Sivakarthikeyan: I have direction dreams
With his new film, Doctor, set to come out this Saturday, here's Sivakarthikeyan speaking of venturing beyond comfort zones
About ten years ago, when a relatively small film called Marina came out, its actor didn't think that a decade later, an entire film industry would be in anticipation of his release. "I was a different actor back then. Now, I am conscious that I have a responsible position in the industry, and I also have clarity about what I am doing," says Sivakarthikeyan.
You see a semblance of this through the sheer variety of genre choices in his upcoming films. The upcoming Nelson Dilipkumar film, Doctor, is a 'high-concept' flick, while his next release, Don, is a mass comedy-entertainer. Though his next sci-fi film, Ayalaan, might wrap up post-production before Don, it is set to come out only after the latter, he says. Siva is careful about the release order of his films. Following a serious film like Velaikkaran, came out an entertainer like Seemaraja. Post-Namma Veetu Pillai came Hero, a superhero film. "It's a simple calculation. Even posters must look different. Don should be different from Doctor. These changes matter." Siva is conscious about not falling into the trap of getting typecast. "I choose films from scripts I hear, but the order of these films matters. When it comes to the current line-up, the pandemic messed up our plans a little, but we are back on track," he shares.
The pandemic did cause a dent. Doctor is coming out a year after its scheduled release. Such a stumbling block is new to this actor and producer, but he says that work takes backseat when bigger problems are at the fore. "We were certain that the film would get released, but it was the how and when that we couldn't figure out. There were other things to worry about. Lives were lost, and I had to take care of people around me, especially the families of people who work in my house. Moreover, my wife was pregnant, and so, I had to be extra careful. Work can wait in comparison."
The wait for Doctor will be worth it, he assures. "This film features a unique character at the centre," he says. A unique feature is that the film will have minimal dialogues from him, an actor known for his witty dialogues. "It was hard not to counter others' jokes, but I knew that this is how the character design was from the moment Nelson narrated the script." In fact, the story was tailor-made for Siva. "He wanted to bring a new Sivakarthkeyan to the screen, while retaining the elements of emotion, humour and heroism that all my films have."
It is no news that Nelson is a close pal of Siva's, and that comfort is an added advantage, it seems. "We openly discuss production logistics, and so, the work as a producer gets easier. In fact, we did spend a little above the budget, but there were valid reasons." As an actor, he was just happy that his Nelson anna was next to him during shoots.
Additionally, Siva knew what he was getting into. Apart from evidence in Nelson's debut film, Kolamaavu Kokila, Siva has also seen the visuals of Nelson's shelved project Vettai Mannan, a film for which Siva worked as an assistant director. "So, I was aware that Nelson's style and taste in films are very different from mine." The familiarity with a director's style is an important metric based on which he chooses scripts, says this actor, who remains open to collaborating with new directors. "I visualise the entire film during narration. Either I will relate that story to my own life, or to other foreign films, or to that director's previous films. I know why Nelson is doing something at a specific point, and how the audience might perceive it. In Don, I connected the college drama story to my own experiences," he says.
For new directors, working under his production might seem an appealing proposition, given his seeming director friendliness. "This is how we work in SK Productions. It shouldn't be too producer-friendly or director-friendly. It might lean more towards the latter, but never towards the former," he shares.
Challenges in production stop this actor from doing multiple films simultaneously, something that used to be common fare for most top stars in Indian cinema. "The films I do require massive work. For example, during the final schedule of Ayalaan, I was shooting action sequences for 15 days straight, and I was so tired that I couldn't go to the sets of Doctor the next day." That's why he is now considering reducing the number of shooting months so that he gets to have gaps in between films.
Siva's experience in acting and production has encouraged him to go beyond his comfort zones. His exploration into different genres will continue, he says, and he even wants to do a horror film. "In fact, I heard a horror-comedy story, but it needed something more." He wouldn't mind doing multi-starrers as well, something that most stars shy away from. "According to me, Velaikkaran is a multi-hero film. It's just that Fahadh plays an antagonist role. So, I will do it if it has a purpose, and if my character's story is convincing enough." It is not about the ego and market positions but more about what a film holds for him. "It should justify the position and the business that the audiences have given me. In Kanaa, I was particularly conscious that my presence shouldn't take away the fact that it is Aishwarya Rajesh's film."
The actor also aspires to do films outside the Tamil market. Sivakarthikeyan previously appeared in a song in the Kannada film, Vajrakaya. "For the place I have been given in Tamil, bilinguals or trilinguals are possible. However, doing a film in another language will be challenging, and will change my perception of cinema." Shankar, Rajamouli, Trivikram, and Raju Hirani are some directors that Siva hopes to work with. "Most recently, in Tamil, I have wanted to do a film with Mandela-director, Madonne Ashwin. We haven't committed to anything yet, but I will be happy if it happens," reveals Siva. He says that he would also love to direct a film. "It needs a lot of work and I am not ready for it, but I do have direction dreams."
Remaking films, however, is a big no for SK. "I was approached to do a remake of Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo. But I don't want to take in the pressure of recreating that magic. Instead, I can do something fresh. Also, nobody can dance like Allu Arjun," he says with a smile.
No matter the language, Siva insists that films add to his boy-next-door image. "I don't think it's necessary to break that. When people see me as a boy-next-door, they will be happy for my success or disappointed with my falls. I'm just glad that people look at me as one among them," he says.
Siva's growth from a television personality to a big star is a story that many aspire to have. Due to the pandemic, uncertainty is looming over these big dreams of aspiring youngsters. Siva's advice? "Be patient. That's the biggest source of hope. Post the pandemic, all major studios and OTTs will be looking for content. That demand will bring in new talent, and that boom will happen over the next five years."