Kathir believes the script is always the hero, and that’s why he isn’t interested in doing a lot of films. “Even if I do only 10 films, all of them should be noticeable for being different. If my character is strong and needed for the script, I’ll do the film,” says Kathir, who admits he didn’t expect the kind of recognition he got for his role in Vikram Vedha. “I had already committed to Pariyerum Perumal when I got the offer for Vikram Vedha, and I was unsure if I should do that role. I knew that though it was a small character, the story moves because of him.”
That’s when he went to Vijay Sethupathi for advice. “Sethu anna doesn’t decide for us, but gives us the options and lets us decide. He said if this film becomes a hit, it’ll be a huge advantage for my career, but that if the film didn’t work out, then it wouldn’t affect me much. The film, of course, went on to become a huge hit and I was appreciated for what I did in it.” Fast forward to 2018, Kathir has Pariyerum Perumal, Sigai, and Sathru, ready to release. In Pariyerum Perumal, he returns to the rural milieu once again after his debut film, Madha Yaanai Koottam.
“I realised the impact of Madha Yaanai Koottam in rural areas while shooting for Pariyerum Perumal. I heard songs from that film being played in a marriage hall as well as at a funeral. So I’m glad to return to that setting and I’m sure the film will surpass expectations,” says Karthir. “I read the bound script six times. I prefer knowing the sequence of scenes, so that my acting fits with the story’s flow. It is especially important in a film like Pariyerum Perumal where my character goes through a drastic change.”
The actor plays a mischievous student in the film. “It’s new territory for me considering the mature roles I’ve played so far, and I’m generally not that kind of a person myself. So I had to be careful not to over-do it,” says Karthir, who believes it’s the toughest film he has done yet. “A majority of the scenes were shot with Gimbal (handheld camera stabiliser); so we had the liberty to perform.” This, he says, gave them ample opportunities to execute long sequences. “I found that part alone to be very easy. If we got the beginning right, it was easy to stay in character.
There were technical errors which led to extra shots, but most of the retakes were because we loved to improvise seeing the outcome.” The actor also got a bit too close to nature while shooting for this film. “I got scared of a snake which came out of nowhere while shooting a song montage. Even now I don’t know how many snakes were there (laughs).” The film was shot during peak summer in Tirunelveli. “It was very hot and thanks to Gimbal again, there was no need for trolleys or lights. So if I started running, I wouldn’t know where I’d stop in the forest.
There weren’t many breaks either between shots. It was a tedious and hectic shoot, but the result makes it all worthwhile.” Directed by Mari Selvaraj, the film is produced by Pa Ranjith, and Karthir admits it’s a big opportunity to work with the latter. “I’ve never worked on a film with this sort of budget and technical prowess. If Ranjith sir had wanted, he could’ve gone for any actor but he felt only I’d be appropriate for the role,” says Kathir, who had just completed Sigai, for which he had put on weight, when he got this role.
“I had to lose a lot of weight as Pariyerum Perumal has scenes in which I play a school kid. I lost about six kilos in a month.” Sigai was a completely new experience for the actor. “I knew it would be a game-changer, but I didn’t know how to go about it in the beginning,” says Kathir, who was keen that his portrayal not look exaggerated. “When a man does the role of a woman, he often ends up overdoing it,” says Kathir, who clarifies that he does not play a transgender character in the film. “But my character has two makeovers — male and female,” he adds.
The film has received rave reviews in the festival circuit. “I knew Sigai would go for the festivals even before I signed up for it. Even Netflix offered to buy it — an honour not many Tamil films get. The deal didn’t work out, but the interest they showed gave me confidence in the scripts I’m choosing,” says the actor, who believes the film did well in festivals thanks to Kirumi which made him a familiar face. Kathir is also excited to don the khaki for the first time for Sathru.
“It’s an action thriller that happens in two days. To be honest, I was sceptical about Sathru as I felt it was very early for me to do a cop role. But the director made it clear that it’s not a cop story, but a story in which I play a cop role.” Ask him if he plans to shift to commercial films, and Kathir says, “I don’t want to do a duet-song-in-Switzerland kind of film at this stage of my career. I only want to do commercial films with strong content.” The actor accepts that coming by such scripts is hard. “If I know that someone’s got a good story, I’ll call them up myself and listen to it.”