'Who wouldn't like being compared to Rajini sir?''
... says actor-cinematographer Natarajan Subramaniam aka Natty, who plays a meaty role in the just-released Richie
Richie is Natty’s first multi-starrer, and among his bigger releases as an actor. “Yes, it's my first multi-starrer but the reason I got on board was because my role got expanded in the film," says Natty who hasn't seen the original, Ulidavaru Kandanthe. "The director asked me not to watch the original as he felt I may get influenced by it. I watched the Kannada film only after Richie's release."
He talks about a role reversal for both Nivin Pauly and himself. "While I have done a lot of negative roles, Nivin is mainly known for his romantic roles. Gautham (the director) deliberately made Nivin play a character with grey shades while I got a love track in the film." Natty elaborates on his character: "My character, Selva, is a boat mechanic who moves to a new place where he encounters love and friendship. I liked the dash and dash-dash story, and how the main characters meet up at the end."
While Sathuranga Vettai was the film that gave him much-needed recognition, he isn’t in its sequel. "I'm trying to avoid appearing in similar roles as I feel the audience might get bored. Also, let me be honest. I wasn't approached for the sequel. Perhaps, Manobala sir will make it into a franchise and eventually give me a role again (laughs)."
Natty is also working on quite a few projects as cinematographer, but he doesn’t believe in doing them at the same time. "It's all about time management," he explains. "If I'm doing cinematography, I don’t commit to acting roles during that time." That’s why he says he’s choosy about his scripts. "I don't take on all projects, be it for acting or cinematography. I look for good scripts."
He is also trying to find across genres. "Up next, I've got a film with director Jagan titled Godfather. It is an urban script. I’m also doing Nerunguda Papom, a village script, and then another film with the makers of Ambuli, and a film with Siddarth Venkat. They're all completely different," he says. Other films he’s working on include Ketta Paiyan Sir Ivan, with R Sunderrajan's son Deepak, and Vada Magane, a script written by Perarasu and directed by his assistant. On the cinematography front, he's got Jr NTR's next directed by Trivikram Srinivas.
I love working with Amitabh Bachchan sir. There is so much to learn from him. I'm glad I got to capture him with my camera in Eklavya: The Royal Guard. In Tamil, I've worked with Vijay and can't wait to work with Rajinikanth sir, Mani sir and Shankar sir.
Natty thinks that the simple difference between cinematography and acting is that, "If you're in front of the camera, you have to look after your looks (laughs)." Which of the two roles does he find more difficult? "Cinematography, for sure, because you have to keep a lot of things in mind. You are practically a co-director. But as an actor, you can afford to just to think of your own role." He says that the cinematographer in him occasionally peeps out when he's working as an actor. "But I know there's another professional behind the camera; so I concentrate on my own work, unless I'm asked for advice."
He’s glad that cinematography hasn’t taken a back seat despite his foray into acting. "Even in 2016, I did A Aa, which was a blockbuster in Telugu cinema. In Tamil, however, I'm still waiting for a good script and a good team." He says this is also why he doesn't work on as many Hindi films now — his last Hindi film was Holiday (2014).
I ask if he perhaps looks for experience when it comes to being a cinematographer? "Not really. I did Puli with Chimbu Deven who was only four films old then. I'm also working on a project with Krishna Chaitanya, who's only a film old, for a project produced by Trivikram Srinivas and Pawan Kalyan."
While Natty has worked as a technician in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam, his acting stint has been limited to Tamil cinema. "I've got offers from other languages too, but I'm not fluent in those languages. Also, my commitments here keep me quite busy. But yes, I am open to the idea."
I can’t help but ask him about his body language that seems inspired by Rajinikanth. Natty laughs. “If walking and talking fast, and having flowy hair makes me get compared to Rajini sir, I'm ready to accept it. Who wouldn't like being compared to him? To those who say so, sashtangama namaskaram pannikuren."