Painting the silver jubilee with a golden tint
Actor Karthi talks about his recent release Japan, completing 25 films in the industry, his acting approach, how he chooses his scripts, and more
Paruthiveeran. Aayirathil Oruvan. Paiyaa. Madras. Kaithi. Ponniyin Selvan. These are not just the list of films in Karthi's filmography but also his determination to add different varieties of films to his repertoire. In his 16-year journey, Karthi may have only now reached his maiden landmark of 25th film with Japan, but it only goes to show the conscious and measured steps he took to build a versatile filmography.
“I only do what I want to do. What I do now has nothing to do with what I studied, but also, I did not come into this field by accident or force, but by my own will. So I don’t want to compromise on what I like,” says Karthi. Determined to work at his pace, he adds, “So far, I have enjoyed each of the projects, and in the case of big films I have dedicated a chunk of time as well. In fact, for some of them, I have spent a lot of time, right from the time of their making. I’m glad that people have liked my films so far.”
For Karthi, Japan is special for multiple reasons. It is not only his 25th film, but also the fourth time one of his films released around Diwali, after Kaashmora, Kaithi, and Sardar. Admitting that he had a middle-class upbringing and Diwalis were simpler, Karthi says the only exclusiveness was getting to watch the films a day ahead through press shows. “So, the only luxury was being a step ahead of others in school, who might not have watched it before the release. After coming to college, the biggest celebration was going to first-day-first-shows, and now as an artist, it is a special thing to have Diwali releases,” he adds.
However, what adds a cherry on the cake is it is also the first time Karthi himself approached a director for a script. When asked why director Rajumurugan was an exception, he says, “I like his films a lot. The lives he has brought to the screen were something that we haven’t seen before, the characters are different and I wish to be one of them,” says Karthi.
Even though Japan marks Karthi and Rajumurugan’s first collaboration, the filmmaker has earlier written dialogues for the actor's 2016 film Thozha. “I like humour, and even in Thozha, those light-hearted dialogues gave it a repeat watch value. So when he came up with a serious subject like Japan, we developed the script further and added some humour. But that was only because he gave me more space to discuss.”
In the film, Karthi plays a character who is an eccentric personality with a grey shade. Elaborating on how they came up with the character, the actor says, “We didn't want him to be a ruthless bad guy but rather a fun, quirky bad guy. We also didn't want the film to fall into any template. Even though it was designed to be a commercial film, we didn't want anyone to predict how it unfolds.”
While the actor is known to don unconventional, eccentric characters with a grey shade on-screen, his off-screen persona falls on the other end of the spectrum. The actor is vocal about his support for farmers, he is also an active member of the South Indian Artistes' Association. Which makes one wonder if he ever let his personal beliefs affect his characters. “My characters and I are different. Yes, there are certain things that I don’t want to do, and I don’t do. But I also can’t interfere with the creator's freedom, so I let them know beforehand. I don’t force anything or push my politics into my films,” he answers.
As someone who started his career with a performance-heavy film like Paruthiveeran, Karthi is still known for his acting prowess. When asked if he employs method acting, he laughs and then replies, “I don’t know method acting, but I follow whatever I know. I really prepare and take a lot of time. Films like Kaithi or Thozha did not need homework, but even for those I try to understand the psyche and behaviour of the character. For Sardar, I saw documentaries and understood that spies don’t express and expect any form of appreciation. In the case of Japan, I just understood that I should be in my best element while shooting.”
Karthi also mentions that he does not follow any particular set of rules while choosing scripts. “When they thought I would do an action film, I did Thozha, when they thought I would do something heroic, I did Madras. I think I have tried not to repeat myself. I am a film buff so all it takes for me is how the film excites me. I want it to be layered and I can’t fit into anything that is thin. As an actor, I am very selfish and see what I have to do for the project. Over time, I have realized that there should be other powerful characters in the film. I think that is important for the film to work,” he signs off.