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Interview Team : Jyothsna

Arumai Prakasam in Soodhu Kavvum made everyone look up and take notice of him. Karunakaran who had essayed the role is director Nalan Kumarasamy’s discovery. In an exclusive chat with Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar, Karunakaran traces his journey from a techie to tinsel town, his projects, directors and many more.


Entry through short films

Nalan Kumarasamy and I are friends and hail from Trichy. I was working in Accenture when he asked me to feature in his short film which he was submitting for a competition. Nalan has seen me partake in school culturals and win prizes and hence approached me. Although I was nervous to begin with, I somehow managed.

My first condition was that I can work only during weekends as I had to attend office on other days. So we used to be very busy during weekends and after going through numerous processes, we completed the short film within the timeframe and submitted it. I was glad that I had finished the task given to me. It got selected and I was called for the next short film and like this, I had done a couple of shortfilms.


Nenjukku Needhi

In the interim, I had been to Singapore and Nalan had completed a short film using some other artists. Later I came back and that’s when he called me for Nenjukku Needhi. Although I dissuaded Nalan from using me in Nenjukku Needhi, he insisted on my presence and I acceded to him. The film got the first prize and Shankar congratulated me saying he liked my acting.  I continued with my job even after this.

Shankar congratulated me saying he liked my acting


How was it to stand before the camera for the first time?

My first shot was for the short film when I had to open the door and say ‘hello’ which took 25 takes. I did not know what Nalan expected me to do while opening the door!!  Nalan and I were new to this but our technical team was quite experienced and they guided us.


When I came into feature film with Sundar C, my first shot was to save a dog. He enacted and showed me.

 I did not know what Nalan expected me to do while opening the door!!


Kalakalappu and Sundar C

Meanwhile my short films got uploaded in YouTube and I got a call from Sundar C sir’s office for Kalakalappu.  But I was hesitant as I was keen to retain my job. Although I was aspiring to get a foothold in films, I was not prepared to resign my job and take a total plunge.

I explained my situation to Sundar sir who was very understanding and adjusted the dates and the shoots only during weekends. He was the one who advised me to not resign my job till the right situation came.

Kalakalappu was released and although my role in the film had a smaller duration, it had a good impact and the film was a hit.

Sundar C advised me to not resign my job till the right situation came


Scripting in Theeya Velai Seyyanum Kumaru

When I started working in Theeya Velai Seyyanum Kumaru, Sundar C sir started paying me and that’s when I resigned my job. He advised me saying that since I am getting stabilized in the industry, I can quit my job.

I worked in the script of TVSK along with Nalan, Srinivas and Prabhu. Nalan guided me. It was an IT based love story and as I am from the same industry, we used to discuss scenes and write them from real life situations. After discussion, when the scene was ready to take shape, Nalan will take over. He is very powerful in writing and writes very fast. He wrote the entire first half in one night.

Nalan wrote the entire first half of Theeya Velai Seyyanum Kumaru in one night


Pizza and Karthik Subbaraj

I got acquainted with Karthik Subbaraj during Naalaya Iyakkunar times and he approached me with a role in Pizza. That’s how I did the film.


Soodhu Kavvum and Arumai Prakasam

Right from the beginning I know that Arumai Prakasam is very important in Soodhu Kavvum and the role attracted me. There was a last minute shuffle but Nalan told the producer that it would be nice if I did the role. I did complete justice to my character. But we never expected the film to reap in such a huge success. We were also happy that my role and my performance were much talked about.


The accident before Kaasu Panam Duttu money money

Actually I was injured during Pizza days during a sequence with Vijay Sethupathi. Once the pain subsided, I did not bother to go for a treatment. During the shoot of Soodhu Kavvum, there was a sequence when I had to jump with the money bag from a 12 feet distance on to a concrete floor.  

When I landed on the ground, I heard the ‘click’ sound and I fainted. Surgery was required but if I were to undergo the surgery, I would have been in bed rest for three months. That was the time when we had to complete a song.

Therefore Nalan and Santosh Narayanan planned the song with me in sitting position with just hand movements. Sheriff master was very supportive and asked me to give whatever dance moves I felt like.  Somehow I completed it. It was the last day and we all had good fun. I never thought that the song would have such a great reach.


Current projects

Till now, I have completed around 15 films and since Soodhu Kavvum I have been shooting continuously. Now I am working in Ravi K Chandran’s Yaan which is almost complete. I am doing Thillumullu Badri’s Aadama Jaichomada, Kanidhan with Atharvaa and I have an important role in Nanbenda with Udhayanidhi sir and Santhanam. I am working in Kappal with Vaibhav, Mahabalipuram, Aindham Thalaimurai Siddha Vaithiya Sigamani with Bharath and Karthik Subbaraj’s Jigarthanda.



I am doing the role that Prakash Raj sir was supposed to do. It is not a regular comedy role. My role assumes lot of prominence towards the climax. I am someone working in Morocco and my part was shot there.

I am doing the role that Prakash Raj sir was supposed to do


Kanidhan, Mahabalipuram and Kappal

In Kanidhan, I am Atharvaa’s friend who is a lawyer. And there is Bhagyaraj sir too. In Mahabalipuram, I play a guide and it is a negative role. In Kappal, I am Vaibhav’s friend from village.


Aadama Jaichomada

In Aadama Jaichomada, I play the lead with Vijayalakshmi as my co-star. I play a poor taxi driver in it.



In Jigarthanda, it is an interesting role for me where I play Siddharth’s friend who is based out of Madurai and who helps him.


Yaamirukka Bayamae

I play a stupid hotel manager in the film with abnormal behavior at times. He is basically an idiot and confuses people with his behavior.


Sundar C

All my directors are super cool. But the coolest would be Sundar C. He is one director who believes that films are meant to entertain and so does not prescribe to get stressed. This I learnt from him. He will be very relaxed, without any tension. I enjoy working with him. There would not be any pressure in his sets. We can wrap the shoot by 6 just like office and get back.

Sundar C is the coolest director


Nalan Kumarasamy and Karthik Subbaraj

As Nalan’s shots will mostly be in live locations, there will be slight pressure in his set. But that aside, Nalan is very cool. He does not get angry even for real stupid performance.  Same holds good for Karthik Subbaraj too. He is fun loving and his sets would be lively.

Nalan does not get angry even for real stupid performance.


Ravi K Chandran

It was a new experience working with Ravi K Chandran sir in Yaan. For me it was like a dream to see him in such close proximity. At Yaan set, unfortunately, cameraman Gopi got injured and hence my first shot was done by Ravi sir. Personally I was thrilled to bits that my shots were canned by Ravi sir. He is one person who continuously shares his experiences. He is also much appreciative of good work. He liked my work and lauded me. Elred Kumar also appreciated me.

My shots were canned by Ravi K Chandran sir


Soodhu Kavvum feedback

Nalan, the crew of Soodhu Kavvum and I were at the Kerala Film Festival when we met Chief Minister Ooman Chandy and Priyadarshan at a dinner. Priyadarshan rapped my shoulders and said, “That was a lovely performance”. Sundar C sir also appreciated my work. I heard from Nalan that director Bala had said, “I liked the minister’s son”. That was a great reward. Vijay Sethupathi also said that Bala sir liked my performance.

Director Bala had said, 'I liked the minister’s son' 


Meeting Kamal

I have always been a fan of Kamal and wanted to meet him. Three days after the release of Soodhu Kavvum, Nalan called and said that Kamal sir had invited us home. He had seen the movie and wanted to appreciate the crew. We met and took pictures with him. I would cherish that day forever.


Cartoonist Madhan’s feedback

In a way I am happy that I have been busy with continuous work. During the Naalaya Iyakkunar times, cartoonist Madhan sir told me, “You will have a bright future”. I was very happy to hear it.


Working with Vijay Sethupathi

As I know Vijay Sethupathi from the Naalaya Iyakkunar days, my comfort levels with him were quite good. I dubbed for him in one of his short films Kaadhal Sutru directed by Nalan for Vijay TV for Valentine’s Day special. Since Vijay got busy with shoots, he was not available for dubbing but insisted that I only dub for him.

Vijay Sethupathi is a straightforward person. If something is nice, he would openly appreciate and the same thing holds good for bad things also. Pizza brought us much closer.

Vijay Sethupathi insisted I dub for him



It was during the shoot of Jigarthanda that I met Siddharth. We did not expect him to be so cool and friendly. Only on the first day, there were mild apprehensions and reservations but all that had vanished soon and we became close friends.

I was doing the role of Siddharth’s friend and there were combination scenes with him every day.  If there was no comfort level, it would have been difficult. As the rapport levels increased, it became easier for me to live that role. He would also give his feedback candidly. He does not hesitate to get a better performance from the other end also.

Siddharth would give his feedback candidly


Hailing from a completely non-filmy background, have you ever thought that you would be in film industry at some point in your life?

My mom had always envisaged that I would be a great star one day. My sister and others used to make fun of her. But she somehow believed this at a time when there was no Naalaya Iyakkunar or such avenues! I don’t know how but I also did not expect this.

I was just happy twith one film. The song Kaasu Panam was a great hit. It had wider reach and kids loved the song. In fact that song was a last option and the crew was wondering if it was needed in the film at all as I was also indisposed then. It was an optional song, if I may say so. Now all that I hope is that I should retain the name that I have got so far.

My mom had always envisaged that I would be a great star one day


Missed Films

I have also missed few films. A role in Cuckoo and also in Tenali Raman. Earlier on, I got a call from Nanban which I again missed. On and off I do feel bad for having missed these films.

I missed Nanban


What kind of characters do you look forward to doing?

Going forward, I want to do negative roles. Directors that I have worked also have opined that I am more suitable for negative roles. I am looking forward to do such roles. Nalan also said that I cannot do regular comedies.

I want to do negative roles


You were also involved with screen play. Do you have ideas to diversify into that area?

I do have. In Thillumullu, there is a dialogue- “Are you in Facebook? No, I am in Mylapore”. I wrote this when the director gave the script to me. Like this, there are thoughts.  Right now, it is too early. May be later! I will write and keep but it will only be humor based if at all when I try this.


Would you get back to IT?

I think it would be difficult. There are no big plans as such. Today, I have a good name in the industry and get good money. In case these things vanish tomorrow, I need to have some alternate to fall back on as I am not the type to sit and brood over things. In that case I will do my MBA in a premier institute, become an entrepreneur or start my consultancy and groom people. I am clear that there is no scope for sorrow in my life. As of now I have films, even if the offers drain out, I will do something else.

There is no scope for sorrow in my life


Family support

My wife Thendral is a big support for me. She is open to the idea of me working in films.


What do you consider as your USP?

Basically I am a role player and I can react spontaneously. It will be difficult for me to bring out anything that is artificial. That’s a challenge as an actor now. But over a period of time, I will be able to do that. Give me the mood of the person and you want me to live that person, I can do that. Directors like Nalan and Karthik have brought out such performance from me. They both understand me very well.

Nalan and Karthik understand me very well


What is Nalan’s next film?

Nalan has almost completed his next script. He is most likely to start in July.


Parting note

I am excited to see the release of Jigarthanda, Aadama Jaichomada and Yamirukka Bayamae.




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