Karthi: I took inspiration from Appa-Anna's relationship for Viruman
The actor talks about returning to rural films with his latest release Viruman
Karthi is well-known for taking inspiration from real life to play characters. For Sulthan, he used his experience as the founder of an farming-related NGO called Uzhavan Foundation. This time around, for Viruman, Karthi tapped into the relationship between his brother Suriya and father Sivakumar. "My character has a major rift with his father and they see each other as the villain. But in real life, appa became a friend to me once I crossed class 10 and spoke with me about my insecurities and inhibitions. And for all my self-doubts, he had only one answer, 'Ellam meesai valarndhu periya aal aana seri aidum da!'" He remembers that Suriya had a relatively cold relationship with their father. "At one point, they hardly spoke with each other. I guess seeing them helped me a lot in playing a character who constantly squabbles with his father."
Karthi is quick to clarify that neither are to be blamed. "Appa was busy shooting for films when we were in our teens, so it took us some time to understand each other. But these days, relationship dynamics have changed massively. My daughter plays with me like I am her peer."
Interestingly, all rural entertainers Karthi has been a part of, have been based on relationship fallouts. The actor remembers spending his school holidays at his father's native place and attributes such experiences for helping bring out the villager in him. "I had many cousins living away from Chennai and one akka was so dear to me that I used to sleep in her lap. This came in handy while shooting for Kadaikutty Singam. I recreated a similar rapport with my co-stars for that film. You don't learn these nuances from a script or a director," he says.
When it was announced that 2D Entertainment would produce Viruman, the news raised quite a few eyebrows, as Suriya's production house had made a name for promoting equality and kindness. Director Muthiah's previous film, Devarattam, had in fact been tagged as a 'jaadhi padam' by its producer, Gnanavel Raja. Karthi clarifies that there is no such caste glorification in Viruman. "Ours is a rooted rural film made with love and warmth. If people begin to question idols and temples shown in a film, filmmakers would not be able to make a project true to our culture," he says. Karthi goes on to recall the hurdles Komban, his previous film with Muthaiya, faced during release. "There were groups rioting against Komban, fearing that it might be casteist. But once it got released, they found that these concerns were misplaced."
Karthi shares that making a rural film in a contemporary setting is a tightrope walk. "Villages have evolved and people there are as updated as those living in the cities. So, it is crucial that a rural film captures this evolution without sullying the novelty of the land and its people." He reveals that director Ameer placed Paruthiveeran, Karthi's debut film, in a period setting, in order to avoid the problem of cellphones. Such rural films are the backbone of small theatres, he adds. "When Kadaikutty Singam got released, many theatre owners thanked us, as it brought back families to theatres. Though everyone has started to binge-watch foreign content on OTT, we still have a so many people who get excited by stories based on village life."
Karthi is a huge fan of this genre, an affection stemming out of his love for joint families, he says. "We live together as one big family. My daughter Umayal travels to her aunt's place when she wishes. I believe these relationships are great pillars of support. As long as there are people yearning for such rooted emotions, rural films will thrive."