Movies

Rolex vs Dilli: Only the universe knows it, says Karthi

Actor Karthi

Actor Karthi | Photo Credit: Arun Prasath

In his fifteen years as an actor, Karthi never worked with a director twice. That includes 20-odd films, with 20 different filmmakers of varying style and sensibility. Now, two filmmakers have broken that streak: M Muthaiya with this week’s Viruman and Mani Ratnam with his upcoming Ponniyin Selvan.

“I only do two films a year and very rarely do I get three releases. It takes a really long time to reunite with a director. Luckily with Viruman, Muthaiya was ready to wait for me. He made it happen,” laughs Karthi, after a long day of promotions for Viruman when we meet at a city hotel.

As someone who insists on reading the script before committing to a project, Karthi trusts his feelings on what it does to him rather than the overall framework of the script.

He remembers Muthaiya reworking his drafts when they worked on Komban for the first time in 2015. But with Viruman, a lot of elements sat within the screenplay leaving very little room for changes.

The rework is done to ensure that there is an arc to the character, or to find a better place for a song or to examine whether they are forcing an action scene when there is no need for one. “If the graph is soft and is not working, I ask if it can pack in more punch. So, there is a constant effort to improve and grow as an actor,” says Karthi.

Reflecting life

Karthi plays a pandhal designer in Viruman , with Prakash Raj playing his father. “There is always a distance between a father and son in most cases,” says Karthi, adding that he was sold when Muthaiya put a spin on that. “In this film, there is a bang-on collision between the father and son. They are at loggerheads to the point that the father is the antagonist. I would have probably said no, had it been superficial. But Muthaiya’s script had a depth and yet, [sat] well within the commercial format. I found that interesting.”

A film often takes shape at the editor’s table. But for Viruman, Karthi says they deliberately wanted the editor (Venkat Raajen) to not know the story. “Every day, we would give the footage to him and wanted him to react to what was happening. We kept him surprised,” laughs Karthi.

Karthi and Aditi Shankar in ‘Viruman’

Karthi and Aditi Shankar in ‘Viruman’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Unlike author-backed roles in Theeran Adhigaram Ondru, Kaatru Veliyidai or Kaithi, Karthi says he finds it relatively easy to act in films such as Komban, Kadaikutty Singam and Viruman.

For one he doesn’t have to dig deeper into the character’s psyche and secondly, these are characters he can relate to. “I used to spend summer holidays with relatives in my hometown. Somehow people in towns and villages are laid-back. They are not always running or under pressure all the time. That has stayed with me, which reflects in these films,” he says, adding, “In addition to that, I’m a fan of Bharathiraja, and films like Thevar Magan that capture life there to the fullest.”

There is a sense of authenticity in the way Muthaiya captures rural life in his movies, feels Karthi, attributing this to the director’s humble background. Muthaiya’s father used to have a tea shop in Madurai and he would meet people from all walks of lives on a day-to-day basis. “That is why I feel Muthaiya’s films are closer to life.”

Karthi in ‘Viruman’

Karthi in ‘Viruman’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

But that comes with challenges too; Muthaiya has often been questioned for his work having casteist and patriarchal overtones. Karthi doesn’t think it is a valid criticism. “Muthaiya grew up in a particular milieu. He can only make films that he is familiar with. When the story is set in Madurai, then the character cannot speak Madras slang. How can you make a film without the social milieu... Vetri Maaran sir had to live in Madurai for a few years to understand the place and people to make Aadukalam. That is not the case with Muthaiya,” he says, “Ultimately, it comes down to your intention and I don’t think it’s his intention to make caste-based films.”

Rolex vs Dilli

Viruman is the second film that Suriya has produced for Karthi. The latter gives a dismissive laugh at the mention of a healthy competition brewing between the brothers. At the end of the day, Karthi says he looks up to his anna and has only learned from him. “Fifteen years in this profession, I can’t be thinking of work all the time. I’ve only realised that now. Whether it is anna spending time with his children or with anni [Jothika], I take a lot from him. Especially the way he plans his life and career,” he says.

Though fans of both the stars have been keen to see them act together on the big screen, the excitement has only peaked thanks to Lokesh Cinematic Universe and Vikram, in which Suriya played a cameo as the ruthless Rolex beside a brief cameo by Karthi’s Dilli (from Kaithi).

Several fan theories with multiple storylines and universes are being written and discussed on social media. Karthi says the craze is unprecedented: “ Anna just wanted to show his love for Kamal sir. We didn’t think it would become such a huge thing. I think Lokesh has to work really hard to meet the expectations now.”

So, will there be a face-off between Rolex and Dilli? “You are asking if that’s a possibility? We don’t know yet. We need to leave it to the universe [points towards the sky],” he laughs.


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Printable version | Aug 11, 2022 6:02:05 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/rolex-vs-dilli-only-the-universe-knows-it-says-karthi/article65749850.ece