I'd be a nobody without Simbu: Santhanam
The actor, whose comedy, Sakka Podu Podu Raja, is clashing with Velaikkaran this Friday, hopes that the film will leave audiences in splits
Santhanam was once a busy comedian who was working on multiple projects at once, but now — after his transformation into a hero — he’s more comfortable doing a film a year. The actor has become conscious about his looks and is constantly working on it. “Hero-va aana idhellam venume. Earlier, I didn’t have to worry about these things, but of late, expectations have changed,” he smiles.
Awaiting the release of Sakka Podu Podu Raja this week, which also marks the music composing debut of Simbu, Santhanam says that despite stiff opposition, he’s continued to play lead roles in films like Inimey Ippadithaan and Dhilukku Dhuddu. “I wasn’t welcomed when I took the decision to shoulder a film on my own,” he says, refusing to pick names.
Talking about Sakka Podu Podu Raja, which has VTV Ganesh, Robo Shankar, Mayilsamy, Powerstar Srinivasan and Vivekh in supporting roles, Santhanam says the film will get the audience laughing out loud throughout. “Though there are as many as five comedians, everyone gets considerable screen space,” he tells us.
How does he think his comedy tracks work on screen these days? “Edho poitruku,” he says, modestly, and quickly adds, “I spend a lot of time with my team and bounce off ideas. These people know me for a long time (from my Lollu Sabha days), and are aware of my strengths and weaknesses. The interesting aspect is that, most of the punch dialogues I deliver are spontaneous. Moreover, when a producer trusts me and invests money, I’ve to do justice, right?”
Santhanam is careful about his choice of films, and believes that only the story and his characterisation truly matter. “Just because I am doing films, it doesn’t mean I’ll do something I am not comfortable with. I know my limits. I was fed up playing comedy roles, and wanted to evolve. Evlo naal dhaan hero friend-a vey irupen!”
The transition has been a lot of hard work, he admits. “I try not to overact. I just do the best I can to enhance the story. I ensure I don’t repeat myself. Even as a comedian, I never did.” He explains, “When I did comedy tracks, they existed as separate portions, but now I choose scripts that are more inclusive of humour. I’ve also evolved as an artiste and a person. Back during the day, I would make digs at everything and laugh. But now, I’m a bit more serious, you could say,” he laughs.
He says he owes everything to Simbu. “He’s my godfather. If he hadn’t given me a chance in Manmadhan, I’d be nowhere. It was VTV Ganesh’s suggestion to rope in STR as the composer of this film, and it was nice of him to oblige. He barely took a week to compose all the five songs we needed.”
Santhanam, who has Server Sundaram, Oodi Oodi Uzhaikanum, an untitled project with Rajesh, and Mannavan Vanthanadi in the pipeline, is aware of the responsibility of being an actor. “We are constantly held responsible for what we say. So, I have decided to keep my content clean. A lot of kids enjoy my films, and watch them again and again.” Of his upcoming films, he’s particularly excited about the one directed by Selvaraghavan. “He’s a dedicated filmmaker who’s always done intense scripts. Not many know how funny he is. Mannavan Vanthanadi will be a full-on Selvaraghavan outing intermingled with my approach towards acting. It was a challenge for me because I had to remember to slow down when acting for this film.”
The topic shifts to the acceptance TV personalities have had in Tamil cinema. “When I took the plunge, it was difficult. People looked down upon my background,” he recalls.
Sakka Podu Podu Raja is releasing alongside Sivakarthikeyan’s Velaikkaran on December 22, but Santhanam doesn’t think Siva is competition. “Maybe the competition is between our films, which is healthy. Ego irundha dhaan thappu. Adhu illa,” he clarifies.
He hopes to turn director sometime. “Definitely soon!” he says. “I am slowly getting familiar with all the departments of filmmaking.” Santhanam may be well-known for his humour, but he’s also philosophical in speech. “I am very spiritual too,” he says. “I’ve a different image as an actor, but I am not the same in my life. I was able to do many things because I stepped out of my comfort zone. That’s how you develop skills,” he says. Turning hero is, of course, the furthest he’s stepped out of his comfort zone.