Cinema

The year of Siddharth

Actor Siddharth in Kaaviya Thalaivan

Actor Siddharth in Kaaviya Thalaivan

In a career spanning 12 years, actor Siddharth has had quite a few hits and some misses. From rom-coms to family dramas to comedy, he has done it all. Arguably though, it’s only now that he’s hit a purple patch, with a series of cherry-picked roles. With Jigarthanda labelled a cult classic, and two path-breaking films, Vasanthabalan’s Kaaviya Thalaivan (KT) and Prasath Ramar’s Enakkul Oruvan (EO), coming up for release, the actor talks about what’s been a rather tricky creative journey. Excerpts from the interview.

Much has been said about 2014 being your year, with Jigarthanda, Kaaviya Thalaivan and Enakkul Oruvan

I’ve stayed here long enough to know that nothing just happens. Sometimes, you have to get things moving or push yourself in some direction. 2014 is the result of my developing such a mindset four years ago and the decisions that followed. I set rules for myself and refused certain films. And yes, destiny does play a part in letting you reach the right place at the right time.

In an industry where getting typecast is the norm, what does it take to break away?

It took me years to get rid of the ‘chocolate boy’ tag. I can be attractive and decent looking, but it does not mean I was born to do only a certain kind of films. Kaathalil Sodhapuvathu Yeppadi taught me a lot; it was a romance that defied clichés and set the rhythm for what I’m now doing. Theeya Velai Seyyanum Kumaru freed me; it was a blockbuster and gave me the confidence to do what I want to do.

How important is box office success?

Box office legitimacy makes it less difficult for the producer of a niche movie. When you try to push the envelope in a commercial space, you need back-up.

You’re very fond of KT and EO

I’m as confident about these films as I was about Jigarthanda . They will be among the most important films made this year. KT is a contemporary classic; it’s a Shakespearean drama unfolding on screen. It is a purist film. There are no distractions such as English or the trappings of modernity. Balan has put in so much of research that you just had to enter the set and let the ambience wash over you. What a team he’s put together — composer A.R. Rahman, art director Santhanam, cinematographer Nirav Shah, costume designer Niranjani Agathiyan…

Was the earlier acceptance and subsequent rejection in certain roles necessary for your growth?

Irrespective of success or failure, I’ve always tried to break the mould. I’m very happy with my body of work, even in Hindi. Be it Rang De… , Striker or Chashme Baddoor , they were one-of-a-kind films. I like to think I’ve built a filmography of some substance, and also made films that worked at the box office.

You are a producer too. What’s your take on the creativity-commerce dynamic?

Cinema is alive because of this equation. I would say I am creatively trying to make money, not make money out of the creative space.

You’ve always been generous with praise for your co-stars…

Cinema is not a one-man show. My dad once told me that if a film works, it’s because of the team; if it does not, it’s your fault. That philosophy keeps my life uncomplicated. We all give our blood and sweat to every film. So, why can’t one speak about co-stars? It was a huge boost when Prithviraj, a superstar in Malayalam, came on board KT , just for the love of the script. He’s a fascinating actor.

How do you react when your decisions are questioned?

We live in confusing times. It’s important to lend your muscle power to films that need to be made. I was asked why I did Jigarthanda , knowing Bobby Simha would be the scene-stealer. It is a spectacular film and I’m glad it came to me. Sometimes, I like to be PART of a film, not THE film.

What’s EO like?

It’s one of those films I carry on my shoulder. But, doing something like that all the time can get a bit tiring because of the sheer amount of stress involved. I won’t always hide behind other actors! But I’ve learnt from Aamir Khan that it is all right to take the backseat.

Your look in EO is vastly different from the real you. How easy was it to submit to such a vision?

Submitting to a vision shows commitment. In this film, I have to be convincing as two people. Going in for this look was a huge leap of faith for a first-time director, producer C. V. Kumar and myself, but we decided to go all the way. And, people loved the trailer. I don’t really look at myself on screen. I’m not a great audience for myself at all ( laughs ).

How important is a peer group in cinema?

I don’t really have friends in cinema; we work together for a few months and move on. All my friends are from outside the industry, and then there’s family. But some industry folks have helped. From Sundar C, I learnt to unclutter my mind. He helped me understand my career better. I love how Balan and Karthik Subbaraj go about the process of filmmaking. But, at the end of the day, all decisions are mine. It makes it easier to sleep at night.

The film industry is in a great space right now, with barriers being broken. Where do you see yourself in it?

I’d like to dabble in pretty much every department. Technology has ensured you can abolish every status quo. You don’t have to be an assistant director to turn director. There’s no fixed grammar, no pedigree. It’s a lovely, democratic set-up. At the same time, there are no excuses to not be able to make a film. The Web is your oyster.

Talking about the internet, what does it mean to you?

I love how the internet has democratised a lot of things. Look at the wealth of information available. As for social media, the day you sign up for it, you have to accept that you are opening yourself up to anonymous people. You are giving them a part of your mind space. I’ve been on Twitter (@Actor_Siddharth) for six years now. Sometimes, it gets a bit distracting. Then, I take what I call an ‘internet cleanse’ for a week. Of late, the Net has become its own animal.

It’s an alternate reality out there. When you get out, it’s like escaping from a smoke-filled room. But, that said, the internet feeds my thirst for knowledge. I am a trivia buff.


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Printable version | Aug 10, 2022 1:08:35 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/interview-with-actor-siddharth/article6602902.ece