Saturday, March 21, 2015
The return of Karthik
It seemed like the interview would never happen. Karthik was caught up with a court case and it took weeks of back-and-forth messages before we finally settled on meeting last week at the Hotel Raintree coffee shop. But once there, any awkwardness was felled by the unassuming and charming Karthik. Excerpts:
So, you’re back.
(Laughs) Yes. Glad I am. I’ve had a terrible few years. I went broke, had family disputes... Some legal issues are still going on. But I’m learning to put them all behind me.
Would you mind elaborating?
Not at all. As a successful actor, I don’t mind discussing my life at all. Where do I start? Many investments went wrong. I didn’t know how to manage my finances. There were people who took me for a ride. But I have changed my outlook. I’m not as naïve anymore. I’ve even quit drinking. I feel a passion for films again. I’ve lost weight, become fitter. My loose pants are evidence! (he laughs and points.)
My faith in god has rejuvenated me. See these? (He pulls out several neck chains from under his shirt.)The amulet on this one is based on the Quran. This one is my father Muthuraman. This is Mother Mary. And this, here, is a vel, a symbol of Muruga. God has helped me rise again. Anegan’s success is testament to that.
What made you play a villain in Anegan?
K.V. Anand started by telling me that he had bet his friend I wouldn’t sign the film. That got me hooked. I spent an entire night after the narration to decide. I remembered that during the making ofRaavanan, my friend Mani (Ratnam) suggested I play a villain sometime. It didn’t seem like a bad idea at all. I also liked that my character in Anegan had multiple shades. Even though he’s ruthless in business, there’s a certain tenderness too about him. After being rebuffed in love, he lives life as a bachelor. These were a few things that convinced me.
Multiple shades? You play a character who kills people and drives his employees insane!
(Laughs) There were a few scenes cut at the end. I’m sure K.V. had his reasons for doing so, but if they had been retained, you’d have seen what I mean.
Dhanush mimics you at the very end of the film. Did you think it was accurate?
Tell me, am I talking anything like what he did at the end? No. It was done as an exaggeration, and to play to the gallery. Anything to make films entertaining, you know.
You have to admit you have a unique manner of dialogue delivery.
During my early days as an actor, I noticed while dubbing that my voice sounded disconcertingly similar to my dad’s. I realised I must create an identity for myself, and tried to alter my dialogue delivery. And then, it crept into my real life as well.
Have you received more offers to play the bad guy?
Quite a lot, in fact. I have turned them all down. Right now, I’m focussed on Amaran 2 with director Rajeshwar, and on writing a film script.
Will you direct and star in the script you’re writing?
Yes, I will. I’ve always had a passion for writing. I was a pretty decent poet even as a teenager. The story I’m writing is about an older man falling in love with a much younger woman. I hope to release it by the end of the year.
Something like Cheeni Kum?
Perhaps. But hey, I’m not as old as Amitabh Bachchan. I’m also excited about Amaran 2. We (Rajeshwar and I) will be altering the story to suit contemporary tastes, of course.
Since you’re much older now, you probably won’t be fighting as much in the sequel?
I’ve never been fond of gravity-defying stunt scenes. I think films are better off without them.
You also tried your hand at politics a few years ago, didn’t you?
I started Naadalum Makkal Katchi with the intention of fighting caste-based politics. I have since learned that politics can be a thankless affair.
I find your aim to rid politics of caste interesting, as it was just a few years ago when you actively lobbied to have the Madurai Airport named after Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar, an icon of the Thevar community.
The man is bigger than his caste. He is a national leader and I thought it was important to acknowledge his social contributions. My party, these days, is more a social outfit that tries to help the underprivileged. I’m not sure what the future holds for my political career. But films, I’m confident about.
What do you like most about your second innings in films?
I love the freedom I have. I wish I had as much liberty ten years ago, when I kept getting uninspiring, one-dimensional roles. I also think I’m a much better actor today. In short, I’m having so much more fun.