Five years after Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam — Sivakarthikeyan’s first film with Ponram — released on Vinayagar Chathurthi, their third collaboration, Seemaraja, is set to follow suit. “Actually, we tried to have Rajini Murugan release for the same festival, but it didn’t work out. I’m glad we are able to do it with Seemaraja,” says the actor.
Excerpts from a conversation with the star:
It seems Ponram will only do films with you.
It’s similar to how you meet a friend in the first year of college and you end up becoming very close by the time you are done with college. It’s a comfort zone, but we still remember that we have expectations to meet and promises to deliver. I don’t think we could point out one person as being the reason for the team’s success so far.
From your choice of films, it seems that you’re trying to strike a balance between urban and rural scripts?
Yes, I like to do both. When it comes to commercial films, there isn’t much you can change except in terms of setting and presentation.
Seemaraja, unlike your previous outings with director Ponram, looks like it is more than just a comedy entertainer.
It’s a mass entertainer. People from all age groups will find an element they will love. Apart from the comedy that kids will love, it has lots of emotions and there’s a message too. Perhaps because of these additional elements, the comedy in Seemaraja will be lesser in comparison with, say, VVS.
How do you try to reinvent your tracks with Soori, a mainstay in your films?
After VVS, we spoke about how differently we wanted to show our combination. We took it scene by scene. In Seemaraja, our looks are different. He wears safari suits with Arjun Reddy glasses and carries an iPad along. You’ll also see him sporting a six-pack.
There were reports that Samantha trained for some action portions. What’s cooking?
She’s got both romance and action scenes. She had to practise Silambam for it and I think it has come out as a really nice portion. It’s a mature character, and I think we’ll also get to see her in a thavani for the first time in Tamil cinema.
You’ve started working only with established heroines.
Till date, the heroines are always chosen by the producers or the directors. For Rajini Murugan, they asked what I thought of Keerthy Suresh for the role. I don’t interfere with these choices.
The film has a lot of veteran actors including Napoleon and Simran.
Yes, they all have strong roles. Illena othukutu irukka maatanga (laughs). I really enjoy working with such actors, as they are all those who we have grown up watching — be it Sathyaraj sir, Rajkiran sir, Napoleon sir or Simran ma’m. I’m a huge fan of Simran ma’m and I told her I love her dancing. I talk to them about their films. Sometimes, it hardly feels real — that I once saw them on screen, but now, I’m working with them.
The Vaaren Vaaren Seemaraja track seems to have been written to convey quite a few messages. Was this written with your image in kind?
An opening song can either be about the character, or about something we want to convey. Be it VVS, Rajini Murugan or Seemaraja, all of them have songs that talk about the character. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in conveying a message. I feel it helps the writers connect with the audience.
The stalking scenes in Remo came under a bit of fire. You have also said you won’t do bar songs anymore. Are you having to be quite cautious about what you do on screen?
Of course. When there’s reach, there’s responsibility. I think it’s a blessing when people express interest to see my film without such elements. You learn about these things after you come into the industry. I have learned a lot at each stage, and this is a natural evolution.
Your first productional venture, Kanaa, is an offbeat film. Films that feature you as an actor though seem to going further away from that territory.
I can’t announce that I want a certain type of script (laughs). From the business perspective, we’re just supplying for the demand. If I want to do something new, it has to appeal to everyone, and has to work financially.
How do you sustain your interest in formula films?
I try to do something different with each film. When I tried that in Remo, stalking nu route-a maathitange. For a man to play a young woman isn’t easy; I still don’t know why people didn’t speak about it at length, but it’s okay. Kids loved it, and when women meet me, they say, ‘Anna, ponnu veshathula semmeya pannirunthinga.’ While on the topic, my upcoming sci-fi film is something we have never seen in South Indian cinema. Commercial films aren’t easy to make.
What do you think is the reason for your success?
I was working in TV for five years and that brought me close to the people. It gave them the confidence to come to theatres. People around me don’t praise me to the skies. My closest friends are those from my college days, and I still go out for films and ice-cream with them. My parents taught me to value people over money. My films have achieved success, I haven’t. I think there’s a long way to go for me.
Tell us about your future projects.
I’ve finished 40 days of shoot for the sci-fi film with Ravikumar. It’s a result of two years of pre-production. We’re keen on giving quality content.
The film with Rajesh is a pucca rom-com. The film has a well-known cast, and after a long time, I’m doing a fun film.
So far, you’ve had Anirudh do your urban films and Imman do your rural films. You’re breaking that with your next films, which have music by AR Rahman and Hip Hop Tamizha.
It just turned out that way. What I share with them is beyond the films we work on. Both Anirudh and Imman sir wanted me to work with Rahman sir. Anirudh would often say I should do this and that he should do a film with Rajini sir. I’m glad both have happened almost at the same time.