Fun Factory

A s a child walking about the lanes of Pozhichalur in Pallavaram, he had a devoted band of boys following him around; a similar group stuck around him in school and polytechnic college as he cracked jokes by the dozen and had them in splits. That was when N. Santhanam knew his destiny lay in humour.

“Everyone loved it when I was around; they said I kept them happy,” recalls Santhanam, now a busy actor with a huge fan following.

The actor, who made a beginning with television shows such as “Lollu Sabha”, is elated with what cinema has given him. More so, because the Chennai slang (that he is most comfortable with), and which had taken a backseat as the Madurai and Coimbatore slang took over tinsel town, is back in the reckoning. “Stalwarts such as Cho Ramaswamy and Chandrababu made this really popular. Even Kamal Haasan did a Pammal K. Sambandam. It's nice to hear Chennai bashai again,” smiles the actor, who says he's humbled by the audience reception to his on-screen antics. “I never started off expecting to make it big. All I did was work hard,” he adds.

Santhanam, who's riding a wave of success post Boss Engira Bhaskaran (remember the youth anthem ‘Nanbenda'?), Endhiran, and Siruthai (where he essayed the character of Kaatu Poochi), says he is content in his space. He does not aspire to do separate comedy tracks, and is happy playing the hero's friend. “This way, there's more variety, and it's interesting too. I'm afraid that if I go in for a separate track, it will turn monotonous.”

One thing he wants to do is further his craft. “The going's good now, but I would like to do better. Cinema, as a medium, is near-immortal. Who knows, some day, my grandson might see my films. I don't want him to cringe and think what a dreadful actor I was. So, ideally, I'd like to do topical, sensible humour.”

Given his current standing, can't he draw the line at crass jokes, innuendos and crude one-liners? “Well, I mostly stay clear of such comedy. But, sometimes, it becomes unavoidable. Also, if I essay the character of a playboy's friend or a thief's buddy, I have to fit into the ambience; I can't be sermonising,” he reasons.

Beyond all the humour, there's an actor waiting to be tapped too. “I would most certainly love to do character roles some day; roles that give the actor in me enough scope to perform — roles that will have people wondering if that is indeed Santhanam on screen.”

Tough task

It is said that making people laugh is most difficult, especially when you are sad. And, Santhanam is no stranger to it — in fact, last month, his best buddy lay on the operating table, pleading to see him, but the actor was away in Mumbai, shooting for a comedy scene for Vandhaan Vendraan. “That really hurt, but my profession demands this kind of commitment. I've made my peace with it,” he says. Santhanam, who credits director Rajesh ( Siva Manasula Sakthi, Boss Engira Bhaskaran) with giving him a makeover and a new life on screen, says his bonding with Rajesh is special. “He's a man who keeps his word. He always attempts to portray me differently. And, most of all, gives a patient ear to my inputs,” says the actor, who'll next be seen in the Simbu-Bharath-starrer Vaanam, Vikram's Theiva Magan, Vijay's Velayudham, Jiiva's Vandhaan Vendraan and Rajesh's Oru Kal Oru Kannadi, which marks the acting debut of Udhayanidhi Stalin.

In fact, the actor recently shot for a song with STR (Simbu), for Vaanam. “Life's almost come full circle. Simbu introduced me to filmdom with Manmadhan, and now, with this dance, wants me to move to the next level,” he says. And, despite all this addictive popularity, how does he manage to be himself? “That's courtesy my appa, a building contractor. Our lives have changed because of my career, but he hasn't. I tell him to use the car, wear new footwear… but, he leads the simple life he's always led. Where else do I have to look for inspiration?” asks the actor.

I never started off expecting to make it big. All I did was work hard

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