Enjoying his new beat

Sasikumar in Tharai Thappattai  

Sasikumar dislocated his hand while shooting for the climax of Tharai Thappattai. He recovered eventually, but not before a break of about three months that delayed the film. Adding to the pain of the fracture was the guilt of knowing that the production expenses were mounting; that the crew was waiting for him to resume work. Bala, the director, has a reputation for being a taskmaster, and Sasikumar was also worried about the possible accusations that could be levied against him. “I knew that people would immediately blame him for my accident. What they don’t know is that it was completely my fault,” he says. And in any case, Sasikumar doesn’t regret the accident at all. “Who did I do the scene for?” he asks, rhetorically. “Did I do it for somebody else? I did it for myself. I did it for the film.” That’s why he strongly believes that people should go easy on Bala. “He’s trying to make good films, and wants everybody to give their best. Nobody’s forcing actors to sign up with him. If you do, trust that he will bring out your best and do what he wants you to.”

Sasi is convinced that Bala has brought out his best in Tharai Thappattai. “All I had to do was show up at the shooting spot, and remember to be a blank slate.” For a person who’s a lot more comfortable speaking Tamil than English, he uses the word ‘blank’ several times, to emphasise how important it is that actors don’t bring to a Bala film their own ideas about the character or the story. Sasikumar remembers telling Jai the same, when working with him for his debut film, Subramaniapuram. “You just have to do exactly what the director wants you to. Whatever I’ve done for the film, it is what Bala has made me do.” Also, Bala, he says, isn’t one of those directors who’ve got everything planned and meticulously written down. “He makes quite a few last-minute adjustments, including in the dialogues.” Sasikumar, who assisted Bala in making Sethu, is naturally of the same mould too.

In this film, he plays a man called Sannasi, who heads Thara Thappattai, a Karagattam troupe. To look the part, he had to train for at least a month with folk singers and dancers brought in by Bala. The whole shooting took about 100 days, and it has left Sasi feeling distraught about the plight of such folk dancers. “Do you know that they dance barefoot all through the night?” he asks. “Drunken spectators often harass them in several ways, including passing crass comments.” Thanks to this film, Sasi is now deeply respectful of such artists and their craft. “ Tharai Thappattai exposes how this art is slowly dying. And we are all the worse for it.”

I ask him the eventual question, and he answers that the director in him is very much alive. He says though that he became a director only so he could direct Subramaniapuram. “That’s all I wanted really. But I suppose I’ll end up directing films once every two-three years. But as I have acted in quite a few films during this gap, I guess you feel that I’m not interested in direction any more.” Interestingly, it was for a film that he directed— Subramaniapuram—that he received his life’s biggest compliment: Bala hugging him and telling him that he’d do well in Tamil cinema. Sasikumar would like nothing more than to have his mentor repeat the gesture after Tharai Thappattai’s release.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2021 1:18:34 PM |

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