He is one among those inconspicuous men who feature in the laugh-out-loud humour scenes of Vadivelu. If he has put laugh lines on many faces with his timely one-liners on screen, he does much more than that off screen. As director, script writer and lyricist, Thambi Ramaiah is busy switching gears, dotting his career graph with big-budget movies and heavy-duty character roles. “Humour is a serious business,” he says, talking to S. Aishwarya on his host of next projects.

His maiden directorial venture Indralogathil Na. Azhagappan has taught him what the 10 years of cinema experience did not: never to take failure too seriously. “I keep talking about the film, despite the fact that it has given me a lot of pain. It is because the movie was a strict but very good teacher,” Thambi Ramaiah says.

His next movie Oru Koodai Mutham is shaping up as a full-length humour, with four fresh faces making their debut as heroes. The crew bubbles with fresh talents, with everyone hoping to make it big through this movie. “It makes me feel more responsible. This film’s success means a lot to many of these people,” he says, as he helps out one of the heroes in voice modulation.

Mr. Ramaiah’s characteristic comedy fare will be the prime attraction of the film, which will provide genuine, clean and enjoyable fun till the end. “It is about four friends who believe their strengths are their lucky charm. I had always wanted to direct a movie like this and time can’t get better.”

Speaking about Vadivelu, he carefully picks up superlatives to describe his favourite comedian’s feat. “He is a genius. He evokes smiles with his sheer expressions and dialogue delivery.”

Mr. Ramaiah’s talk is peppered with laughable humour as he describes some of the funniest people he met at his village. “For a comedian, talking to people is the best education. I do not read books, I read people.”

Even as he talks about his next project, a shade of poignancy lingers on his face. “I have struggled a lot to climb up my career ladder. I will no more appear in one or two scenes as I had done in my earlier movies. It is either an elaborate comedy role or characters that give scope for acting,” he says resolutely. As luck would have it, Mr. Ramaiah is poured with such offers and Prabhu Solomon’s Maina is one among them.

For someone from a village near Pudukottai, learning the ropes of Tamil cinema had not been that easy. His start as an assistant director provided him enough understanding to survive in the industry. Later the poet in him took shape, as he wrote lyrics for a few songs and now for all the songs in Oru Koodai…

While he agrees that comedy will withstand any change in cinema, he is apprehensive of the trend of separate comedy tracks in films. “It won’t help the movie. For a movie’s success, comedy must blend with the storyline. Else, comedy might click but the movie will die.”