Cinema

'I do not need cinema to get into politics'

I’m cast opposite Amy Jackson in "Gethu", and it helped that I know her quite well.  

Gethu , your upcoming film, doesn’t have Santhanam in the cast. Is all well?

(Laughs) Of course. There were rumours of some differences between us, but there’s no truth to that. We’ve done a few films together, and he’s more than a co-star… he’s a close friend. I just thought we could try something new. And I got his permission before going ahead with Karunakaran.

The film’s marketed as an action-thriller. Is that a step towards establishing yourself as a mass hero, after all the comedy films you’ve done?

It’s not really a mass movie in that sense. There are only two fight sequences, and though there are five songs, we’ve only shot three. But it’s a racy script.

The title alludes to a masala movie though?

Gethu is a reference to Sathyaraj’s (who plays his father in the film) characterisation; not really mine. We also considered Theri, but Sathyaraj liked this title better.

You don’t seem to have too much problem in underplaying your role’s importance in a film. You did the same when you referred to Santhanam as the hero of your debut, Oru Kal Oru Kannadi.

Well, he was, wasn’t he? Of course, Santhanam didn’t waste any time in pointing out that though I called him the hero, I was the one going on foreign trips to shoot song sequences with the heroine (Laughs).

I don’t mind playing second fiddle in my films at all. I’m quite encouraging of scenes that see other characters mock/insult me. It’s important to second-guess the audience at all times. There’s a scene in Idhu Kathirvelan Kadhal in which Santhanam ridicules my acting ability. The director was a bit concerned about it, but I didn’t mind it one bit.



Other films you have lined up include Idhayam Murali, and an untitled film that is a remake of Jolly LLB. The risk you took by becoming an actor seems to have really paid off.

All thanks to K. S. Ravikumar, I suppose, for insisting that I appear in a guest role in that scene at the end of Aadhavan. When I saw it in the theatres, I didn’t think I looked great; but I didn’t think I looked bad either. That’s when I first woke to the possibility of being an actor. Eventually, Rajesh (director) and I got to talking, and you know the rest.

I want to go on and do films with directors like Gautham Menon and K. V. Anand. I’m also a big fan of Karthik Subbaraj and hope that he will write a villain role for me sometime. In such roles, there’s more scope for performance.

You’re talking like a seasoned actor, somebody who seems attuned to the ways of filmmaking. It must not have been easy in the beginning.

No, it wasn’t. I struggled, to put it mildly. In fact, Rajesh got a person from Koothu-P-Pattarai (a Tamil theatre group) to train me as an actor. He was with me for two days and made me do things with my face that I’d never done. There were many, many acting exercises, and after some time, I got quite frustrated at being unable to do them and asked Rajesh if we could just improvise on the sets. And so we did.

Sounds almost like the ‘Assault Sethu acting scenes’ in Jigarthanda.

(Laughs) It was exactly like that.

But then, before the film, we did so much preparatory work that I’d become much better by the time the actual shooting was to begin.

Even in the romance portions? They are always quite difficult for new actors.

I was quite shy, naturally. When Rajesh said that I’d have to hug and kiss Hansika for the climax of OKOK, I was trembling in fear. And then, when too much time had passed, he asked her to embrace me instead, and she did the scene like a professional. Now, I’m much, much better. In fact, during the shooting of the Jolly LLB remake, Hansika remarked that I was far from the nervous actor she first met.

I’m cast opposite Amy Jackson in Gethu, and it helped that I know her quite well. I helped distribute her debut film, Madrasapattinam. So, all the portions with her were a breeze. She plays a character named Nandini Ramanujam, and we’ve really tried to Indianise her with contact lenses and a new hairstyle.

She isn’t the only one to get a makeover, of course. You look quite different too.

The cinematographer Sukumar, who has previously assisted Balasubramaniem (the cameraman of OKOK), said that he wanted to outdo his guru and make me look the best I have ever in my films. He wanted me to undergo a makeover for that purpose. I agreed after much hesitation. So, in Gethu, you’ll see me in a beard, wearing contact lenses… I still didn’t let them put a wig over my head though.

I guess you can afford to call the shots in a film, as you hail from a powerful family. But it must be a double-edged sword for you, as it must be impossible to hear negative feedback about your performances at all.

That’s why I always watch my films in small theatres. I sit with the audience and observe them keenly during the film. I don’t have to just depend on the words of people around me to know how people are reacting to my films. And right now, I seem to be doing pretty well, considering that I command a sizeable market in both the Tamil and Telugu film industries.

Is the idea to eventually gain enough leverage through cinema and then launch yourself in politics?

I do not need cinema to get into politics. I’m already from a political family. If I wanted to, I already could have. Going through cinema is a rather round-about way.

Surely, there must be some temptation to follow in the footsteps of your father and grandfather.

No temptation whatsoever. My only concern right now is that Gethu do well when it releases in a couple of weeks. And then, I’ll be worried about my next film.


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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 10:36:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/I-do-not-need-cinema-to-get-into-politics/article13978880.ece

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