Mu Ramaswamy: Training in just theatre is not enough for cinema
Mu Ramaswamy and Nagavishal, the lead actors of director Madhumita's KD (a) Karuppu Durai, share their experience of working together in the film
Minutes into my interview with Mu Ramaswamy and Nagavishal, the leads of Madhumita's recently-released emotional drama KD (a) Karuppu Durai, I cannot help but notice the stark difference in how the two actors answer my questions. While the septuagenarian takes his time to process a question and delivers answers validated by his personal experiences, the 12-year-old shoots super-fast answers and eagerly awaits his turn with infectious energy. Mu Ramaswamy is an ardent fan of the late actor-politician MG Ramachandran, just like his character Karuppu Durai. He respects his idol so much that he initially refused KD as it had smoking and drinking scenes, which MGR avoided doing in his own films. Nagavishal, on the other hand, introduces himself as a 'thala' Ajith fan and wishes to act in at least one film with the star.
You would expect a child like Nagavishal to be naturally intimidated when sharing screen space with a trained theatre actor like Mu Ra. But Nagavishal, who hasn't had any prior experience in acting, says he had zero fears. "The first thing that Madhumita ma'am taught me was not to look at the camera. So I completely forgot the fact that I was standing before one. Mu Ra ayya en sondha thatha madhri dhaan nenachen, which made things very easy for me." Mu Ra, whose titular character travels with Nagavishal's Kutty through the film, sees the boy as a perfectly competent co-actor. "Vishal was brought on board only after an audition process. I felt this was sufficient to prove his capacity as a performer.
I should thank the writer, Sabarivaasan Shanmugam, as his dialogues did most of the hard work in making our relationship convincing to the audience. All we had to do was stick to the script."
"Mu Ra thatha was always there to guide me during the emotional scenes. Whenever I went overboard he would stop me and say, 'Konjam kammiya pannu da nala irukum'. Madhumita ma'am too knew how to extract the best from me," says Nagavishal, who adds that shooting for KD felt like an extended vacation with family and he never found the process tedious. There were two things he had some trouble with, however. One was addressing Mu Ra as "po ya, va ya" onscreen. The other, delivering a few lines in chaste Tamil. "The night scene where I recite the Aridhu aridhu Avvaiyaar poem took me 27 takes. It was around 1 o'clock when we shot it. The odd timing and the campfire in close proximity only made things even more challenging Somehow I cracked it finally."
Throughout the film, Kutty makes fun of KD. About facing that from a child, Mu Ra says, "If it was an adult doing the same in reality, I would be instantly angered. But how could I not find it endearing when it was from a kid of my grandchild's age?" He adds that playing Karuppu Durai came easy to him as he could relate to the character. "Though I haven't been exposed much to the custom of thalaikoothal, feeling neglected by our loved ones is a frustrating, yet common experience. This helped me get into the skin of the character. I guess I've reached an age where I would embrace death if it comes my way. So playing the part was never an emotionally-draining experience."
Asked if Mu Ra's experience as a theatre artist helped his journey in cinema, he says, "Most people assume that theatre actors would find everything easy in cinema. But, cinema involved a lot of learning and unlearning. I am a person who still feels acting in a therukoothu with no restrictions of space, microphones, and cameras, is the purest form of acting." About the common belief that people get trained in the theatre only to enter the cinema, he adds, "I seriously doubt if such preparation alone can be considered an entry ticket to the film industry. Training in theatre will remove shyness from a person and meditation will help them focus better. But, I want to reiterate that cinema is altogether a different arena."
Nagavishal, who entered the industry without any such training, says getting into films was completely his call and a result of his love of cinema. "I enjoy all kinds of films and the thought of being on the silver screen has always excited me, so when I got the offer I just grabbed it. I plan to continue to act during holidays if good offers come my way."