Clad in casual blue and black, Karthi is every inch the affable boy-next-door you expect him to be. In Kerala to promote his Diwali release All in All Azhagu Raja, the actor doesn’t downplay his surprise at seeing media herds queuing up for an interview while fan club members patiently wait outside the hotel. “I knew my brother Surya has a huge fan following in Kerala, but I was least prepared for the warmth and frenzy this morning. I am more than overwhelmed,” says Karthi who is just back from the trailer launch at Sree Kumar theatre in Thiruvananthapuram.
Coming from a family of actors, Karthi says cinema was something in his genes and he just couldn’t resist the pull. “My dad and brother are actors who know the industry to a T. The chance for making it big is very limited if you consider the number of entrants each year. My father was very particular that I complete my education so that I will have something else to fall back on. Though I have done my masters in engineering my mind was always hooked to films.”
Karthi, who entered the industry as Maniratnam’s assistant, agrees at first he didn’t know what his true calling was. “Mani sir wanted someone who looked like Surya’s brother in Ayudha Ezhuthu, but I knew I don’t look anything like him. I think Siddharth was much more suited for the role and at that time I had no inclination towards acting. But later I realised that you can turn a director at any age, but for an actor there are limitations.”
And when he decided to take the plunge he opted for the riskiest among the lot. So the suave US-returned Karthik Sivakumar made his debut through Paruthiveeran playing its crude and uncouth rural hero. “The first task was to chop off the urban edge in my looks and body language. To mould myself into the character meant an incredible transformation. Ameer asked me to grow a beard followed by six months of gruelling drill for the physical and emotional makeover. I travelled to rural parts and watched how the people behave and how they react to certain situations and remarks. When the shoot started I was ready and waiting,” says Karthi who later went on to act in hits like Paiyyaa and Siruthai.
Ask him whether he felt overshadowed by his big brother at any point and he says: “Never! If I was a Surya look-alike the situation would have been different. But I don’t resemble him from any angle and I was fortunate enough to create my own identity from my very first film. And when it comes to films, the kind of stuff I do is different from what he does. My forte is different and the roles offered to us are like chalk and cheese.”
For Karthi, who has tried his hands at almost all genres, All in All Azhagu Raja is his first attempt at full-blown comedy. “It’s unlimited fun and the film has retro portions. The film is named after a character played by Goundamani in Vaidehi Kaathirundha and is a total entertainer. I play a small town guy who runs a local cable channel in the film,” he explains.
The actor, who made his debut in 2007, has only a handful of films to his credit, but seems least bothered about his limited filmography. “I am a complete film buff and when I read a script I start visualising it by default. If I feel it entertaining I will accept it. I don’t want to repeat myself and get typecast, so that’s the only area I am particular about.” The actor is all praise for Malayalam cinema and says he is always open to offers from here. “ I know Malayalam industry is one of its kind - rich and matchless. But all the Malayalam filmmakers approach me for Tamil films only,” he laughs.