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Interview Team : Jyothsna

Talking to Thambi Ramaiah is as entertaining and interesting as watching him perform on screen. The highs, lows, the modulations and the sense of humor of this seasoned artist are a revelation. Catch the veteran in conversation with Senior Editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar.   



What are the projects that you are doing now?

I am a part of Dhanush-Prabhu Solomon film, Vedalam, Vetrivel with Sasikumar, Asurakurlam, a script oriented film, an untitled film with Atharvaa under Rajmohan’s direction, Sattai 2 and also Peygal Jaagiradhai, my first ghost film where I have sung. 


You have been a part of Puli and we will soon see you in Vedalam. What differences would be there as regards your character in both the films?

In Puli, as you all would have seen, I have been utilized for humor. In Vedalam, I have also been used for the story. Brother Siva loves me fiercely and he has brought me into the story in Vedalam. In Veeram, he enjoyed watching me play in my comedy turf, whereas in Vedalam, he has given me an aggressive fodder to my thirst for acting which you would witness when the film releases.


I am glad that I am getting projects with both the current superstars of the industry, Vijay and Ajith. By God’s grace, I am also fortunate to have been a part of many successful films this year, be it Komban or Inimae Ippadithaan or Thani Oruvan.


In Komban I have been utilized just for comedy; even if I am not there, the story is there and the film will move ahead, but if I am not there in the film, there is no humor.   


In Thani Oruvan, I took charge of comedy. If you knock off my portions, an important part in the story will suffer.


I see Puli as Komban and Vedalam as Thani Oruvan. 

Puli is Komban; Vedalam is Thani Oruvan. 


Thani Oruvan

I had neither met Arvind Swami nor had talked to him before the shoot. I met him just the day when we started. I am like water, I take the shape of the container in which I have been poured in and can adapt myself to any situation.


Of course, I had a slight hesitation before interacting with Arvind Swami but I was keen to break the ice. Therefore, I told him, Kannadasan had written “பெண்ணுக்கு பெண்ணே பேராசை கொள்ளும் பேரழகெல்லாம் படைத்தவளோ. You were not born then, if you had been born, he would have written, ஆணுக்கு ஆணே ஆசை கொள்ளும் அழகெல்லாம் படைத்தவனோ”. That brought us closer.


He told me in a very non-egotistical fashion that he had listened to the script as a story but was surprised that I could bring in many layers to my character. Before seeing the film, if somebody told you that Thambi Ramaiah is the dad of Arvind Swami, it would have been a matter of mockery. But when you see the film, it does not look odd.



I had a slight hesitation before interacting with Arvind Swami 


How did you agree to the role in Thani Oruvan?

As I told earlier, if somebody had mentioned that I had to essay the role of Arvind Swami’s dad, I would have straight away declined. But director Mohan Raja narrated the story with just characters without the names of artists. 


Sengalvarayan of Thani Oruvan

The world’s most idiotic dad and the world’s most intelligent son! If you realize anywhere that I was acting innocent, Sengalvarayan would have completely lost his ground. But I had to be totally innocent which has apparently worked out well.


Sivakumar sir was much impressed after watching the film and was wondering how I come out differently in each and every role of mine. I am not here to translate what is written on the paper. I want to infuse life into those words on the paper. One will have to imbibe the character.


The appreciations that I had NOT got for Kumki or Kadhai Thiraikadhai Vasanam Iyakkam or Sattai, I got in Thani Oruvan. The character of Sengalvarayan has no reference point. I am thankful to Mohan Raja for giving me the role.      


When I was working in the film, I did it like how I work for every film of mine and did not realize the magnitude. I am like a white paper and I let people write whatever they want in it.

The character of Sengalvarayan has no reference point


Kumki’s mind voice

Mind voice is not something new, it has been there since the olden days. Mind voice will work in places where the expressions and body language are in sync. If you have a poker face, it will fall flat. Kumki was an experimental effort in which the concept of ‘mind voice’ was used to move the story forward. I am glad that Prabhu Solomon believed in his elephants as much as he believed in me. In a situation such as this, my dialogues get ready in my mind as per the mood or tone of the scene. In the scene, whatever expressions I gave, I filled them with mind voice dialogues in the dubbing studio. For example, a dialogue like "ஒனக்கெல்லாம் ஃபர்ஸ்ட் நைட் போது பக்கவாதம் வரணும்", it should go well with the perfect expression. That’s why it was a hit. 

Prabhu Solomon believed in his elephants as much as he believed in me


You are also a lyricist. Are you not doing that anymore?

It has become a disorder for me to make others happy through my antics. I have many powerful, intense songs and directors are asking me, but I am the one who is not giving them. The reason is my acting is going good now. When things are fine, why rock the boat? In case I take up writing also, it might seriously affect my work schedule pertaining to acting.


Writing gives a superb self satisfaction and makes me happy. Acting is for making my family and the audience happy. I am still continuing my journey as someone who is yet to make himself happy. I might perhaps limit my projects after 2016 and try out writing songs. I don’t know, let’s see.

It has become a disorder for me to make others happy 


What about direction?

Acting is something which involves the assimilation of characters. When it comes to my stories, I select my characters from life and I don’t have to watch English films to do this. I am not in a tearing hurry to hit the sets immediately. The stories that I have readied, they can be made even after five or ten years.  I hope I remain healthy, that’s my only concern. 

I don’t have to watch English films to direct


Dhanush  and the Prabhu Solomon project 

Two national award winners at the sets! We go to the spot, complete our portions and get on. After having worked with newcomers in films like Kumki, Myna and Kayal, Prabhu Solomon is undertaking a happy journey in this film. Shooting is progressing smoothly. I have the advantage of being an elderly person as I can get away with saying or doing anything on the sets. It is a new experience. Working with Dhanush is good and we have done well.  I am sure the audiences would enjoy. Excellent humor will be the highlight of the film.

Working with Dhanush is good 


Challenging role in your career 

I don’t want to sound pompous and please don’t get me wrong, I am yet to play such a role. 


What do you think would be very challenging to play?

If someone asks me to stand nude, saying it is essential to the story, it is challenging and I can't do it. 


Did you expect to get a National Award for Myna?

No, I don’t think about such things. I am glad that I am getting work. “பூவா பொறந்தா காயாகணும், பொண்ணா பொறந்தா தாயாகணும், சினிமாவுக்கு வந்தா ஏதான சாதிக்கணும்". When you are in cinema, people don’t question you about your material acquisitions, but they ask you about your accomplishments.  


I am happy about the award. All my sufferings, rejections, stagnancy, anxiety and insults had all got washed away with that award and I was sure that I will have work till my end unless I manage to goof up something. I got the confidence after the release of Myna. I had struggled all my life only for these words of praise and I enjoyed them all. Since I had enjoyed all those plaudits after the release, I could not much take in the excitement and happiness when the National Award was announced. It is like asking someone who is married after many years of live-in-relationship about his nuptial night.


I am not being arrogant here, but just being practical. I had never felt like jumping around in joy or celebrating it. Till date, I have not even made use of the benefits arising out of winning a National Award. Since my early childhood, I am conditioned to struggle and toil which had become a way of life with me and hence I don’t feel like celebrating success. In fact, I am afraid of success. 

It is like asking someone who is married after many years of live-in-relationship about his nuptial night


Having worked with Ajith  and Vijay, how do you see them as individuals?

They are unique and special in their own way. Besides that they do have commonalities. Both have a huge fan base and are enormously focused on their work.  They are extremely hard working too. Nobody can reach the top spot without hard work.  Success, fame and money can come to you through sheer luck, but one has to work hard to sustain them.


Every time, when they face failure, I am sure they must have shed tears, must have gotten afraid; they must have gone through this. Without these, they could not have scaled the peak. They have the pressure to sustain their success and satisfy their fans. Responsibility and fear will always be present for them. If this trait is not there, they will not be where they are now. That is their uniqueness and specialty.


Both of them have helping tendencies; they think beyond themselves and approach their next film with fear and anxiety. These things make them very special. 


Wish you all the best sir!


Jyothsna Bhavanishankar



Ajith and Vijay must have shed tears, must have gotten afraid



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