Karthi: If appa hadn’t come to Chennai, we would have been farmers
The actor plays a farmer in Kadaikutty Singam which has opened to largely positive reviews
It looks like Karthi found a dream role in last week’s Pandiraj directorial Kadaikutty Singam -- that of a farmer. He feels strongly about the lack of ethical practices in the agricultural industry. “Suddenly, people have woken up to agriculture. People are ready to buy organic products even if they are expensive. But when corporates get into farming, they don’t care about the nutrition, only about profit. Are we really aware of what we’re eating and where it’s coming from?” asks Karthi, almost voicing his character, Gunasingam. Excerpts from a conversation with the actor follow:
You had previously stated that your family is into farming.
If appa hadn’t come to Chennai, we would have become farmers. So I could relate to everything that happens in Kadaikutty Singam. Some people questioned why certain characters cried in some scenes. It tells me how unaware people in the city are of the lifestyle in villages. It makes me very sad.
Were you worried about being too preachy about agriculture in the film?
Yes, we were very careful about that. Everyone has the knowledge. So, arivurutha thevai illa, nenaivurutina pothum (smiles).
Was the joint family set up also something you could relate to?
Absolutely. A joint family doesn’t mean everyone living harmoniously. But it does act as a support system. I was talking to someone from the US who had some problem related to marriage. He had to go to three counsellors to find a solution. If he was in a joint family, we’d say, Kalyanam na appadi thaan da irrukum, ennakum appadi thaan da irruku and the issue would end there. Such support and reassurance is priceless.
Kadaikutty Singam has an ensemble cast. What was it like to work on such a film?
Each character is unique and not just part of the crowd. Each actor had a scene to score and each one carried it off so beautifully. I used to joke that we were like the Baahubali family. For instance, in a scene with Ilavarasu sir, I felt like I was talking with my own mama. With Sathyaraj sir, I was the same irrespective of whether the camera was on or not. The grandma in the film is actually Keerthy Suresh’s paati. We all shared great comfort and got attached to each other. During the last day’s shoot, many of us even cried.
It didn’t seem to me like director Pandiraj infused the film with a lot of heroism.
Avan (his character) vanthaale heroism thaan (laughs). That’s the advantage of a village subject. The scene where he says senjathey sollikaatadhe maa is also a display of his heroism. People clap for such a scene too. So action alone isn’t heroism.
After seeing the film, a lady said she spoke to her brother who she hadn’t spoken to for years. Priya Bhavani Shankar’s mother has five sisters and a brother. All of them, along with her grandfather who had never stepped into a theatre for 20 years, saw the film. And they all felt like it was a slice of their life.
The film is produced by your brother, Suriya. What was it like to work with him for the first time?
It was all comfortable. We loved the script; so every time we shot, we were trying to make it better. There were no arguments as everybody wanted the best. Anna would often call and check if the hotel and food were good — not just for the actors but for the entire unit. Such care made us all feel connected.
Is it a conscious decision to strike a balance between urban and rural films?
Not really. I wanted to play a farmer as we don’t see that profession on the big screen these days. It’s important to remind people about the lives of farmers as well. Moreover, only those who understand it and have lived that life can pull it off. Pandiraj sir is one of the very few who can execute such a film. He was so emotionally attached to the film; he even cried while shooting a lot of scenes.
Do you factor in your appeal to the Telugu audiences when choosing films?
I just have to like a story and character. Kadaikutty Singam is about an agricultural family and will work all over South India. It’s not an alien subject. Such a film about families hadn’t come in either industry for a long time; so it made sense to release it in both languages.
You started out as an assistant director and even recently you said you wish to direct Suriya. Is there something in the pipeline?
I’m not sure if I’ll do it anytime soon. I’ve realised that I’m not a good writer (laughs). But there’s no rush for me to direct. If I get a good story that I can translate into a script, I’ll do it.
Tell us about your next film, Dev.
We’re halfway through the filming. It will be similar to Paiyaa. It’s about romance, friendship, and travel. How people view relationships is evolving so how the next generation views it is what we’ve worked on. I’ve also zeroed in on two other scripts.