Sundaylite | Movies

Actor Siddharth interview: Greed leads to bad things

Siddharth in a still from ‘Sivappu Manjal Pachai’

Siddharth in a still from ‘Sivappu Manjal Pachai’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


Sivappu Manjal Pachai star Siddharth opens up on the problems crippling Tamil cinema and discusses playing a cop for the first time in his career

Straight talk is what you get with actor Siddharth.

For someone who has spent nearly 18 years in the film industry, it is an uncommon trait; his peers would attest proof. The passage of time has also done nothing to erode what he identifies as his character traits; he lists out arrogance, surprisingly, as one of them. But over the course of this conversation, we discover that his arrogance is not born out of ignorance.

We meet up a day before the release of Sivappu Manjal Pachai (SMP), a film which stars Siddharth in the lead alongside GV Prakash Kumar. Directed by Sasi, SMP received average to positive reviews from critics, and looks set to go on a successful run.

No need for speed

Anyone following the film news cycle will know that SMP was a last minute arrival at the box office, after Gautham Menon’s Enai Nokki Paayum Thotta failed to release. Siddharth rejects this asseveration insisting that the team waited to ensure that SMP would have maximum number of screens upon release.“You know how it is easier to make a film than release it today. We have been ready with the content for the last one month. We were the first to lock September 6 as release date, and I’m glad we kept the date,” he says.

Siddharth (R) and GV Prakash Kumar (L) in a still from ‘Sivappu Manjal Pachai’

Siddharth (R) and GV Prakash Kumar (L) in a still from ‘Sivappu Manjal Pachai’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

SMP is about a traffic cop, played by Siddharth, bumping heads against a street racer character, played by GV Prakash. It is not just his character in the film, but the actor himself despises speed.

“I don’t like [speed]. Not a fan of it, and doesn’t excite me. Even as a young person, I was never into fast cars,” he says. With illegal bike racing presenting a problem for real life cops keeping vigil on Chennai’s streets, the actor says Sasi could not have picked a more relevant topic to make a film about.

“There are only two ways the common man interacts with a bike racer. The first one is hardly a two-second interaction. When you’re sitting in your car and you hear a sound... Vrrrooom! You just catch a glimpse, and they’re gone. The other interaction is when they hit you, or make someone else hit you. It is scary. The bikers’ families have to pay for their stupidity and their love for speed,” he adds.

Leading by method

This is the first time the actor has taken on a cop role in a 29-film career. Except, like his choice of movies, he did not go down the route of tradition, and grow a moustache or develop six pack abs for the role.

Siddharth with Lijomol Jose in a still from ‘Sivappu Manjal Pachai’

Siddharth with Lijomol Jose in a still from ‘Sivappu Manjal Pachai’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“I don’t know why people make a big deal out of exercise. Anybody can put on weight and get a more muscular body... even cattle can do it! As long as you’re committed to the role, I don’t understand what the big deal about it is,” he says. Instead, the “research-based actor” that he is, Siddharth chose to dedicate more time towards getting into the “skin of the character”.

“The biggest thing to understand for me was what I cannot do as a traffic cop. Because (in films) we’ve only ever made fun of them, or used them for negative impact. So, the only way I could have played this character was if I empathise with them. They work in inhumane conditions and are not paid very well, which explains why they might take bribes, but that doesn’t justify it.”

SMP also marks the actor’s return to Tamil cinema after a gap of almost two years. But we’re in for a Siddharth “release season” before 2019 ends, he says. “I didn’t plan [the gap]. There were other factors. I was out of action for a while (he underwent surgery on his left shoulder). But I’ve finished shooting two more Tamil films, and both will release before the year end,” he adds.

Also a producer, Siddharth confirms that he will be revealing plans of a film he intends to finance, one which he may have also written, in 2020. “I’m not a finance-based producer. So, I just can’t take money and go shoot. It takes me a year to conceive stuff, and a lot more time to put things together to make sure the business model works for me. There is writing and production stuff going on and we have got a big year coming up in 2020. There will be announcements soon,” he says.

Risky business

While concerned about the Tamil film industry’s financial health, what with a large number of films either being shelved or missing release dates on multiple occasions, he loses no sleep over it. “I’ve never had a film stuck in financial problems. But the industry’s issues are systemic. It starts with greed and ends in bad things. It is a long story of how the business is manipulated. It is very unfortunate that it happens to people and nobody should go through the pain. But the same caveats of any business apply here too. You have to be careful and hope that you don’t get on the wrong side,” he says.

Twitter politics
  • An active commentator on Twitter about political events, does Siddharth think he could influence opinions beyond the social media space? “Here’s the fun part. Nobody asks the hundreds of others (actors) who don’t even express themselves these questions. Nobody asks them why they don’t care about this country. I don’t understand why the one guy who speaks up is being told that he should do more. I find that perverse. You think it is easy being where I am? Getting as many death threats as I have... yet, you want me to do more? What is more? I’m not going to be a politician, and I don’t want to be in politics because then I can’t express myself without having a conflict of interest. So, this is the most I can do,” he says.

A question about his choice of commercial films hits a nerve. A decade ago, the actor expressed his distaste for films that critics often deride as mindless (read as: masala film). Opinions do change, and so has the actor’s choices considering he has been a part of films like Aranmanai 2 and Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru in recent years. “This is a hilarious industry. It is built on what other people think about your work. I believe it is built on what I think about my work. At the end of the day, it comes down to two things. One, it is a personal choice, and two... it is a business,” he says.

Kaaviya Thalaivan (2014), for which the Tamil Nadu government conferred him with a best actor award, comes up in this conversation. “I spent a year-and-a-half making that film. Do you know how many watched it on the first day? 40 people. I want to make films that everybody watches,” he adds.

Siddharth (L) and GV Prakash Kumar (R) in a still from ‘Sivappu Manjal Pachai’

Siddharth (L) and GV Prakash Kumar (R) in a still from ‘Sivappu Manjal Pachai’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Considered a pan-Indian actor, Siddharth still sees the Tamil film industry as his home turf, remarkable if you take into account his seven year hiatus, and shifting base to Telugu cinema after appearing in Mani Ratnam’s Aaytha Ezhuthu (2004). Does he think he lost a bit of ground, especially since many young actors in Tamil cinema currently making big budget films did not even make their debuts at that point of time?

“I would not have been in Baahubali had I stayed in Telugu if that’s what you’re asking me. Let’s see where we go from here. I’m not out of work. As long as my films come and they do well, I don’t see where I have lost ground,” he says, adding in conclusion, “But if it is salaries you want to talk about, for every name who you can say earns more than me, there are about 130 crore people in this country who make less than me. That is how I judge success. The problem with our media and the industry is that they make you compete with the 12 others who are above you. But I only look at the million others who don’t have my opportunities. I only compete with myself to do better than the last time.”

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 7:02:04 AM |

Next Story