Thambi Ramaiah: I came into cinema to be a lyricist
The actor has returned to direction after a decade with last week's release Maniyar Kudumbam
Positivity and indefatigability define Thambi Ramaiah, and his longevity in the industry. The busy artiste -- now best known as a comedy actor -- directed Vadivelu in the 2008 film, Indiralohathil Na Azhagappan. And now ten years later, he returns to the director's seat for his son Umapathy's second film, Maniyar Kudumbam.
Why has it taken a decade for you to direct another film?
I got busy with my acting commitments. But I got to discuss films with my directors, and satiated my directorial appetite. I have always wanted to direct a clean family film and as my son has also evolved into an actor now, things fell into place. People around me have pointed out that I've worked with many new faces and that I should do a film with my son. And so I have.
Was it difficult to return to a craft you hadn't practised for so long?
Actually, it was easy. You see, every day I visit a new set and I consider all my directors to be my gurus. On the sets, I consider myself an assistant director and an assistant dialogue writer. The actor in me takes the third spot. My directors also see me as a technician, and when they ask, I give my inputs too. So, putting on the director's hat wasn't tough.
With Maniyar Kudumbam, you're also debuting as a composer.
I've given up on half a dozen films to make room for directing this film; so I couldn't wait longer for a music director. Moreover, I came into this industry to become a lyricist and compose music. I wouldn't call this a late entry as my love for music has always persisted. At the end of the day, I'm in the industry that I wanted to be and that's all that matters.
Apart from that, you've also produced and acted in the film as well.
Sounds challenging, right? Athu oru sugamana sumai and I loved doing it. When it's for my son, it's a pleasure. I'm getting positive reviews and one even said that this film should've been shown at film festivals. So it all feels good now.
How was it to direct your son Umapathy?
To be honest, I didn't do anything special just because he's my son. It's a simple story. Oru kaaviyam padaikale naan. We haven't resorted to heroism. I gave him the freedom to be himself in front of the camera. He's a good dancer and shines in action sequences too.
You're acting in many films simultaneously. How do you bring uniqueness to each character?
I read a lot, and interact with everyone. If a 75-year-old woman sells vegetables on the road, I'll go to her and speak to her for 30 minutes. On the other hand, we also see 20-year-olds who burn their fathers' money by drinking and wasting away. Every person -- an auto driver who charges fairly, a practical employer who apologises for being rude, a sexual predator, shrews -- teaches me something about them. I try to keep up.
Mother sentiment ruled the roost in Tamil cinema, and yet, you've somehow managed to create a niche for father roles.
A fellow actor told me the same recently and even director Vijay told me that my acting will be spoken about in the future. At my age, it's a lot of encouragement.
How do you keep yourself updated?
Earlier, there were separate comedy tracks, but now, comedians are supporting actors. There's no one called a comedian. The audience has evolved and so have we.
Your next big film is Viswasam.
It is shaping up really well. Naan thaan thalaiku thaaimaaman (smiles). I've got another 20 days of shoot left which will be canned in Hyderabad, Pune and Mumbai.
A WORD ON CO-STARS
Vijay - A person with great values who takes good care of his physique well
Ajith - A humble person
Suriya - Earned his place in the industry with hard work
Vikram - A multi-faceted person who took his steps up carefully
Dhanush - A person who instills confidence in youngsters
Sivakarthikeyan - My elder son
Nayanthara - My sister