As Karthik returns to showville after a self-imposed hiatus, he talks about rediscovering the joy of acting
As I try to piece together the various links in my memory files about Karthik, I'm spoilt for choice. In a career spanning two decades and more, the actor has proved his redoubtable talent in a variety of genres.
The once bankable star who had faded into oblivion is back in tinselville with not just one, but three films. Smoothly slipping into the comfort zone of a character artiste, the 49-year-old actor says he's returned to where he belongs. A spontaneous performer, he's like a genie in the bottle. All you have to do is unscrew the stopper, and he performs — as he's done in his recent release Maanja Velu.
“I haven't felt this good in a long time,” the actor opens up. “It's great to be back after so many years. The welcoming vibe around me is encouraging. I don't know why I left the scene for this long…” There's a tinge of sadness in his voice. But just the way he flitted effortlessly from emotionally overpowering roles to scintillating comedies, Karthik's mood swings and he gushes, “Director Mani Ratnam was the reason behind a major milestone in my career (think the effervescent Manohar delivering the unforgettable Mr. Chandramouli… dialogue in Mouna Ragam). I was taken aback when he called me for a role in Raavanan. He's matured with every film and my admiration for him remains unabated. Though it was not a very big role in terms of footage, I was a bit nervous. So I reported on the sets three days early to get a feel of it. I realised I had missed so much during my self-imposed hiatus. After a warm-up scene, I felt completely back in form. I rediscovered the joy of acting and began to enjoy the chaotic world of films once again.”
It was during the shooting of Raavanan that Karthik was called to play a substantial role in Maanja Velu. “I play a cop. I could instantaneously relate to the character. I realise I can't be the hero any more. So it's time to experiment and do the kind of roles that were once outside my radar. I can probably take character roles to another level.”
As news of Karthik's re-entry spread in Kollywood, messages poured from several directors, including P. Vasu, who has signed up the actor for his upcoming Puli Vesham. “Nine years ago, I was going through a chaotic phase marked by several wrong decisions. I felt I needed a break. But I never thought it would take this long. I realise how much film making has changed. The dance steps have become more rigorous, the music sounds different and the packaging is so slick. Film promos and publicity events now make news and technically, we've made massive strides.”
The actor who made his debut as the cupid-struck teenager in Bharathiraaja's Alaigal Oivadhillai in the early 1980s was swept by a wave of career-defining roles since. “On the third day after I was spotted, I found myself facing the camera. I knew nothing about acting. It's been a roller-coaster ride for me. Before I even realised that acting was my calling, I found myself neck-deep in films. As far as acting is concerned, I do a little homework in my head. That's it.”
Radha (Alaigal Oivadhillai), Revathy (Kizhaku Vaasal, Mouna Ragam) or Rambha (Ullathai Alli Thaa), Karthik's history of successful on-screen chemistry with his co-stars cannot be erased from the cine-goers' minds. “Romance? Yes, why not. Some mature on-screen romance is okay as long as it appears natural. Even in my prime, I wasn't quite comfortable running around trees.” The heart-warming Varusham 16 with Kushboo, the touching Gokulathil Seethai and the stylishly-made Agni Nakshatram were some films in which Karthik fulfilled the desire in him to excel. “I just went with the directors. I was lucky to work with the best film makers of the 1980s and 1990s. I learnt a lot.” Though he played many sentiment-suffused roles, Karthik came up trumps in comedy as well. “I love comedy. I believe the basic premise of making films is to entertain.”
Like every successful actor, Karthik too dreams of direction. “I've been working on my own scripts and learning the art of screenplay writing. I'm creating some characters for myself — the types I've never been offered or never will be. It's time to explore new realms of creativity.”
KARTHIK CALLING KARTHIK JR.
My son is keen on entering films. He is a natural when it comes to facing the camera. But I don't want him to miss out on academics or his normal life as a student. I know what films can do to you. So let him wait and make an entry when he is mature enough to handle the showbiz whirligig. I'll welcome him with open arms when it happens.