CHAT From politics to Celebrity Cricket League, R. Sarathkumar finds spaces to reinvent himself. But he says films is where his heart is
It seems as if actor R. Sarathkumar does not age. And, he has been actively involved in the film industry for more than two decades now! “It is an art,” laughs Sarathkumar. “If I am dull and tired, it is a message that I’ve missed my workout schedule. I have a personal physical trainer and a full-fledged gym at home,” he says.
He remembers how his father M. Ramanathan mentored him on keeping good health and cultivating a reading habit. “He is responsible for what I am today,” he says. “He made us read Aesop’s fables and Panchathanthiram tales. Then we graduated to James Hadley Chase, Irving Wallace and George Bernard Shaw’s books,” he says. He is fluent in all the south Indian languages, and quite adept in Russian, too.
Sarathkumar started off as a delivery boy for the Tamil daily Dinakaran and later became a journalist in Bangalore. But his love for films brought him back to Chennai. Being a big fan of M.G. Ramachandran, he wanted to emulate the legend. “He planned his career to perfection,” he says.
With no acting experience other than in school culturals, Sarathkumar first acted in a Telugu movie Samajamlo Sthree at the behest of a producer friend. Growing in confidence, he produced the Tamil thriller Kan Simittum Neram with Karthik and Ambika in the lead. “Around that time, Karthik was chosen by Mani Ratnam for Agni Natchathiram ,” he says.
He became an actor when Raju, the personal make-up man of actor Vijayakanth, recommended him to the Pulan Visaranai team. Sarathkumar played the villain. “They wanted a tough man to do that character and found me fit enough for that meaty role.”
Since then, there has been no looking back. “I was lucky that all the movies I acted in were released,” he says. “I was not into any acting school; my films are my lessons. I perfected my acting watching my films and correcting mistakes. After numerous self-analyses and self-criticisms my confidence grew,” says Sarathkumar.
He has won three Film Fare awards for best actor. He has acted in more than 130 films and played unforgettable roles in Suriyan , Naataamai and Ayya . In Kanchana , he played a transgender — proof that he is looking for characters that create an impact. “It has to be challenging.” Run-of-the-mill characters do not interest him. “I am reinventing myself to do characters that suit a young audience. I am waiting for a good script.”
From cinema to active politics, it was a smooth transition. “I see politics as an extension of social service,” he explains. “Politics is a bigger forum from where I can address people. I am conscious about what is happening in society and I have no fear in expressing my opinion.”
But he can’t stay away from films. As the president of the South India Film Artistes’ Association, Sarathkumar plans to bring in more revenue for the Association. He is now involved with the Telugu project Genius , which tells the story of a powerful police officer fighting against political bigwigs, and the Kannada project Myna , based on the true story of a conscientious police officer who frees a murder accused framed for 34 unresolved murders.
Sarathkumar is producing and acting in Chennaiyil Oru Naal . It is a remake of Traffic , a Malayalam flick about organ donation. “The film is releasing in January.” He promotes organ donation in a big way and has pledged his body to an NGO in Guruvayur. He has also acted in the much-talked-about Kochadaiyaan by Soundarya Rajnikanth and is involved in K.R. Selvaraj’s Vidiyal , releasing in April.