamil films. He blazes his own trail,” he says.
Siddharth, who entered the industry dreaming of directing films, has completed 12 years as an actor. Beginning with Shankar’s Boys, he’s worked in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi films, written scripts, sung and also turned producer with Etaki Entertainment. He says it’s been a fantastic journey so far. “I remain the same idealist optimist, but now there’s a little reality check too. I understand when things don’t pan out the way I want them to.”
Calling this his second innings, Siddharth says he is not going to attempt an image makeover, but choose projects that challenge the actor in him. “I’ve never done ‘mass’ films to garner audience. But, I’m raring to learn from everyone — Sunder C (Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru), C.V. Kumar, Karthik…,” he says.
Though he’s taken a serious turn in films (as Karan/Bhagat Singh in Rang De Basanti, carrom player Suryakant in Striker… ) Siddharth has always been slotted as a new-age stylish hero. “Look at Leonardo DiCaprio. He started off with a clean-shaven look in Titanic. But, he’s done wonderfully well in films by Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg too,” he says.
“I’d always wonder why directors were not calling me, why they presumed I would not do a certain kind of cinema. I got tired of waiting for people to come to me,” he says. He decided to take things into his own hands. “I was blown by Lucia. I wanted to buy the remake rights but heard Kumar had bought them. I called him up and said I wanted to be part of the film.”
Something similar happened with KT. “The film is very close to my heart. It’s good, honest cinema, rooted in theatre. And, it struck a chord because I’d done a lot of theatre during college in Delhi. It brings together so many good artistes — A.R. Rahman, Prithviraj, Nirav Shah...”
On his career
How does Siddharth rate his career and growth? “Growth is subjective. Everything about the industry continues to fascinate me. It’s probably the only art that has gone through so many changes in its first 200 years. It allows you to create your own grammar. And, the best part is that there is no right way to do anything. So, you experiment, explore.”
The actor also hopes that with these three films, he’ll be able to get out of his comfort zone, and prove what he’s capable of. “Finally, I hope, the adjective of good-looking actor will be replaced with just actor,” he laughs. Does the tag bother him so much? “Yes. For the first 24 years of my life, I’ve never been considered good looking. Then, once I turned an actor, I became a ‘chocolate hero’. It’s such an annoying, limiting phrase. It unsettles me,” he says.
What he would like instead to do are films that push him. “The most boring thing in the world is knowing what you are going to do. I would like films that make me ask myself ‘Can you do it?’” he says.
In many ways, Siddharth says he is the same person he was 12 years ago. And credit for that goes to his family and friends, most of whom are from outside the industry. “I never got into acting to become famous. I’m surrounded by people for whom I am the same Siddharth. They clip my wings the minute they know I’m taking myself too seriously. I quite like who I was and continue to be.”