'I washed cars for a living'
With Maragadha Naanayam bringing him many accolades, Munishkanth talks to CE about his foray into Tamil cinema, upcoming projects and more
Known for his iconic voice, when Munishkanth picked up my call and answered, “Vanakkam Gopi”, I couldn’t but get reminded of his famous line in Mundasupatti where he looks at Vishnu Vishal and emotionally says, “Gopi, kevalam oru 5 rubaiku unga adimai-a vechi enne asinga padhuthitingale?”
He laughs at the reference and says, “My whole career started with director Ram’s short film, Mundasupatti, that was made for a TV show. The artist who performed the role wasn’t available for dubbing, and I got the opportunity to lend my voice to his character, thanks to my friend Kaali Venkat who introduced me to the team.”
When Ram decided to make it into a feature film, Munishkanth tentatively approached him to find out if he could land a role. “Ram asked me if I was open to playing any character, and I, of course, said yes. He made me recite the lines of the Munishkanth character, and after he was satisfied with the rehearsal, gave me Rs.1000 and asked me to buy some 80s clothes and accessories,” says the comedian, who later did a screen test before bagging the role, after the producer was impressed with the rushes.
And that’s how the man named Ramdoss became Munishkanth. “I was originally getting credited as Ramdoss, but after Mundasupatti, other directors preferred to refer to me by that character’s name and it’s stuck ever since.”
The actor agrees that his voice became his ticket to stardom. “Director Ram was the first to point out that my voice is a big plus, and, fortunately, it has turned out to be true.”
He remembers when things weren’t so rosy about 15 years back when he tried to break into Tamil cinema. He had to work odd jobs to make ends meet. “I worked at the Koyambedu market, and later, I washed cars for a living,” he says in a matter-of-fact tone.
He was able to work in a few films as a junior artist, and eked out a living that way for another three years. “I circulated my portfolio to every company I knew of.” He surprises me by revealing that he came to Chennai to try and become a villain in Tami cinema. “Years of watching movies in my village made me aspire to be a terrifying villain,” says the actor who tried his hand at a negative role in the dark comedy, Bruce Lee. “I wasn’t quite satisfied with my role in that film. But I’m glad that the small emotional sequence at the end of Maragadha Naanayam is being received well,” adds the actor, who plays a ghost in the film to hilarious effect. “I want to do at least three films as a villain before I get back to comedy again,” he says.
The actor may be on a successful run now, but doesn’t forget his share of failures. “I guess those happened because I look only at my character when accepting scripts,” he says. But why won’t be ask to read the full script then? “You see, some directors feel insecure when I ask them that. They even fear that I might steal their story (laughs). I don’t want to spoil the rapport I have with them, and so, I trust them with the script. Cinema is an industry that runs completely based on trust,” he says. “Unfortunately what’s told to us during discussion isn’t often what gets made finally. I can’t stay uptight about it though. An actor has to keep moving on.”
While predominantly featuring alongside up-and-coming actors, Munishkanth has also worked with top actors like Vikram (10 Endrathukulla) and Suriya (Pasanga 2). “I was extremely nervous when acting with them. I’ve always looked up to them, and the days shooting with them are something I’ll always cherish,” says the actor who feels the difference between established stars and new actors lies only in the way we perceive them. He admits to sharing great rapport with the younger stars. “As I’ve worked with Vishnu Vishal before, working with him again now is very comfortable. The same was the case with Aadhi who was very friendly.”
Munishkanth’s upcoming films include Ratchasan with Vishnu Vishal and Amala Paul, Prabhudheva’s Karuppu Raja Vellai Raja with Vishal and Karthi, Sivakarthikeyan’s Velaikkaran and Andava Kaanom. The actor also got selected to star in Bala’s Nachiyar, but couldn’t commit to it due to date clashes. He has come a long way indeed.