Karthi: "If Petta and Viswasam can release together, Bigil and Kaithi too can easily release!"

With his Deepavali release ‘Kaithi’, actor Karthi hopes to deliver a film that keeps you guessing what’s next

October 21, 2019 04:24 pm | Updated April 21, 2020 04:13 pm IST

Karthi in a still from ‘Kaithi’

Karthi in a still from ‘Kaithi’

At 36 days, Kaithi is the shortest that actor Karthi has ever worked on in a film.

It was, of course, a change for someone who had come to believe that film-making was a tedious, time-consuming process.

“My first film ( Paruthiveeran ) took two years to finish, and my next film ( Aayirathil Oruvan ) took three years. I used to think this is how films got made. It was only when Madras (2014) happened that I understood films can be shot within 50 days as well,” laughs Karthi.

We connect with the actor over phone as he is in Pollachi, busy filming for Bakkiyaraj Kannan’s Sulthan that stars him alongside Rashmika Mandanna.

The connection is sketchy at best — we had to rely on the technological marvel that is VoIP calling to facilitate a conversation — because Karthi is on the move, climbing the Anaimalai hills to reach the shooting spot.

Karthi in a still from ‘Kaithi’

Karthi in a still from ‘Kaithi’

But the strain that constant travelling may impart on his physical being is nothing compared to the 36 nights he spent shooting Kaithi , he recalls.

“Everything goes for a toss! It was hectic. Imagine, at three in the morning you have to be completely agile to film stunts. And it was extremely cold,” says Karthi.

Deviant art

But Kaithi ’s strength in screenplay affords him just enough space to remain confident of its success at the box office.

“It is a journey film and one which unfolds in a single night. It is so unpredictable what can happen at night. It is a what-if situation type of film, and the way Lokesh [Kanagaraj] (the director) has written the screenplay, it is so engaging. These are the kind of films I loved watching when I was in college. So, I am sure everybody will enjoy it too,” he says.

It is also Karthi’s first film without songs in its soundtrack — an outlier concept when it comes to Tamil films.

Karthi at the trailer launch of ‘Kaithi’

Karthi at the trailer launch of ‘Kaithi’

“It is a screenplay that unfolds over the space of four hours. When you watch a film like Speed or Die Hard , where is the time for songs? If a story spans two or three years, it is understandable because time stands for human emotion, no? Theeran (his 2017 film) was a dark film. You needed something to compensate, some lighter moments. Otherwise, it would have been a grim film. But Kaithi has no need for it. It is not only an action film. Despite the tension, there are lighter moments that you can really enjoy,” adds Karthi.

In Kaithi , Karthi plays Dilli, a prisoner who walks out after serving a 10-year term, and is trying to make contact with his 10-year-old daughter, whom he has not seen before.

It is not the first time in his career that Karthi has played the father to a young daughter ( Siruthai , 2011). However, since he became a father in 2013, the actor finds it easy to relate to these emotions.

“I’m not worried about ageing in my films,” he laughs, adding, “But now it is easier to understand a father’s emotion because I have a daughter. When you have a child, they are everything to you.”

But it is the first time he has driven a lorry, and at high speeds.

Karthi with Lokesh Kanagaraj (R) at the trailer launch event of ‘Kaithi’

Karthi with Lokesh Kanagaraj (R) at the trailer launch event of ‘Kaithi’

“It was difficult. That too it was an old lorry with no safety features. There was no seat belt and no protection for the head. I developed a big sympathy for lorry drivers afterwards. I can see why it is a very risky job,” Karthi remarks.

Leader of men

Shooting a film in 36 days is no mean feat. Predictably, the actor waxes lyrical about the brains behind Kaithi — Lokesh Kanagaraj, and his crew.

“They have a good working culture. They are pre-planned and know exactly what they want to shoot. Nothing is decided at the shooting spot. Many directors don’t try to alter an actor’s performance, and are satisfied with the basic output they receive but Lokesh is different; he steers the performance and has ideas about how the actor should behave. He also gives full freedom to his technicians to explore once he is convinced of their quality. That is how a film gets different colours. He is able to utilise everybody’s best, like a good captain. He has that flair,” says Karthi.

Karthi with Lokesh Kanagaraj on the set of ‘Kaithi’

Karthi with Lokesh Kanagaraj on the set of ‘Kaithi’

He continues, “I see him (Lokesh) as a bright and passionate individual. You know how most writers say they are lazy to write. I don’t think he is lazy. He is always very excited and cheerful about what he is doing, and that is very important. When you have the right attitude, you don’t get into financial troubles. Even the best of creative people succumb to pressure when that happens. I feel Lokesh will escape that.”

It is known that Lokesh Kanagaraj is set to direct actor Vijay in his next film. Kaithi , which releases this Friday, is set to clash with Vijay’s Bigil at the box office. Karthi feels that his film has gotten its fair share of theatres as dictated by the market.

Bigil is a bigger film any day, and that is why they will have more theatres. But I think we will have sufficient numbers. If a Petta and Viswasam can release together, Bigil and Kaithi too can easily release,” he adds.

Karthi, like Lokesh, is also set for projects bigger in scale and numbers after Kaithi . He is a part of Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan , and is one among the trio of leading actors from Tamil cinema — the others being Vikram and Jayam Ravi — who play leading roles in the film.

A former assistant to Mani Ratnam himself, Karthi admits it is too early to talk about the period film. He also has Sulthan , and the Jeethu Joseph-directorial that features Jyotika, which he has finished filming, in the pipeline.

“I have consciously tried to do different films, challenging myself each time. I’m trying to explore,” he concludes.

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