Srikanth: I am unaffected by trolling
The actot talks about his 18-year journey in cinema and his path ahead in the industry
Actors are considered to be some of the luckiest people on the planet. Strangers adore them. Strangers celebrate them. And of course, the flip side is, strangers have an opinion on everything they do. John Travolta famously said, "Acting is a mix of luck and choice. I got lucky." Srikanth, who recently completed 18 years in cinema, has seen a fair share of luck and choice not going his way. "I believe there is no other actor in Tamil cinema who has faced problems, accidents and hurdles like me. Beyond all that, if I'm still in the industry, I have to thank god and the audience who have given me a place in their hearts."
While this belief might feel too much of a stretch, listen to his story about his start-stop debuts, and you get a sense on why he feels so. "I was to be launched in Kadhal Virus. I spent a year training for that film, but one fine day, I was not part of it anymore. I was devastated. Then, I was supposed to be launched by Bharathiraja sir. There was also a proposed launch under KB sir, but that too didn't work out. Then, 12B was supposed to be my debut. Even for Roja Koottam, a good friend of mine had the part. In a twist of fate, he backed out for some reason, and there I was with my debut film with Sasi sir," he says. Doesn't this swing of fortune get tiring? "Cinema is a circle. You will always get what is supposed to be yours. You just need to put in hard work."
The challenges for him have constantly changed. "First, it was a struggle to enter cinema. Now, it is about sustaining myself in this industry. When you are successful, you tend to overlook things. When you are failing, you understand the vagaries of cinema. Then you see how the circle around you diminishes," says Srikanth, who says he owes his 18-year journey in cinema to love from the audience.
Rojakoottam, which released a week after Valentine's Day in 2002, made Srikanth an overnight star. The music was a rage. The pairing of Srikanth and Bhumika was celebrated. Everything went well, and Srikanth had a magical run at the box office over his next few films. But the law of averages caught up. "Belief and hope keep me going. I have no safety net. All my eggs are in this basket called cinema. I don't know what else to do. After watching Rojakootam, I remember people searching for me in the audience, and celebrating me. That's when I understood that the audience had accepted me as a part of Tamil cinema. Even when facing failures, I remembered the audience's belief in me. They tend to believe that a good actor will always bounce back with a good film," says the actor, who describes Nanban as the film that the audience considers to be his "comeback" film.
"What actually matters is the latest success... Then, you have marketability and business. These factors determine the kinds of scripts that come our way. If someone gets a good script despite these factors, then it is simply good luck," says the model-turned-actor, who was initially coached in acting by two of the most important directors in Tamil cinema right now, Vetri Maaran and Mysskin. Did they help him break the oft-held belief that models can't act? "I didn't know to read or write Tamil. They were assisting Kathir then, and used to make me translate every page of Dostoevsky's White Nights into Tamil, and we used to discuss that. Now to see where each of us are in Tamil cinema, it really feels surreal. Mysskin, like Vetri, is a straightforward person. There is no sugar coating. While Vetri rejected me because he felt Kadhal Virus wasnt the perfect script for me, Mysskin voted for me because he believed I would be a good actor," says Srikanth.
While he hasn't got that many author-backed roles in Tamil cinema, his debut film director Sasi's Poo is a good example of what he can do when given such a role. The film, which marked Parvathy's Tamil debut, had him play a pivotal role, despite the limited screentime. "I see Poo as the example for people to know my acting abilities. When Sasi sir, whose assistants were steadfast about me being miscast in the role, congratulated me on my performance, there could not be a bigger compliment," says Srikanth, who also is proud of the fact that director Shankar entrusted him with an important role in Nanban. "I am not a born actor. Given the right director though, I have always shown my acting credentials. For example, Shankar sir had only compliments for my performance in a role that he felt was the most important in Nanban."
Apart from the compliments from directors and audience, awards are also a symbol of appreciation for an actor's talent. However, recently, Srikanth was subject to a lot of trolling when he was announced to be one of the recipients of Tamil Nadu government's Kalaimamani awards. "I am unaffected by trolling. You will always have such people. All their productivity is wasted on insulting someone else. One good thing is, I am totally inactive on social media. This gives me peace, and I can overcome the very human urge to respond to hate or trolling," says the actor.
There is no doubt that there is negativity on these platforms, but such interactions tend to provide actors a connection to the ground reality in cinema. Srikanth is not sure social media hype actually translates into theatrical numbers. "These claims about number of views, RT's etc... They hardly translate into actual economic benefit. The ground reality is very different from the one that is portrayed on social media," says Srikanth, who does agree that the digital age has engulfed all of us, and this is why he will be making his debut on OTT platforms with a thriller, soon.
Interestingly, Srikanth is one of the few voices in cinema advocating for censorship of OTT content, citing how it is 'polluting young minds'. "Censor-free content gives free rein for obscenity and violent content, which is not healthy. There should be an age-wise restriction at least. We might say parental guidance or parental locks, but not everyone knows to access technology. At least, in theatres, you have someone restricting access to people not meeting the age barrier. On OTT, there is hardly such a thing, and that needs to be checked."