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Monday, April 21, 2014
Like father, like son
The Hindu Daily ~ Gautham Interveiew:
With both grandfather and father heartthrobs of their generations, Gautham Karthik has a tough act to follow. With four films in the bag, he talks to Udhav Naig about keeping up the family name
Gautham Karthik’s Poes Garden office is a quaint place. Built according to the old Madras idea of luxury, everything in it is a bit from the past. Gautham is the third person from his family to occupy this office after father Karthik Muthuraman and grandfather R. Muthuraman. The office has a bit of history, as might be expected. The story goes that Gautham’s father and the 80s’ heartthrob Karthik was introduced to the press for the first time by his father Muthuraman, the popular 60s’ star, when making his film debut. When Gautham came in, it was widely expected that he would take Karthik’s place in the film industry but it hasn’t exactly gone according to script. Having spent most of his life away from Chennai and his family, Gautham shares little in common with his father and grandfather. For instance, he drives a Harley Davidson to work and speaks more in English than Tamil. But if one thing does connect them, it’s cinema.
When film aficionados discovered that Karthik’s son was going to be launched in a Mani Ratnam film, they immediately expected that he would become an overnight star much like his father had become with Alaigal Oivathillai. But Kadal did not quite make the mark, and Gautham is not a star yet. Interestingly, though, Gautham is not prepared to write off the experience. “Everybody thought the film would be a big hit and I would become a star overnight. Unfortunately, it didn’t do as well as we expected although there are people who loved it. But I learnt a lot about the process of making a film. For instance, Rajeev Menon would talk to me in detail about camera angles, lenses and about how to light a frame. While I was dubbing for the film, Mani Ratnam would tell me how he was going to edit the film. In hindsight, I think I got a lot out of the film.”
And now, Gautham has signed on four films, indications that his career might yet take off dramatically. The four movies he has taken on (Yennamo Yedho, Vai Raja Vai, Sippai, Indrajith) are each in a different genre — romantic comedy, thriller, commercial pot-boiler and children’s film. Was this deliberate? “I want to do as many genres to figure out what I can and cannot do,” he says. Yet it’s clear that the expectation of becoming a heartthrob like his father still burns bright. His next release will be Yennamo Yedho, a remake of Telugu flick Ala Modalaindi. “It’s a romantic comedy,” he says.
It hasn't been easy to meet expectations. “I have often been asked to get more involved in love scenes but I find it difficult. Thanks to my father's reputation, I am expected to do more love stories. I always get told that ‘You have to do films like that and this’. Thankfully, my dad has asked me to do my own thing.” And surprisingly for a star kid, daddy does not seem to be interfering much. “I do take his inputs though.”
For now, the other three films are getting ready for release. “I am quite surprised at the pace at which these films are getting shot,” says the youngster. Ask him about his ‘big’ film, Vai Raja Vai, which is directed by Aishwarya Dhanush, and he says “It’s about a young graduate who gets pulled into a world of gambling and struggles to get out of it. It was tough to work with Aishwarya Dhanush. She is so sharp and alert to pick on the mistakes.”
Does he identify at least partially with his father’s roots? “Only after coming to Chennai, I started to find out about my family and my father’s political activism.” He might have become an actor like his father but he is clear he wants nothing to do with politics. “As a son, I will support my dad in whatever he does, but I don’t want to get involved,” he says. As he prepares to leave for Bangalore on his motorcycle, he talks excitedly about Sippai, his first full-length commercial feature revolving around the violent clashes that unfolded at Law College. “I play a very upright student. It revolves around the incidents that happened a few years ago in Law College. This film will be a mass, masala film.”
Clearly, this is one son who wants to go one step further than the father.