I have my finger in many pies — I began as a comedian, then took to lead roles and now am a film producer as well. But for all that, I never expected that I would end up in films. In fact, I was against cinema at a younger age as I was associated with a forward-thinking writers’ union. So, when director Bala auditioned me for the movie 'Nandaa', I thought I should give it a try.
By then, I was already into Tamil pop music and well known as a mimicry artist. I used to perform Tamil folk and ‘gana’ songs and the album (Millenium 2000) I did with my wife singer Grace was well received by everybody.
My character Loduku Pandi in 'Nandaa' was initially named Dappa Sundaram and Bala selected me after a witty conversation I had with the watchman at his office entrance, which he was later privy to. I learnt the value of cinema only after 'Nandaa', as by then I got tremendous recognition. I was getting offers after that, but I viewed them with scepticism, given that the industry is hardly filled with genuine people. I couldn’t adapt to the film industry as I am a stickler for principles.
The shocking moment came in 2007 when I was blamed for the failure of the movie 'Pudhukottaiyilirundhu Saravanan' (Dhanush played the lead role) and I was declared unfit to perform comedy. I didn’t feel let down then, but the incident only strengthened my resolve to prove myself.
When I was deprived of opportunities, I realised that I can still be successful by doing my own thing. I started thinking what people would like and chose suitable roles. I decided to give a chance to newcomers with relevant scripts and that’s how I played the lead role in 'Dindugal Sarathy'. There were talks that it would spell the end of my career, but I never gave a thought to all those naysayers.
I thought that when Rajinikanth, Sarathkumar and Sathyaraj turned heroes from villains, why could not a comedian turn hero? Thanks to the audience, now I play lead roles in a couple of films though I never say no to comedy characters. I would say I have taken the path of T Rajender, Bhagyaraj, Ramarajan and Pandiarajan, who were not strictly hero material, but even then did lead roles with elan.
History has it that there has been a time when producers of Rajinikanth’s movies had to think twice to release their movie alongside Bhagyaraj’s.
I get inspiration from Malayalam actor Srinivasan who acts as comedian if requested, plays lead roles if necessary and does what he feels like. My immediate plan is that in a year at least 10 movies of mine should release and I should play the lead role in five, and a comedian in the rest.
(Karunas is a famous comedian in Tamil and has played the lead role in a couple of films)