I haven't repeated old mistakes in Devarattam: Gautham Karthik
The actor whose rural thriller, Devarattam, directed by Muthaiah is hitting the screens tomorrow talks about the caste-based content in the film, the inevitable comparison to Muthuramalingam, and more
The castiest overtones and Gautham Karthik's makeover are two striking aspects of the promos of his upcoming film, Devarattam, directed by Muthaiah. The actor who has beefed up for the project has become an 'asal Maduraikaraan' it seems. Words like Vandhapla, Poitapla... have become a part of his vocabulary. I ask if Devarattam is a film that glorifies caste, and he enthusiastically pulls out his phone, and points out a screenshot - of the Wikipage of a dance form called Devarattam. "Our film's title refers to this dance form and not the caste." He says the film is like a window into the life of the people of a community. "I wouldn't call it glorification. It's a film aimed at a wider audience and I believe they will love it."
Excerpts from the conversation:
Could it be assumed that Vetri, your character in Devarattam, is a distant cousin of Muthuramalingam?
I accept that both films have similar themes, but, there are absolutely no similarities. I haven't repeated the mistakes I made in Muthuramalingam. The look and treatment of the films are also drastically different. Vetri is not a villager like Muthuramalingam, he is a graduate and a lawyer, but he is a rare kind of lawyer who fights for justice outside of the court.
What is the central theme of Devarattam?
The film carries a strong social message about violence against women. These issues have happened many times previously but there was hardly any awareness about it. When such incidents happen, people have been silent or ignorant. This is very disturbing. Director Muthaiah wanted to question this silence through a film and motivate the people to rise up during such situations and question the accused irrespective of their stature. People are longing to see such change in society and they are tired of the injustice surrounding them. Vetri will be the reflection of the frustration in all of us.
Any apprehensions that the film might romanticise violence?
That's a delicate line. We were very particular not to cross it. The film doesn't glorify or romanticise violence. Whenever Vetri does something to stand up for others, he ends up facing backlash in his life in some form. The judgement is left to the audience, they can decide what to take away from our film.
Did you have the confidence to pull off such a role?
To be honest, I was scared, but I decided to face it in parts. Firstly, Vetri is a person who can single-handedly take on multiple goons. I looked at the mirror and realised I was nowhere close to that. So I decided to take gymming serious and began learning stunts from Power Pandi master. But when it came to dialogues, dialect and the sensibilities of the community, I submitted myself as an open book to Muthaiah. I believe he has extracted the best out of me.
You seem to have shot majorly in live locations for the film.
Yes! 99 per cent of the film has been shot in locations around Sellur in Madurai. We had a constant crowd of people watching us every day. Interestingly, none of them caused any disturbance; instead, they actively participated in the shooting. When we pulled-off a good shot, they cheered us saying, "Thala, nee pannu thala! Super thala!" I just started absorbing their energy and pouring it into the character. Apart from the days we shot for the action sequences, and I made sure I met at least a hundred of them every day. They had a lot of stories to share with me, about appa and some even spoke at length about thatha. It was very heartening to hear such things from them.
Can you name one genre you want to be a part of and maybe a genre you would never do?
I very badly want to do a historical fantasy. It's my dream to work on such a film. I always have much fascination for historical stories where the heroes fight with swords instead of guns. If I get such an offer, I would dedicate my heart and soul to it. On the flip side, I don't see myself doing an adult comedy anytime soon. I've done two films back to back and I guess my quota is over.
Critical acclaim or box office success?
I would choose critical acclaim any day. But my producers would love to get their collections back. (laughs) Films like Rangoon failed at the box office just because my market was down back then. The failure of the project affected me a lot as everyone in the unit had dedicated their heart and soul for the project. Now, people see the film at home and message me on social media saying that they loved it. Though I thank them outwardly, every single time, I think, "Andha time la theatre la parthukalaam la neenga?"