Karthi and the khakhi
Six years after Siruthai, Karthi plays a cop again in this week’s Theeran Adhigaram Ondru. The film is based on a real case handled by the Tamil Nadu police
Theeran Adhigaram Ondru, releasing this week, is Karthi's second outing as a cop after Siruthai, which turned out to be a super hit. Naturally, he's excited. "There's something special about the khaki. The moment you wear it, you feel a sense of power," he says. "I've a lot of respect for policemen. It's amazing how far they push themselves for their work." He says we often make uninformed judgements about police officers. "How many of us can really claim to know about their lives?" he asks.
Theeran... will be a lot different from Siruthai, he explains. "That wasn't a typical cop story. This, however, is about an upright cop. The story is inspired by a real dacoity case handled by the Tamil Nadu police," he adds.
Interestingly, Karthi had once researched about this very same case. "So, when Vinoth (director) came to me with a script based on it, it almost felt like the film was meant to be," he smiles.
It's a cop film, and so, emotions run high. "Any film for that matter needs such drama. We don't want to end up with a film that feels like a documentary," he laughs. "In Theeran... we have shown how cops work around their limitations. We also talk about the cultural differences between regions."
The film’s events unfold between 1995 and 2005, and there's a lot of focus on keeping the film's characters real. "What are some of the difficulties cops would have faced without the technological advancements of today? We found the possibilities quite exciting."
Up next, I am working on a rural drama with Pasanga Pandiraj. After Komban, I am returning to a village script. The best thing about these films is how I don't have to worry about looking good. (Laughs)
There's an interesting shot in the teaser which shows Karthi rising from under the sands in a desert. "We shot those portions in Rajasthan. I was under the sand for two-and-a-half minutes holding my breath. I have never felt more claustrophobic."
After Siruthai, Karthi was getting a lot of cop roles. "I refused to bite, and waited till I got Saguni. The film wasn't appreciated at the time, but now, when people see it on television, they tell me they liked it. Even government officials and IAS officers have complimented me saying it's my best film yet." Karthi believes there's a sequel in Siruthai. "The comedy with Santhanam really worked. I wouldn't mind a sequel at all."
If Suriya, Jyotika and I get a fantastic script, we'd definitely do a film!
Our conversation veers to Kaatru Veliyidai, which released to mixed responses. "Mani sir didn't make a regular film, and my character wasn't like his usual heroes. No director could have imagined me like that. Yen, ennalaye enna apdi imagine panna mudiyala! It took me time to understand Varun Chakrapani (VC) and his character. Many fighter pilots are like that because they go through a lot in life."
I point out that some even thought Kaatru Veliyidai, perhaps the biggest film of his career, was misogynistic. Pat comes the reply: "Neither Mani Ratnam nor I say that a woman should bear all that abuse from her boyfriend. But personally, I know of strong women who are similar to Leela. Many women messaged me saying that they could relate to the character. Some even hated me for the character I played."
He pauses a bit and says, "Mani sir would say that we all have a VC in us and that it's better that we accept the truth.” Karthi’s asked his wife (Ranjani) not to watch his romantic films. "She's possessive," he laughs.
I am still scared of appa (Sivakumar). I can't act when he's around. Maybe, that's why a film with him has never happened.
Life has come full circle for Karthi during the last decade: he's gone from assisting Mani Ratnam in Aayutha Ezhuthu to acting in his film. "I was obese then and wasn't confident about my body at all." Discipline, perseverance and passion, he says, have made him what he is today. "Sustenance is what matters ultimately," he says.
He thinks of himself as a director's actor. "I share a good bond with all filmmakers I've worked, including Ameer sir, Selvaraghavan, Pa Ranjith, Gokul and Muthiah. The filmmaker in me rests when I'm acting, but I do give inputs. Actors also know things, okay?"
He can't see himself venturing into production though. "Why should I, when I have Suriya around?"