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Interview Team : Nandhu; Balasaravanan

Over the years, actor Charle has starred in more than 600 movies. His down-to-earth nature, his ability to adapt to roles and the habit of encouraging newcomers has endeared him to filmmakers and audiences alike. In the wake of his successful role as Prabhakar, the hero’s sidekick of sorts in the recently released Kirumi, Senior Editor Nandhu spoke to the veteran.

Your role in Kirumi has come in for much appreciation. What is your take?

Director Anucharan came home and told me the one-line story. I was very impressed. When he came home, I was unshaven and wearing a lungi. He called me four hours after our meeting and asked me to retain the look for the role. When I agreed, he was very enthused. Because of my role as an unshaved character, I could not attend award functions and marriages. Everyone would say that I am not acting anymore. But that is a minor sacrifice I had to do. The audiences have appreciated my role, which is marked by claps in theatres. A point to note is that people saw the character and not the actor. I changed my body language. Even when the role was told to me, I decided not to act or perform, but merely behave. Even my breathing pattern underwent a change.

I decided not to act or perform, but merely behave.

Director K Balachander introduced you to cinema. How do you feel in the wake of his demise?

Even at a time when I didn’t know Chennai well, Balachander decided my fate by casting me in Poi Kaal Kuthirai. I kept acting in every movie of his. One day, he chided me saying that I was too popular to appear in single scene roles. But I remained adamant. Except for Poi, I have acted in every movie of the ace director ever since I started working in cinema in 1982.

What is in you that make directors approach you repeatedly?

All through my career I have constantly updated myself. I keep in touch with the feelings of the audiences. I am an ardent reader and this habit ensures that I remain on top of things. I am also receptive to newcomers. Directors like Arivazhagan, who made Eeram and Vallinam, has now cast me in a movie. I also try to bring an extra something to my roles and I guess that is why directors approach me. A good comedian can open funny doors and open doors funny.

A good comedian can open funny doors and open doors funny.

How do you continue to straddle different art forms?

I do street plays, theatre, television and cinema. The key is to perform. The medium doesn’t matter. I recently performed a play penned by professor Ramanujam. I continue to act in cinema approaching my roles as if I am doing my first film. I am surrounded by people who continue to shape my inner self.

We heard you are doing cinema-based research?

Yes, I completed my MPhil five years back. I am doing a PhD at Tamil University in Thanjavur on ‘Humour in Tamil cinema – 1937-67’. I must be the only actor to pursue a PhD in a university opened by another actor-MGR. I am the only actor to submit a thesis during a Sahitya Akademi symposium under the title – ‘Impact of Tagore’s plays on modern Tamil theatre’

 I must be the only actor to pursue a PhD in a university opened by another actor-MGR.

What do you make of the latest trends in Tamil cinema? How has cinema changed since when you came in?

Cinema has gone digital. This accommodates bursts of creativity and gives us more freedom. Earlier filmmakers sometimes shot only for a particular length as they had run out of film. Now we have freedom to go for more shots. Nagging issues in cutting film are no more a complaint. Directors too choose subjects connected with reality. Dramatic representation has given way to realistic portrayal. The artistic quality and creative strength of movies have increased with the advent of digital cinema. This is a welcome change.

The artistic quality and creative strength of movies have increased.

What do you make of the social media revolution and how does it impact an actor?

I use youtube. However, I am not on Facebook or Twitter. My friends have been insisting that I record my experiences as I may not be able to recall them vividly 10 years later the way I do now. They want me to bridge the gap between experience and recollection by recording them and sharing them with my fans. I love sharing, but till now I haven’t had the opportunity to take to social media.

How does it feel to work with the younger crop of directors like Anucharan?

I am now getting a wider variety of roles. As I grow older, the roles have been markedly different and hence are easier to interpret. At one point, I was doing a lot of college student roles. Though those films did well, the roles became somewhat similar. I am doing a movie tentatively titled ‘Maanagaram’. I play a cab driver and the film records the night life of Chennai. The producers of Maya, Potential Studios, are backing the movie. I am also doing ‘Oru Naal Koothu’ directed by Nelson. It is about a 42-year-old bachelor, who is living in a mansion. A movie with K Rajeshwar has been scripted and discussions are going on. All these movies are markedly different from each other and from the movie one usually sees.

Ajith and Vijay, who are big marquee attractions now, were youngsters when they first acted besides you. What have you observed about the way they have grown and become big attractions?

I recently met Ajith at an awards function. Both Ajith and Vijay behave with brotherly affection towards me. I have acted with Ajith in Amaravathi and our partnership went on till Red. Vijay and I have been fortunate enough to star in many successful movies. We were in Poove Unakkaga and Friends together. They are warm and cordial towards me.

I am happy to have interacted with this actor who has shown the staying power to carve a niche for himself.


They are warm and cordial towards me.