Sivakarthikeyan is already among the few minimum guarantee heroes of Tamil cinema in less than 3 years since his entry as a solo hero. He is now gearing up for the release of Rajini Murugan and is also in the process of shooting for his highly ambitious next film helmed by newbie Bakkiyaraj Kannan. Kaushik catches up with the charming, friendly, sorted-out 'Rising Star' at his swanky office on a rainy night. A freewheeling chat follows.

How different would Rajini Murugan be, from Varuthapadatha Vaalibar Sangam (VVS)? There is a sense of familiarity and déjà vu, seeing the pre-release promos.

I feel that is how it should be when exactly the same team - me, Soori anna, Ponram sir and Imman anna, get back together. You can call this an extension of VVS or another film like it. There would be some subtle story changes and the film would be a simple entertainer for the whole family. If you ask for a lighthearted difference, in VVS me and Soori anna wouldn't have any intentions of going to work but here we at least would entertain such thoughts. But I am sure that audiences would experience some new elements when they come in.

How does working with a heroine like Keerthi Suresh, who knows and speaks Tamil, benefit your combination scenes?

Though every heroine has her own style of working, when the heroine knows and speaks Tamil like Keerthi, it helps a lot in on-spot dialog improvisations. The director and other co-actors can come up with more ideas on the spot, when such a heroine is on board.

Keerthi and you are doing back to back films. Something instantly impressive about her which led to this decision?

Even when we were doing Rajini Murugan, the unit felt that I and Keerthi would definitely do more films together. Like how it happened with Sridivya in Kaaki Sattai, I thought that the pair would repeat after a film or two. I didn't want back to back films with her, as it would be like adding fuel to needless gossip (laughs). But PC Sreeram sir was the one who was totally convinced about Keerthi and said that she would be perfect for the film. We were obviously convinced by his judgment. With respect to Keerthi, she totally felt comfortable with our team and when we approached her for this new film, she didn't even listen to the plot or the script and just asked about her dates and schedule.

Acting alongside seniors like Sathyaraj and Rajkiran does improve your acting credentials in some way right?

When you have actors like Sathyaraj sir and Rajkiran sir, you have to be in tune with their level and can't go about things just like that. Rajkiran sir plays my grandfather in Rajini Murugan and that bond continued on the sets. We all used to sit and he would narrate all that happened in his life right from his days as a ticketing supervisor in theaters to being an office boy, distributor, producer, leading hero, director and also his downfall. I have learnt a lot about life through his myriad experiences and he advised me to watch out for the things that he missed back then. When it comes to performance, in the fights, one just can't match his gestures and attitude. I would just have to hide behind his immense arms (laughs)

Any on spot 'kalaai' and improvisations with Rajkiran?

On the spot, I once came up with a dialogue, after he lifts up his dhoti before a fight scene, which goes like "Nee onnu thatha, Rambha madri thodaya thodaya kamchirra". I delivered it and was sort of speechless after the shot. I wasn't sure how he would take it, but he was totally sportive saying, that is how a grandson and his grandfather would be like in real life. These are a pair of selfless and caring people.

Rajkiran sir would give that strength and hold to the film, and the story would take off from his character. He is generally very choosy about his picks, having done only about 28 films so far in his career. That is a point we have to note, in Rajini Murugan's favor.

After already doing so much with Soori, any idea of opening up and trying out something new with him?

Initially we thought of trying out something different in Rajini Murugan as it is our 4th association together. But when we went on sets, it was back to the usual routine. That was coming to us naturally and the audiences also take a liking to it big time. As long as it works, I don't think we need to change anything drastically.

Soori anna is like a bouncing pad and if you can gel well with him and give him that space to score, then he would shine even more. He keeps telling that among the younger lot of heroes, his combination works best with me. He can't take that extra liberty with a senior mass hero like Ajith sir or Vijay sir whereas with a hero like me, with a boy next door image, that scope to get down to the basics and score better is widened. He would be there almost throughout in Rajini Murugan and I jocularly used to ask his permission to be alone at least in the duet songs with the heroine.

Imman had commented in a recent interview that you have improved as a singer compared to VVS, and that Anirudh may be training you in this regard. Where is your singing going? Serious about it?

(Laughs aloud) I have to thank both Imman anna and Anirudh, and also their sound engineers. They never felt irked when I went for many takes and were very supportive. It all started with VVS when I sort of learnt there and delivered. Here, in Rajini Murugan, another singer had already sung the rough track before the shoot, but when I kept humming this song regularly, I had the confidence that I could pull it off. Singing is definitely a difficult call and I am generally sleepless two days prior to my recordings and also skeptical after the recording. For jolly, high-energy songs I think I can manage but for my next film which has only love songs, I would be happy to stay away from singing (laughs).

What have films like Maan Karate and Kaaki Sattai done to your career? Both were commercially safe bets despite mixed reviews.

What happened was after VVS, my market and audience's expectations grew manifold suddenly. Both these films had mixed reviews but were beneficial to the trade and my producers. With Maan Karate, even now when I see it, I feel that certain things could have been done better. But every film has given me some plus and when I analyze, Maan Karate made me even more popular with the kids, who used to enjoy just my songs prior to this film. Be it my character or the trademark pose or the funny way in which boxing was treated, kids quite loved it. On getting feedback, I feel that I shouldn't have done the scene when I fall and beg at the villain's feet. I realized that the audiences didn't want to see me stoop so low while I myself wasn't thinking highly of my stature as a hero.

After Kaaki Sattai, I think the scripts which are coming to me are widening in terms of scope and ideas. Big directors are actually considering me after seeing that I could handle some action moments and serious scenes. Before, they used to just wish me well but after this film, they may have got that confidence in me as a serious performer. In my new film, director Bakkiyaraj confidently has two proper action scenes for me, after seeing what that rain fight in Kaaki Sattai did among the audience. I was happy to see that fight being listed in Behindwoods' recent slideshow too, about rain fights (laughs). It was just a beginning for me, and it worked well. Also, Kaaki Sattai released in late February during the time of board exams, but it proved itself commercially.

You are incrementally updating yourself in each of your films of late. But your current film (#Sivasnext) seems to be a sudden jump to a different league altogether with major technicians, prosthetic make-up, the buzz on many looks and the general mystery around it. What can you say about this secretive film of yours?

We have many of Shankar sir's technicians on board but it would be nowhere near a Shankar sir film like Gentleman or Indian or 'I'. I can't imagine doing such films at this stage. This would be a proper romantic comedy with the comedy aspect treated in a different way. Of course, there is Anirudh and his combination with the romance genre would be a definite lookout. It does have prosthetics and there are many looks which we are obviously holding as a secret now. A lot of things are being written around and probably when the teaser or trailer releases, you would realize why we are keeping this low-profile now.

We are a young team and my producer RD Raja anna wanted to approach PC sir. I wasn't sure if he would even consider us. But we at least wanted to get his advise on prosthetics as he has worked with it before in films like 'I'. But the very next morning after we gave him the script book, he approved the film. We were thrilled and felt triumphant. Then Resul Pookutty sir came on.

We are about 20% done with the shoot and due to these rains, there has been a break. From December it would be back to full-fledged shoots and we are eyeing a summer 2016 release. We are tense and eager to see whether the audiences would be surprised or attracted.

The usage of prosthetic make-up does have its share of side effects right?

Yes but luckily, the prosthetic make-up usage isn't extensive here. It just comes for a small part of the film. I can't believe what Vikram sir did in 'I' and I keep telling him how impossible that is. I went through a couple of look tests and it takes about 4 to 5 hours of patient sitting to get the make-up on. Generally it takes just 10 mins or maximum 30 mins for my make-up sessions. I don't even comb my hair and there is nothing to beautify in me. Such long sittings for make-up are a major focus point for me and a big learning. Also maybe a stepping stone to bigger and more ambitious attempts in the near future.

Recently everyone was pleasantly surprised when you changed your Twitter display picture to Kabali's first look. What's your expectation from Kabali as a Rajini fan?

Whatever I become in life, I would be a Rajini veriyan first and foremost. If not for Rajini sir, I wouldn't have been attracted to cinema, wouldn't have seen films from a young age and wouldn't be sitting here now as a hero. It is like the bond that I share with my mom. I keep telling to my friends, "Thalaivar Therikka Vidaporaaru". His look is stunning and I am super excited. Wherever the FDFS is, I would be there.

What next? Many reports surrounding you, such as a film with Siva, Vignesh Shivan and also one where you play Ajith's brother.

I am in talks for about 2 to 3 films and my next film's announcement should probably arrive by mid December, now that I have started shooting for my current film and Rajini Murugan's release would also happen this week. But it would be great if I act as Ajith sir's brother (laughs)

You have seen your share of controversies in your short but fast rise as a hero. How do you handle such negativity? What is your support system to overcome such phases?

I just want to make my life simple. It is a straightforward office - home routine and other than that, I may just be spotted in Sathyam theater or some restaurant. I don't wish to be pulled into controversies. But in the last 4 to 5 months, I have experienced lots of hurting things with needless tension and bad-blood. One thing I have realized is I am not scared anymore. I am more confident to face issues and people. Now that I realize that there are people who don't feel happy with my progress, I have to be more sensible, polished and can't be frank always in my opinions. I don't want to react needlessly but if I am provoked beyond a point, I may be forced to react one day like any normal human being would.

I just fear the audience and want to be sincere to them. I have always been good in my work routine, commitment and professionalism. I will just continue being like that.

A recent video on your sarcastic take on the Vijay Awards show went viral?

I can take that extra liberty with Vijay Awards, more than anyone. I have been on both sides of that stage - as an anchor and now as an actor, and I have that extra closeness and proximity to that show. I can speak my mind about the show, and can't be fake there. I have always been like that with my comments, but now people may feel different. It is all about perception.

Finally, your take on Ajith - Vijay fan wars on the social media, all the hashtag hate, trolling and abusing? Why should fans be so emotionally attached to cinema?

I see the positive aspect of it, which is the extraordinary reach that a film's trailer or teaser is able to get. This is subsequently reflected in the opening and the box-office collections of the film. The world sees Tamil cinema as a small part of Indian cinema but when Ajith fans or Vijay fans are able to set records for views and likes on a teaser / trailer, it is a notable thing indeed. Such trolling and abusing are there in all fields be it cinema or sports or politics. We have to get used to it, but I see the positive aspects more. Healthy competition is always welcome.

Of course, needless fights can be avoided but I am getting used to it. When someone abuses me, I don't lose anything from my end, it is just a waste of 10 secs in that person's life. I have crossed that stage and don't feel bogged down by hate comments anymore. I look for valid negatives in such criticism, as I am still growing. But, no question of sleepless nights when faced with abuses on the internet.