Gautham Karthik: I feel like I am starting over again

Gautham Karthik, who featured in the recently released Anandham Vilayadum Veedu, takes stock of his decade-long journey and where he plans to go from here
Gautham Karthik: I feel like I am starting over again

Moments before the cameras began to roll for our interview, Gautham Karthik asks, “Naraya terror aana kelvigal vechirukingala?” His apprehension comes from not having done interviews for close to two years. “This is the first time I am giving an interview after the pandemic,” he notes. It’s a point he goes on to reiterate several times during the conversation. Gautham’s latest film, Anandham Vilayadum Veedu, is his first after a long wait of two years and seven months, when the family drama, Devarattam, panned for being casteist and violent, came out. This time, he has returned with a ‘bonafide’ family drama in Anandham Vilayadum Veedu. Gautham, whose responses throughout the interaction exude self-awareness, reflects on his career that’s approaching ten years: “It has been up and down… left, right and center… all over the place. Yet, it has been fun.” 

Gautham’s response pretty much encapsulates his career that has seen many failures and a few successes. His initial years were particularly rough, with KadalYennamo YedhoVai Raja Vai, and Muthuramalingam all not meeting with great responses. It was with 2017’s Rangoon that the actor could breathe a sigh of relief—his career, in fact, could be bifurcated as before-and-after Rangoon. His acting too was met with criticism initially, and when I tell him that it seems to have died down now, he laughs and says, “I wouldn’t exactly consider the reduced criticism a positive development.” He pauses and goes on. “I think criticism is fantastic. It hurts, sure, but I segregate genuine, constructive criticism from the other kind. I believe criticism is valid only when it points out both the plus and minus points. If only the negatives are highlighted, that’s not criticism; that’s a complaint.”

He has learned many lessons over the years, with the biggest being to trust filmmakers. “Mani Ratnam sir and Rajkumar are excellent filmmakers, who are on point with the details and what they want from their actors. And then, there are other directors who let you free and expect you to bring your inputs to the table. I think it’s important to work with both types,” Gautham shares. “It’s also important to continuously improve yourself. If I restrict myself, I stop my evolution as an actor. As a result, the audience will stop finding me appealing.” 

Does he prefer a particular kind of filmmaker? “I like those who precisely explain what they expect from me; it makes my job easier. Contrarily, when a director expects me to improvise and draw from my own experiences, that too is an opportunity. While we can contemplate what we might do in hypothetical situations, trying to be in the shoes of the character helps you explore more,” the actor says. 

His latest film, Anandham Vilayadum Veedu, is a rural entertainer set in Dindigul, featuring him in a role far removed from his real life, and yet, he was attracted to the script because of its focus on “family values”. Gautham believes that family entertainers will always thrive. “There is a relatability factor to family dramas that emanates from our culture,” Gautham explains. “However, it isn’t quite my preferred genre. I’m more into fantasy and superhero films; I like films that make me go ‘wow’.”

The actor has been a part of multi-starrers as well, including Oru Nalla Naal Paarthu Solren (co-starring Vijay Sethupathi), Mr Chandramouli (in which he shared screen-space with his father)—and he has more coming up such as Patthu Thala, starring Silambarasan TR, and Yutha Satham, co-starring R Parthiban. The actor draws a fitting analogy to describe his tryst with multi-starrers. “A lot of people read books when they want to learn something new or improve themselves because these books contain the experiences and knowledge of writers. Similarly, working with actors, who have their own set of skills and experiences, can be equally enlightening. Being with them gives me a chance to introspect on my style and abilities.”

The actor is particularly excited about Patthu Thala, a remake of the Kannada film, Mufti. “People who have seen the footage we have shot so far, have had great things to say. Simbu will be joining the shoot soon, and I can’t wait to get back.”

Gautham’s approach to script selection has also notably changed. Originally tagged as an actor who seemed to thrive in adult comedies, he has looked to grow out of that stereotype. “Initially, I chose scripts from the perspective of a viewer. The process is different now; I think about whether the audience can connect with my character and performance. I also prioritise my connection with the filmmaker,” Gautham says. “Honestly, I feel like my journey is beginning all over again. There was fear and excitement when Kadal came out, and now, I have similar feelings. I feel like I’m starting over again.”

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