As All in All Azhagu Raja and Biriyani get ready, actor Karthi speaks to Subha J. Rao about the burden of expectation, lessons from the box office and the ladies who rule his life
Two big budget films ready for a festival release and a demanding toddler at home. Actor Karthi can’t stop smiling.
His last two films — political satire Saguni and mass masala Alex Pandian — received lukewarm response. “I learnt two things. That people have high expectations from me and that I must never do things I am not convinced about,” says Karthi.
Now, he’s in a happy space waiting for M. Rajesh’s All in All Azhagu Raja (AIAAR) and Venkat Prabhu’s Biriyani to hit the screens. The former is scheduled for Deepavali; the latter, for Pongal. Azhagu… pipped Biriyani for a Deepavali outing, “because Biriyani involves a lot of technical stuff and that needs time.”
Azhagu… Karthi says is a typical Rajesh film; it guarantees fun. “With Rajesh at the helm, even the shooting spot is full of mirth. Then, there’s Santhanam,” says Karthi. “Rajesh takes care of all the fine details — the dialogue delivery, expressions… the actor’s job is made easy. The charm of a small town shines through in the film. Such jovial, affectionate people. By the time you’re done shooting, you want to settle down there.”
As for his co-stars, Karthi says that with “Prabhu for a father and Saranya for a mother, one can’t ask for more!” Kajal Aggarwal plays his love interest, and “she’s a highlight,” says Karthi.
Saguni and Alex Pandian are a vital part of Karthi’s learning curve. “I wanted to do a mainstream film. I knew Alex Pandian was not an A centre film. But, how will I know what will work if I don’t do such a film?” he asks. Saguni’s writing was good, but there were flaws in promotion, he admits. “People expected another Mudhalvan. But, we set out to make a satire set in the Manivannan school!”
Introspecting, Karthi realised he had to choose roles carefully. He also discovered the importance of focus groups. “The actor and director watch a film so many times that they lose objectivity. And, we need to accept suggestions and make changes before we show it to the audience,” he says.
Also, Karthi has decided to voice his opinion during shooting. “I can’t do something I am not convinced about and hope it will later be removed at the editing table.” But, there are also times when it is best to agree to disagree. “The team need not see your viewpoint. You can’t fight while making a film. You learn only after you’ve taken a hit. If everyone does the right thing, every film will be a hit, right?” he asks.
The assistant director in Karthi (he worked with Mani Ratnam in Aayutha Ezhuthu) is now alive and kicking. “I put across my view. If it is valid, directors accept it.”
The actor says he’s slowly getting used to set hopping. “It takes me a day to adjust, but once I get into my costume, I get into the zone. It’s such a high for an actor.”
Next up is Attakathi-fame Ranjith’s untitled project. “I am looking forward to this. It’s raw, like Paruthiveeran. There’s going to be tough competition on the sets; we have a lot of theatre actors on board. I want to rehearse, unlearn certain things and re-learn acting. I want to get out of my comfort zone,” says Karthi.
The actor’s dreams to direct live on, but he says he needs more time. “There’s so much to learn as an actor. Direction is a very interesting process. I will do it soon. I want to do different things. I’m learning horse-riding, football… doing things I’ve never done before.”
All these seem to be Karthi’s attempt to escape getting slotted. “So many want me to do another Paruthiveeran; others are fans of my Siruthai avatar. Extreme expectations, but I have to strike a balance. I have to do films for myself, films that make me learn. I also have to be an entertainer.”
But, his greatest role, he says is playing appa. “It’s such a challenge. Every night I rush home to play with Umayaal. My life and schedule revolve around her. My biggest problem is prioritising. Will it be wife Ranjini or daughter Umayaal?” laughs Karthi.