Interviewer : Jyothsna
Bhavanishankar | Camera : Balaji | Text : Jyothsna
Kumar or Evam Karthik as he is popularly called is making
inroads into Tamil cinema with his varied portrayals
of characters. Straddling the twin horses of theatre
and cinema, this talented actor is currently working
in an important role in Gautham Menon’s production
venture Veppam directed by newcomer Anjana. Visibly
excited about Veppam, Karthik Kumar talks to Senior
Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar. Over to Karthik.
A brief intro
I was going down my memory lane a couple of days back
wondering about the various things I had done and
what exactly I wanted to become in my life. As far
as my earliest memory could take me to, I can recall
that I had an avid interest to act. As a part of my
art journey, I wanted to become an actor and move
the audience through my performance. It is fifteen
years since I began this journey. I started work in
theatre and continue to do now. It has been an interesting
journey so far even in cinema. My first identity is
an actor, then an entrepreneur. I started a theatre
movement called Evam. My life is going on these two
tracks now and I am enjoying it.
What made you
Evam is a theatre movement, taking theatre
to the youth. Our group is the one which
has introduced that special theatrical experience
of watching plays live on stage to the current
generation. We are responsible for bringing
a lot of young people into theatre. Not
only that, we also do many theatre workshops
in art colleges, engineering colleges across
Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and
also in places where there is no cultural
movement hitherto. We do theatre workshops,
entrepreneurship workshops. We bring out
the dreams from the youngsters and empower
them to reach their goals. That’s
what Evam stands for.
Evam is a theatre movement,
taking theatre to the youth
I wouldn’t say I tried cinema. Cinema is always
there in an artist’s mind because it gives him
(her) a wider reach. When I first received a call
from Madras Talkies for an audition, I knew my journey
had begun. PC sir and Mani sir did a screen test on
me and I got a small role in Alai Payudhe which was
followed by a lead role in PC sir’s film (Vaanam
Vasappadum). The subsequent two years witnessed me
in stereotypical roles of a rich boy, America return
etc. However I have grabbed good opportunities that
came my way in the last two years and have proved.
I have done negative characters, roles with grey shades,
comedy roles, subdued ones and so on. The current
film that I am working in is Veppam where I am doing
the role of a slum boy. As an artist, I am eager to
bring out all the facets of my performance and want
to showcase my new reflections to the audience.
Which one satisfies
you the most- theatre or cinema?
Cinema is completely a
between theatre and cinema
As an actor, it is a direct contact with the
audience in theatre shows. To imbibe the energy
of the 1000 odd audience and to give it back
is what happens in theatre plays. It is a
direct relationship between the artist and
the audience. Literally, there is nothing
separating the audience from the artist. In
cinema, you are playing to just one audience
and it is imperative that you need to satisfy
this one audience, the director. Once the
film is released and when the plaudits start
arriving, the credit goes to the director.
At the end of the day, you are playing to
the camera, to the director who is the captain.
Cinema is completely a director’s medium,
As a creator and as an entrepreneur, stage has been
a very very satisfying medium. The special appeal
that the theatre enjoyed during the 1930s, 40s of
M R Radha troupe, Boys company and later Cho’s
Thuglaq, started waning away in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
And that’s when our troupe injected new energy
to the theatre. As an entrepreneur, theatre has given
me lot of recognition. However in cinema, the one
to one relationship between the director and the artist
is the most special, be it with a stalwart like Mani
sir or with a debutant like Anjana. An actor is only
working for the director and as an actor I really
enjoy my work in cinema.
theatre experience help in cinema?
For an artist, theatre experience is akin
to an education centre. Stage is the only
preparation area for an artist. Once when
you land in cinema, there is no training as
such for acting. You straight away stand in
front of the camera, you will be given your
dialogues an hour before the shot and you
end up spending your time in understanding
and memorizing your lines. You do not have
time to think about the emotions and the reactions
associated with it. Acting begins the
Acting begins the moment you
moment you start reacting to the character which stands
in front of you and it is mostly reacting to the other
character in the frame. In cinema, there is no training
as such. Take for an instance a fabulous actor like
Suriya; it took 12 films for him to get that maturity.
Till the time he got a director like Bala, he was
in the process of being molded. If Suriya had started
with theatre, his first film would have been Nanda.
He is undoubtedly a talented artist but the talent
gets polished only with constant practice. Theatre
is the only format for an actor for training.
How do you balance
theatre and cinema?
It is like how Nagesh did a film called Sarvar Sundaram
and also a play by the same name when he was at the
peak of his career. It is always a give and take relationship.
One needs to do both. A point of weariness sets in
when I do three films and not a single play. I miss
the audience’s interaction and the energy levels.
So there is always a play and a film going on simultaneously
in my life. I don’t do more than 2 films in
a year. But I would very definitely do a play for
it takes 8 months to do a play and same is the case
with a film too. If this combination is not there,
I feel there is some kind of void in my life.
How did you get
Director Anjana had a very special script. She did
not directly ask me if I would do her film. But I
asked her if I could do this role when the narration
was on. Nobody has given me such a role till now,
a highly ambitious slum boy who wants to make it real
big in life. He is an orphan running a mechanic shop.
If I had been slotted within a specific frame which
generally happens in film industry, I would not have
got this role. It is a very special thing to have
got such a character. She had confidence in me and
was sure that I would prepare for it. I had lost 4-5
kilos to look leaner and a wee bit under nourished.
What genre is
Veppam is action and drama. It is about three boys,
their relationship, love and betrayal. They get involved
in erroneous activities. Veppam is about whether they
mend their ways or get pulled in deeply into the quagmire.
How was it working
Although it is a debut directorial film for Anjana,
the film was within her and she had nurtured it for
quite a long time. It is almost like a dream to her
and she knows the film completely. In Veppam unit,
there are 5 assistant directors and 4-5 lead actors.
But nobody knows the film in its entirety. They only
know their track and a little bit more. That’s
all! Anjana knows the film even before she went on
floors although she registered it only recently. But
she has already made it in her mind; only the shooting
is going on now.
What stage is
Veppam in now?
90% of the shooting is complete. We are going to shoot
songs next month. And September, October would be
post production work and Veppam will hit the screens
by November or December.
You have tried
different roles. Which is very difficult to portray?
Well, to be honest, to portray the romantic chocolate
boy role in Tamil cinema is highly difficult for me.
Siddharth and Jeyam Ravi do it in a very cute, charming
way. In my very first movie with PC sir, Vaanam Vasappadum,
I had the role of a lover boy and it was difficult.
It is a different genre by itself. I find it tough
to perform the sweet, casual, romantic charming roles.
I can do the dramatic, intense, powerful, negative,
emotional and comedy genres. Comedy is my second nature
as that’s what we do mostly on stage in our
plays. We make the audience laugh which is after all
such a noble thing to do. It is very difficult for
me to be a lover boy.
Mani sir is the reason for my
director you would give everything to work for?
Mani sir! I am always available for him whenever
he calls me even for a small role. Mani sir
is the reason for my cinematic journey. And
next Kamal Hassan as the director because
Kamal is the most underrated director today
in Tamil cinema. Nobody can make a film like
Virumandi. In the current scenario, Gautham’s
works are very appreciable. And Ameer’s
Paruthi Veeran is exceptionally special. Among
the new rung of directors, I like Pannerselvam
of Renigunta, Suseendiran, Samudirakani, and
Sasikumar who deliver exciting films. And
of course Anjana Ali Khan! I am going to be
there in her next four-five films in whatever
film she makes.
was it working with Dhanush?
Dhanush is 4-5 years younger than me but the
variety of roles that he has done is remarkable.
He has done comedy, satire, grey shades and
so much more. Working with him was like a
good give and take relationship. Sometimes
it was competitive which is healthy for actors
and sometimes there will be sparks in the
set which were good as we were trying to be
one step ahead of the other. It was very special
working with Dhanush.
Selva’s rawness came out only in
And Selva! The script of Yaaradi Nee Mohini was Selvaraghavan’s
who had directed its Telugu version Aadavari Maatalaku
Arthale Verule which was changed to suit the Telugu
sensibilities and Venkatesh’s audience. Jawahar
who remade this in Tamil had Selva’s original
script and hence Selva’s rawness came out only
in YNM. Jawahar did a fabulous job and so did cameraman
Siddharth. It was nice working with the team. My role
was distinct and significant in a small segment. Till
a particular point in the film, there was no importance
to that character. I was waiting for my portion to
be shot eagerly which was the crucial portion of the
film. Selva had narrated my part which was not there
in the Telugu version. YNM was an important film in
my career and offers that came my way after that were
I have been appreciated as an
do you feel when a film you worked hard
does not fare well?
be very honest, I have not had a run
away hit in my career. A Subramaniapuram
for Jai or an Unnale Unnale for Vinay
is yet to happen to me. But I am still
in the industry and this is my 7th year.
In my 7th year, it is good that I continue
to do good roles and get to work with
very good people. I have worked with
Priyadarshan sir (as a producer), Vijay,
Selvaraghavan, Madhumitha, Jana Kumaravel
and now Gautham’s production.
have not worked with anybody in the industry who does
not have some stature. I have been appreciated as an
actor and hence my job is to perform well and not worry
about the financials. It is the producer’s domain.
When a film is not a hit, an actor gets some more chances
and he would come up trumps sooner or later. As an actor
my only duty is towards the director. For the producer,
I need to render an efficient and quality work in a
professional manner without any troubles. I am not married
to the fortunes of my film but the fortunes of the film
are married to me. I am sure I am going to have a Subramaniapuram
or an Unnale Unnale very soon in Veppam.
the working styles of different directors you
have worked with
More importantly I have worked with a lot
of first time directors- Kumaravel’s
first film Ninaithale Inikkum, Priya’s
first-Kanda Naal Mudal, Anjana’s first–Veppam,
Madhu’s second Kola Kolaya Mundrikka,
Vijay’s second Poi Solla Porom, Jawahar’s
first YNM. What attracts me to the first time
directors is the speed, the fiery passion
in them to prove and their different high
energy levels. The energy that you see in
Kamal now is different from that of Madhu’s
or Priya’s in their first film. So when
you are working with such directors who are
so desperate and keen to churn out their best,
there would be sparks. When they say some
thing, you have to take them seriously as
they have seen this film in their mind a hundred
times. All these directors have that special
something. I am currently shooting with Anjana
who is very special. You will see a lot of
Anjana in the next ten years.
You will see a lot of Anjana in
the next ten years
Women directors are definitely
seem to have done 30% of your films with women
directors. How did this happen?
don’t know how this happened. Yes, I have
not only worked with Priya, Madhu, Anjana; I
have also worked with Revathy, Janaki Viswanathan
in short films, have done a couple of features
with Nandini; have worked with Rajshree Ojha
of Aisha in Hindi. It only goes on to show that
women directors are coming in plenty to films.
Women directors are definitely more sensitive;
definitely have a lot more fire in their belly.
When male directors do well, it just passes
off as another good work. However when women
directors do well, they get that extra attention.
I think they are fighting for that attention.
I can personally tell from Anjana’s experience
that she can’t wait for this film (Veppam)
to come out.
molded in the hands of the director who has the power
in him to sculpt it beautifully. Around 6-7 years back,
all the directors were turning into hero due to frustration
because control was not in their hands. Now all the
directors are getting their chance, getting their dues.
Stars themselves are approaching directors like Suseendiran
or Vijay to make a good film using them. Now Venkat
Prabhu is working with Ajith and Nagarjuna. It is a
director’s era now and that’s the way it
should always be. Directors first, producers next and
the current trend in Kollywood
I think the power is coming back to directors.
In the 80s, there was always a film in theatres
from prolific directors like Balu Mahendra,
Bharathi Raja, Balachander and Mani Ratnam.
In the 90s it was a producer and star dominated
scenario. In the early 2000, films went by the
name of the actor but now it has changed. All
the heroes including me are nothing if there
is no strong director now. Names like Lingusamy,
Murugadoss, and Vijay are much stronger than
any actor who is just a ball of clay waiting
Directors first, producers next
and then actors
do you want to be known as after a few years?
I like the respect that Prakash Raj or Raghuvaran
get as actors today. In every film, there is a role
for them and the day they come on the sets, it becomes
special. They always bring charisma into their role.
There is no role that Raghuvaran has not done; he
has done hero, villain, father, don, politician and
so much more. It is very rare to have such a career.
Perhaps Raghuvaran did not do as many comedy roles
as he could have done. If he was there today, he would
have done that too. I want to be known as someone
who has done that range. I am interested in working
with everyone. I want to work with Vikram, Ajith,
and Vijay. I know I can bring out something special
in every project that I am in. I don’t want
to be a solo hero and desire for my cut outs all over.
I know I am going to be around for another 20 years
easily and am looking forward to my journey as an
actor. I don’t want a huge box office initial
in my name or a rasigar mandram and such stuff. I
want many fans who will keep me special in their hearts.
That’s good enough!