Interviewer: Jyothsna | Camera: Hemananth.B & P.Ganesh Babu | Text: Jyothsna
The room lights up the moment Karthi steps in. Debuted in Paruthi Veeran as a rustic villager in unflattering costumes, this dashing hot younger brother of Suriya is all set to scorch the Kollywood screens once again in Selva’s magnum opus Aayirathil Oruvan. Waiting for the release of the film, he spoke to our senior editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar on AO, his brother and his darling niece Diya in this exclusive chat.

Thanks to Behindwoods.com

First let me thank Behindwoods.com profusely. After Paruthiveeran got completed, I gave an exclusive interview only to Behindwoods.com. There were many interactions with the visitors and I got loads of useful feedbacks to go ahead in my career. In fact my friends used to tease and wonder if Behindwoods.com was my website. Some news on me will always feature in your website. I was not in media for two years but always used to visit Behindwoods.com and get myself updated on the latest happenings. I want to thank you guys for your support.

BW: What is your favorite content in Behindwoods.com?

Karthi: I always read the latest news and updates as there is a fresh information everyday. I have been an avid visitor of Behindwoods.com even while I was studying in the USA. Your updates have improved over a period of time. The frequency and the number have tremendously increased. So is its ‘events coverage’ and ‘updates’ for me.

How has Aayirathil Oruvan shaped up?

It has shaped up very well. It has taken two years but has come out very well and is a very fulfilling experience. Aayirathil Oruvan will be a very entertaining film with a large canvas and a lot of special effects and mystery elements that kids will enjoy. Rambo Rajkumar master who passed away recently has directed some spectacular stunts while dance master Sivasankar and Kalyan have choreographed breathtaking dance numbers.


What is your role in AO?

I cannot reveal it just like that as it will be like spilling the beans. After Paruthi Veeran, I wanted to do another good film. When I got a call from Selva, I knew it would be a big one but never expected it to turn out this big. I realized it would be an adventurous one but when I went into it and the manner in which the script got unfolded, it was more than what I expected. We have not seen such a big canvass in the Tamil film in the recent times. The grandeur of Raja Raja Cholan and Veera Pandiya Kattabomman is sure to be in Aayirathil Oruvan. It was a wild perspective for me for my second film and Selva gave a lot of confidence. As regards my role, I had an opportunity to showcase humor, satire and emotion just like in Paruthi Veeran. It was a memorable and fulfilling experience. I am glad to have spent two years in such a manner and the learning was fantastic. People who have watched me in Paruthi Veeran will feel satisfied in this film too.

" The grandeur of

Raja Raja Cholan

and Veera Pandiya

Kattabomman

is sure to be in

Aayirathil Oruvan "


It was said that the crew had to rough it out in AO. Your comments

Paruthi Veeran itself was a very demanding film. Unit members used to tease me saying that I will be at home when the heroine is shooting. But the scenes involving Chittappa and me were shot in the forests, quarries and other tough areas. It was certainly difficult for a city dweller. However as AO is an adventure film, we had to show diverse terrains. Selva was scouting for a dense jungle like the Amazon to show a forest. And he got permission to shoot in Chalakudy in Kerala. The flora and fauna in the area are unbelievable. It was said to be the abode of King Cobra. Wherever you turn, you find venomous snakes. There were many poisonous trees and most of them were covered with thorns. To cap it all, the forest was full of leeches and in such a locale we shot for forty five days and that too at nights. There was also incessant downpour. We were praying to the rain God to let us shoot. It was definitely a risky shoot and our lives were certainly at danger all the time. We had a very narrow escape from elephant’s attack. We had coexisted with panthers. Snakes missed us by a whisker. Undoubtedly it was a tough experience.

Later when we went to Rajasthan in December, it was a different scenario when the temperature was running in minus. We had a sequence where we had to run continuously and we shot for ten days running in extreme cold weather. Muscles became stiff which made the running difficult. Every situation was hard and tricky.

" I am an

out and out

local madras party

dressed cheaply,

mouthing local

bad language "

Puducherry backwaters were a totally different experience when we shot in cyclonic storm. We had to travel in boat to our destination and it was constantly pouring. It was definitely a test for nerves and we somehow made it.

It is said that you don’t have a heroine in AO. Is it true?

Yeah, it is true in a way. There are three totally different characters. In the first half, our journey will be very prominent. I am an out and out local madras party dressed cheaply, mouthing local bad language; Andrea is an archeologist; Reema is a strict officer. There is no way we can be seen together but we are forced to stay together. It will be interesting and different to watch us as three different characters and not as hero and heroine.


Experience working with Reema and Andrea

I was like a lone man caught in a women’s college. I was trapped between Reema and Andrea and Selva was the savior (laughs). I had no answers to their numerous questions. I used to sit silently. Reema and Andrea used to converse in English and I was like ‘hey why don’t you talk in Tamil yaar’. Jokes apart, work wise, it was highly professional and we bonded well as we worked for two years and have become good friends. For us, it was like a hostel life revisited. All the rooms were wide open and

" I was trapped

between Reema

and Andrea"

we used to walk in and out freely. It was a friendly atmosphere and each one was able to appreciate other’s work. As a male I am tough but seeing women suffer the same duress like mine helped me face difficult situations better and I was able to understand their passion for cinema. It is not money that drove them. They wanted to do a good film. Reema was always saying that this is the lengthiest film that she has ever worked. Her role is very interesting and is that of a life time. Although for Andrea, this is her second film, she feels AO is her first exposure to cinema in the true sense. She felt that she was learning to be an actor. And especially when we were working for Selva, we were actually getting groomed.

" Hats off to

Parthiban! "


What about Parthiban?

What can I say about him? I am a big fan of his and have seen all his films on the first day. I have seen Pudiya Paadai many times. I know all his dialogues by heart and was eagerly waiting for his arrival. In AO, he plays the role of a king and would feature only in the second half. His looks were so haunting and his attire, the way he comes and stands were all outstanding. I used to have lengthy discussions with him on his films and

dialogues. His sense of humor is awesome. During the course of conversation, he will give intelligent and witty counters. I wanted to note down his remarks and use it in my next film. His patience is something remarkable. I being patient in my second film is nothing to rave about. But Parthiban with his tremendous experience submitting himself totally to the film maker, delivering what the director wants is highly commendable. It was a fantastic experience. Hats off to Parthiban!


Camera work in Aayirathil Oruvan

Ramji’s camera work will be spectacular in Aayirathil Oruvan. He is the pillar of the film. In an adventure film, visuals, set work and music are very crucial. This project was highly satiating his thirst as he was waiting for such an assignment and it turned out to be his dream project. His energy levels never ebbed at any point of time. Even in unearthly hours, he was full of life because he was doing what he liked the best. In a frame showing crowd, the camera will slowly move in and the complete place will be revealed. We were wondering if we are watching Tamil film or an English one. When we were working on different episodes with different costumes and art work with many junior artists, the camera will transform the set into a village. An expensive set of two crores was erected and it will come to life with Ramji’s camera work. And with G V’s music the entire frame will get its zing and our bodies will start reverberating.

Selva’s research

Even though it is a fantasy film, there will also be realism in it, thanks to art director, camera man and Selva’s extensive research. There are some periods in the film for which there are no material support and one needs wild imagination. At the same time it should be within the realms of realism. It is a challenge to work in such a bracket and I think Selva was superb.

About junior artists in the film

We have worked in extreme climatic conditions. In cold places in between shots, we used to have fire to keep us warm but the junior artists would not have the same. Children, women and aged people used to work in cyclonic rain, shivering and in great pain without flinching. When the shot is called for, they just spring to action and most of them were daily laborers. They are not going to get any accolades or find their names in credit but their passion that the film should shape up well was remarkable. Even now, when I see some of them, they are anxious to know when the film would be released. I bow in front of all of them. Junior artists make our acts seem small in front of theirs. They are true artists. Similarly the carpenters who worked in AO used to be at the sets very early before everybody’s arrival. Some of them were very old but used to work in the cold weather holding on to the cold metal which for us would be almost an impossible task. What drives them? I have no answers. It was a life learning experience for me.


G V Prakash’s music

Everybody is aware of Yuvan-Selva combination which is beautiful when it comes to lyrics and music. As regards Aayirathil Oruvan, it is a very demanding film in terms of musical variety. There are many contemporary hip hops in the film but when it comes to the specific period, the music should be authenticated with grandeur sounds. I am awed how Prakash was able to achieve this at such a young age. Although there

" Selva

is a very

demanding

director "

was Selva’s research, it is difficult to satisfy him. Selva is a very demanding director. He knows music and if given a chance, he may even take over that department. In Selva’s films, you generally find musical bits without lyrics and I like them a lot. In Aayirathil Oruvan also, such pieces will be there. There is a sequence when I will be walking from the crowd with music accompanying and suddenly a flute will play. It is not ordinary flute music and I cannot fathom its origin. It was an astounding piece. In the same manner, you will also find many poetic sequences which are typical of Selva’s film like the one in Kaadal Kondein where Sonia and Dhanush will be pushing the tiffin box to each other in the canteen without a single word. G V’s music has immensely supported such scenes.


Art direction

There were many expensive sets erected for Aayirathil Oruvan. As we had continuous rains, art department was constantly at work to correct the sets. The freshness and the authenticity should be maintained at all stages and art department rose up to the occasion. When I used to enter the sets and look all around, it was mesmerizing. But the saddest part is when they had to knock them down. Many people were crying that day and I was able to understand their pain. They can see their work only in the film. Exhaustive research was done on the statues you find in AO, on their look, dimension and every minute detail.

" Ameer and Selva

are task masters "


Compare Ameer’s style of working with Selva’s

Ameer and Selva are task masters. They enact the scenes and get it out from the artists. When I was raw, Ameer had taught many things and has made things easier for me in front of the camera. Selva gave me a lot of confidence. When he has understood that you have imbibed the character in you, he will let you free. There were many lengthy shots in Aayirathil Oruvan and I needed to hold fort independently. Selva would only tell me to do it better but would not tell how. I had to constantly introspect and improvise. Hence it has been a learning experience for me from both Ameer and Selva.


Will you work with Ameer in future?

There are no signs as of now. I don’t think too much into future and there are no such offers also. I have signed a few films. Time will take care of the rest.

Your first two films have been an extended and lengthy tour. Do you feel saddened by it?

Undoubtedly, it is a long time. In my first film, I was anxious to deliver right. After my first film and the support of my fans, I was waiting to go. But two years is a long period. There were times when there would be no shoot for 3 to 4 months. I had a beard and a get up and I could not have gone to any other film. Though I got many offers, I avoided them and was waiting for this as I knew this would be a big film. If I am able pull through all these, it is mainly because of my family and fans. I regularly talk with my brother and father and their words were highly motivating. More than that, the honest and the encouraging comments I receive from my fans help me a great deal.

Do you discuss scripts with your family members especially dad, brother or sister- in-law?

Yeah. Definitely! I just bounce the one-liners and ask for their feedback. Ultimately it is only my decision. However when there are experienced people around me and I get free advice why not use them? The script has to be interesting and compelling enough to work. I am also an audience and I view the script from that angle too. The script needs to be convincing too. I cannot play the role of a school boy. So I just take care of these elements.

What do you think of Suriya's performance in Vaaranam Aayiram?

That was fantastic! It was such a great and rare opportunity to play the role encompassing all age groups. I think my brother did more than justice to the characters. For a shot of a few seconds, his hard work and toiling were astonishing. I always have a feeling if I am working much lesser than my brother. Achievement is another aspect. If he can put in so much of work for a fraction of a second, than the amount of work for an entire

" Suriya is my

biggest inspiration "

film can simply be mind-blowing. Suriya is my biggest inspiration. It is acceptable to portray an age that is current or much younger. But to play the role of an old man with maturity and finesse calls for a special talent. The expression on Suriya’s face when he looks at his drunkard son was so appropriate. It was not a performance but only a behavior that requires immense talent and professionalism. I am just standing beside him watching his growth.


How was Ayan?

It is a rocking film. On the release day, fans were enjoying with band and trumpets. When I saw the film, I wanted to stand up and dance too. The audience was mesmerized at the end of the first song. What a change over and transition! My brother looked handsome in whatever costume he wore. His growth and evolution as an actor is phenomenal which was evident in Ayan. He scores full marks in all departments ranging from acting, looks, costumes and dance. Added to that K V Anand’s screen play was superb. It is surprising to note the hard work for a commercial film. Of course there are no limits to hard work. But the detailing which one observes in English films was present in Ayan. Prabhu sir’s role moved the film just by his presence, Jagan’s humor, romance, cell phone comedy, the rich visuals of Africa- I liked the film a lot.

Films you liked in the recent past?

I liked Subramaniapuram which was like the Hollywood films of the 80s. I liked Sasi’s style- not approaching the subject in an emotional manner but in a practical and bold fashion. I liked his conviction to produce Pasanga. A subject may appeal in a particular way during narration but it is difficult to translate that on to the screen the exact way. I like his courage and his choices.

What kind of roles do you want to play?

I have no plans like that. I like humor. I like if my character has shades of hilarity in it. Lighter side is always nice. That aside, the script selects you before we choose it.

Will you take up direction as you started as an AD with Mani Ratnam in Ayuda Ezhuthu?

I wanted to become a director but it is a big job. When I have seen Mani sir, Ameer sir and Selva working, I realize the enormity of their profession. It would be futile to foray into direction before reaching the standards set by them. I should first equip myself with a wealth of knowledge. I have some good name in acting. Let me not spoil it (guffaws).

How is Payya?

Very interesting in terms of visuals, scenes and music. It is an urban film and a complete change from my first two films.

" Audience

may find the

real me

in Payya"


Is Payya on the lines of Badshah?

No, nothing like that.

It was said that you enjoyed wearing colorful costumes in Payya – comment

In Aayirathil Oruvan also, I sport colorful costumes but they are all picked from platform. In Payya, I wear better clothes. That’s all. Perhaps, the audience may find the real me in Payya.


What are your future projects?

I have not confirmed anything as of now. Announcements will come in a couple of weeks.

Will you be working with Suseendran of Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu?

Announcements will come soon.

What is your contribution to Agaram Foundation run by your family?

Though I am a part of the group, it is entirely my brother’s brain child. Gnanavel is the executive secretary. My father has been running Sivakumar Charitable Trust for the past 25 years and through which we have been helping students who have scored good marks in public exam. Now my dad has given the responsibility to us to run it. In addition to giving scholarships for bright students, we have also started helping students who have scored good marks but need financial assistance. We want to expand the work in many other segments too.

How is the darling of the house Diya?

She is super. Calls me Karthi. We are like friends. We have not seen a child in a long time in our family as we three are close in age group. This is the first time we are seeing a kid in our house. She is very sensitive and intelligent. She is going to call all of us fools one day.

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