KS Ravikumar: Pariyerum Perumal is a masala film
The filmmaker, who played the male lead for the first time in the recent Zee5 release, Mathil, talks about his journey so far as an actor and his road ahead as a director
Though last year was rather barren in Tamil cinema, KS Ravikumar was part of one of the year's few big releases, Naan Sirithal, which featured him as the antagonist. Fondly known for his blockbuster masala cinema, the filmmaker has slowly, yet steadily grown into the shoes of an actor over the years. With the recent Zee5 release, Mathil, it is safe to say that Ravikumar has now been promoted from the ‘hero's father’ (Thanga Magan, Rekka) to ‘hero’. “I would rather call my part the protagonist. He is not your usual hero who fights and dances. Mathil is a simple tale of a man trying to reclaim a wall he owns from a politician,” he says.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Would you say that your signature cameo appearances in your directorials brought out the actor in you?
I began to act only because of the compulsion of my producers. I was a backup actor in my second film, Cheran Pandiyan, and my third film, Putham Pudhu Payanam. Originally, I wanted to cast Nizhalgal Ravi and Vijaykumar, respectively, for those roles, but it didn’t work out. My performances were well-received, and so, later producers and heroes like Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan started compelling me to appear in at least one shot for sentimental reasons. After Arul (2004), I became recognised as a bona fide character artiste and got equally busy with acting.
How would director Ravikumar rate the actor in him?
I would call myself an eager actor who is game for any kind of role. I would not rate myself as a talented actor. I am just happy to do age-appropriate roles. However, films like Ghosty and my last one, Naan Sirithal, had a lot of fun elements. Though I am not inclined towards playing these roles, I do them because of insistence. But no, I would never play the hero in a masala film.
Considering that most of your films have been mass entertainers, designed for the theatre, how do you see the rise of OTT platforms?
Creators should always embrace technological developments. Small-screen entertainment was huge even before these platforms were introduced. However, people were consuming cinema illegally then, through illegal CDs. The advent of OTT platforms has enabled them to enjoy cinema, legally and rightfully. As a filmmaker, I see it as an additional trade medium like satellite, TV, and overseas rights.
Does your presence on the sets of films that you act in, make young filmmakers nervous?
Some of them even feel intimidated (laughs). They usually ensure that I am not kept waiting. Even if they do so, they apologise a hundred times. I don't interfere with their work as a director. I only make small suggestions and ask whether I am allowed to deliver an improvised version of the character or bluntly repeat what is written on the script.
As a director, you began with unique work like Puriyaadha Pudhir, but went on to become a masala filmmaker, a sought-after and successful one.
En vazhi thani vazhi illa, aandavan vitta vazhi. I have never had a plan. I just work sincerely. I might have become a different kind of filmmaker had Puriyaadha Puthir become a hit. I might have made quirkier, out-of-the-box cinema. But from day one, I knew that the film would not go well with the audience, as people didn't take to suspense thrillers then. I even told producer Choudary sir that women and children wouldn’t be interested. But he promised to help me make a second film, if I did this film for him. And then, our second film, Cheran Pandian, became a big hit. I took it as a sign that I was to become a director of masala cinema.
Can we expect you to make simple films again?
It would be logistically impossible. All my collaborators have increased their salary. Even a simple choice like my desire to retain my team would end up increasing the budget of the film and make it unviable.
I have been offered some small-budget Tamil films in recent years, but if I take them up out of passion, the industry will judge me as someone who has run out of chances. I will do a Tamil film when I get a big offer. Until then, I am happy to make mega-entertainers in Telugu or Kannada. If things go downhill, I will take up acting full time. No matter how, I will always stay associated with cinema.
How do you think masala entertainers fare today?
Rajini is a superstar because he is a mass entertainer. The mass masala genre of films has the widest fanbase in our country. When the audience sees a hero do things they can't do in their lives, they celebrate it.
If you ask me, I will say that Mandela and Pariyerum Perumal, despite beautifully discussing caste and politics, are still masala films. In fact, I believe that all films that entertain are masala films. When a creator recreates reality, the spice he adds to a scene to make it interesting is what is called masala. Even the classy films have this masala. The dose is a bit extra in commercial cinema.
Pariyerum Perumal is special only when it is released alongside such masala cinema. If all films were of the sensibility of Pariyerum Perumal, they would fail to be special.