Kartikeya: I do not want to repeat myself
Kartikeya on films, marriage, Ajith's Valimai and his love for variety in characters
Kartikeya truly captured hearts with his performance as Shiva in RX 100. Ever since, he has played the villain to great reception, especially in Gang Leader. Perhaps it’s that conviction in playing the baddie that has landed him a plum role in the Tamil biggie, Valimai. In this conversation, the actor discusses his upcoming Telugu release, Raja Vikramarka, and what it means to him that he will be playing villain in an Ajith Kumar film.
What drew you to Raja Vikramarka?
I was fascinated by the idea, and it’s something I have been thinking about for a while. I also liked the conviction of director Sri Saripalli. I believe there is a lot of strength in the script that would stop you from feeling distracted or disconnected. Raja Vikramarka is a new-age action entertainer with loads of comedy.
Tell us about the NIA agent you play in this film.
It's a different feeling because this is the type of character I have not portrayed earlier. I play a stylish, quirky NIA agent, who is jovial by nature. I enjoyed the comedy scenes with Tanikella Bharani and Harsha Vardhan, and as an actor, this has given me immense satisfaction.
I could relate to this character a lot. Just like the character, Vikram, I am fun-loving, amicable and look at things with a different perspective. I have also learnt how to hold a gun properly. Also, while shooting for my Tamil debut, Valimai, I observed how Ajith (Kumar) sir held the gun, and in between the shots, he also explained to me how to hold it in a particular way as it would recoil when a bullet gets fired. It helped a lot.
Given your involvement with characters, do you find it difficult to sign out of them when you are done with a film?
At times, it's difficult, yes, but for the most part, the essence or the energy of a character influences you subconsciously. We pick up new things and learn something... so it doesn't affect my mood. My work helps me come out of it, in fact.
You have played characters that are entirely different from each other, be it in RX 100, Gang Leader, Chaavu Kaburu Challa or now, it appears, in Raja Vikramarka.
It is all part of a plan. I do not want to repeat myself and I get bored playing similar roles. I seek roles that will tap into my acting potential. I have been lucky to get varied characters and it is also a deliberate plan to look different in each film. I want the audience to see the character, not the actor. Also, I like action-comedy entertainers and Raja Vikramarka is the kind of film I have been longing to do for some time now.
It’s a big opportunity to feature prominently in a film featuring Ajith Kumar. How do you see this?
I never saw the film coming. I was shooting for Raja Vikramarka, and it was then that the offer came to me. At first, I was surprised because the combination of H Vinoth and Ajith Kumar is a huge deal. I listened to the script and was amazed at how strong my character was, and how he gets pitted against Ajith sir. There was no reason to refuse this film. Ajith garu plays a cop and I play a criminal, who has a powerful philosophy, and is both physically and mentally strong. Even my character's name is unusual in this film.
Initially, I was scared as I cannot speak or understand Tamil. I started watching Tamil films and started speaking the language with my friends. Now, I can say I am half-way there, and I can speak and understand the language reasonably. Learning the language has also helped me deliver a better performance. I have dubbed for my character but have told Vinoth sir that if he finds it lacking, he should go for a dubbing artist.
You spoke about Ajith Kumar helping you hold a gun. Were there other learnings?
It was amazing. At first, I was nervous because Ajith sir is a big star, and in an industry that I am not quite familiar with. In barely a day or two, he made me feel so comfortable on the sets; it was as though I was playing the hero. In fact, he treated everyone on the sets equally and made every person feel important. When such a star provides that comfort, it helps everyone own the film and give their best.
What should we look forward to in Valimai?
A top-notch action film with first-of-its-kind action sequences in Indian cinema. And yet, it has an emotional core too. I haven’t watched the complete film yet and I am excited about it. H Vinoth is a brilliant director, and I am confident that Valimai will create a big impact in Indian cinema.
You seem to show an interest in playing negative characters…
I never planned to play villains. After RX 100, I was doing my work as usual, but then, I got Gang Leader and I knew that director Vikram K Kumar’s films offer strong characters to villains. I never expected my character to receive as many plaudits. And now in Valimai, it’s a fantastic character again, and I am feeling happy that directors are beginning to write such characters keeping me in mind. Going forward, I will continue with this, and see what comes my way.
It was all the rage when you channeled your inner romantic hero to propose marriage at the pre-release event of Raja Vikramarka!
(Laughs) We have known each other for 11 years now. I met Lohitha during my engineering at NIT, Warangal. It was love at first sight for me and I proposed to her in my first year of B Tech and she accepted it only in our third year. Our relationship evolved naturally and there was a lot of understanding and love between us that even after break-ups we have patched up again.
Like any student, we closely guarded our relationship while studying. Once we settled down in our respective professions, we wanted to get married and decided that it was time to tell our families. They knew what we were doing and believed in our relationship and had no reason to oppose us. It has all been smooth, and the wedding is planned on November 21!
Has Lohitha seen all your films?
Yes, she has! I believe she will like me more in Raja Vikramarka because it’s her kind of film and also the fact that she likes to see me portray fun-loving characters more than the villains I seem to play a lot of (laughs).
What’s next after Raja Vikramarka?
I am doing a film each with UV Creations and Loukya Entertainments. Both these films are directed by newcomers, Prasanth and Clax respectively. I also have another film in the pipeline, which I will be announcing soon.