When Karthi assisted Mani Ratnam in Ayutha Ezhuthu (2004), he never imagined his mentor would direct him someday. “I can’t even say it’s a dream come true, because I never dreamt anything quite like this,” says the actor. Throughout our chat, he kept insisting that “Kaatru Veliyidai isn’t a breezy romantic story like Alaipayuthey (2000) or OK Kanmani (2015)”. He tells CE about choosing ‘the right script’, and how he wants to move out of his comfort zone and act in different films. Excerpts follow: Kaatru Veliyidai, an intense story People have grown watching Mani Ratnam’s films. Be it the way he treats romance, relationships, conflicts, human emotions or the way he establishes his characters…it’s different.
He doesn’t pick something regular. Kaatru Veliyidai explores the relationship between two contrasting people. Geography is a high point in love stories. That’s one of the reasons why he chose picturesque locations that are vibrant and natural. As squadron leader Varun When Mani Ratnam narrated the script to me, I told him it would be apt for my brother (Suriya). I thought I could never do a character like this. Initially, I had doubts if I’d be able to pull off the role of a mature fighter pilot. I was asked to lose weight and shave my moustache (which I’ve never done before). He made me do everything. I don’t look like myself in the film (chuckles). A learning curve We’re restricted by our own ideas; it’s important we realise our potential and what we’re capable of.
I got to learn that I shouldn’t limit myself! When Mani Ratnam directs you, he lets you explore. In return, you gain more confidence about your craft. You become stronger when you’re made to pursue a tough or challenging task. Bond with Mani Ratnam He’s a passionate filmmaker, who’s keen on improvisations. He pays attention to minute details, and that’s his strength. Preparing this role While writing, Mani Ratnam treads into every character’s psyche. So, it was important for me to look like an Air Force offi cer. I took fl ying lessons and basic pilot training. Fighter pilots have their own traits. They’re extremely confi dent because they take a lot of risks and uncertainties on a daily basis. I had to get an idea of what it’s to fl y and how to take off, etc. So I got in touch with a couple of offi cers; they told me how they carried themselves and what they do in general.
I had to literally transform myself into the character. Losing weight was great It gave me confi dence and even ordinary Tshirts started looking good on me (laughs). I was on a strict diet and went to the gym. I am continuing it, as I am playing a cop in Dheeran Adhigaram Ondru (DAO). I’m bulking up a bit to suit my character. Khakhi, yet again I don’t like to repeat my roles, but DAO is based on a true story. I loved the script, and didn’t want to miss it.
I am doing a cop role after fi ve years. Choice of scripts Every actor strives to be a part of fi lms that will be remembered. Take Kaashmora (2016) for instance — I knew it was written for me. There were different shades that I had to bring to my characters, and I loved doing it. I was researching on a particular case when I was working on Kaashmora.
Would you believe if I said Vinoth narrated the same case to me and it forms the crux of DAO? No pressure to direct fi lms It has been more than a decade since I ventured into acting and people still ask me if I want to direct. Somehow, I’ve never thought about it. First of all, I should have a story to make a fi lm. I can’t force myself into direction. It has to happen! About the Nadigar Sangam We’re working on a new building. Things are rolling faster than what it was before (smiles).