Uppu Puli Kaaram team interview - Salt, spice, and everything nice

Actors Ponvannan, Deepika Venkatachalam, Naveen Muralidhar and Raj Ayyappa spill details on the upcoming web series Uppu Puli Kaaram, their on and off-screen camaraderie, and more.
Uppu Puli Kaaram team interview - Salt, spice, and everything nice

Family dramas have been the pillar of mainstream cinema since time immemorial—and they seldom fail. Disney+ Hotstar’s upcoming web series Uppu Puli Kaaram brings such a classic family drama to the small screen. While the new generation might have moved away from soaps, the cast strongly believes that the relatable story will attract audiences of every age group.

Ponvannan explains, “In the series, the parents are heroes to the children and it also shows sibling rivalry. While you might say that this is what happens in every family, it brings more value when art imitates real life and there is a representative for each one of us on screen.” Echoing similar thoughts, Raj Ayyappa assures, “It will stand apart from daily soaps and would incorporate elements of comedy as the story has two people causing chaos in a family.”

Sometimes a wholesome script does not necessarily mean a happy set, but in Uppu Puli Kaaram, the cast reveals that their relationship with each other was not far off from their characters. “Every single day our bond would only get closer,” Deepika Venkatachalam shares. Deepika, who appeared in two seasons of Kana Kaanum Kaalangal, describes working on Uppu Puli Kaaram as, “coming back home”. She adds, “In my safe space, I'm my true self, and I see that in my character Yashika. As a result, the need to act is minimal, and I can easily adapt to her.” Ponvannan adds, “The script united us both on and off the screen. Like a family, the cast had an unspoken understanding.”

Based on the South Korean TV series My Father is Strange, the upcoming series, directed by M Ramesh Baarathi, attempts to bring the popular soap to Tamil audiences worldwide. Ponvannan says, “Tamilians and Koreans are not too different. There is a legend that says a queen from here married a Korean prince long ago. It is for the same reason we have similar words like ‘appa’ and ‘amma’ in their vocabulary. Like us, they too value family dearly.” Similarly, the actor is coming off from playing a slew of father roles, but playing dad for a new generation, Ponvannan’s character stands as an observer for how the youth deal with money and vice versa, how they value humans, their emotions and more. “Since the cast predominantly consists of up-and-coming actors, you would think they might need advice, but they are perfect as performers,” he says.

Like Ponvannan and Deepika, comedian-turned-actor Naveen Muralidhar also feels very close to his character. “I play an irresponsible brat in Uppu Puli Kaaram,” he laughs. “But he is someone who is present in every house that we all root for. The family has hopes for him, but he is going on a completely different trajectory.” Ponvannan pitches in and says, “The script feels deeply personal. After Mayandi Kudumbathar and Paruthiveeran, this series feels very close. And moments like these happen rarely.”

On playing a lead character, Raj Ayyappa elaborates, “I am aware that I have donned grey shades in the films that I have done till now, but here I felt like I have broken from my mould. I am finally moving into a family-based role and even dipping my feet in comedy,” he says, excitedly. Looking ahead, he says, “Valimai was a big film in my life, but I don’t know if it gave me my break. Until that moment happens, I wish to explore and experiment with my roles.”

Having started as a mimicry artist, Naveen remarks that it is a great time to be a comedian. “I remember actor Sivakarthikeyan saying one shouldn't underestimate the comedians, recently during a speech. They have all emotions within themselves. It is difficult to break my identity as a mimicry artist and shine while portraying my role. I am learning that now,” he elaborates, pointing to the rise of comedians like Vadivelu, Yogi Babu and Soori.

Deepika, Raj, and Naveen share insights on how they belong to a new breed of performers, someone the audiences have seen both the on-screen roles and off-screen life of. The trio feel that the boundaries between the audience and the stars have blurred. However, balancing both worlds is not a bed of roses, as Deepika elaborates, “I have had my advantages and regrets. I have matured through the years and the negative comments don’t affect me anymore.” Ponvannan, who has seen media grow and encompass several elements into itself, says, “I feel, now, many in media are not able to handle money and fame. You can get the required visibility here, but the revenue is not consistent.”

After playing a wide range of characters for over three decades, Ponvannan hints at retirement. “I am not in the mindset to act anymore. After the pandemic, my approach towards life has changed. Singer SP Balasubrahmanyam’s death deeply affected me and led me to introspect on my life and career,” he says. Going forward, Ponvannan is clear that he wishes to complete what he once began, before entering the film industry. “Now, all my focus is on literature and painting,” he signs off with a smile.

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