After Subramaniapuram (2008) and Eesan (2010), Sasikumar, the director, seemed to make the transformation to Sasikumar, the actor. Over the past decade, interviewers have invariably asked him about returning to the director’s chair, and not received straightforward responses. Now, it appears that Sasikumar has made up his mind about returning to direction. “I am rushing through my acting assignments to ensure that there are no distractions when I begin work on my next directorial. I have a couple of scripts ready: One is a big-budget historical film, and the other is a comparatively smaller film that can go on the floors immediately. The pre-production work on the latter is going on, and I am planning to start it early next year,” says the actor-director, who recently starred in the Amazon Prime Video film, Udanpirappe.
Directed by E Ra Saravanan, Udanpirappe, promoted as Jyotika’s 50th film, has Sasikumar playing her brother. “It was a wonderful experience to share screen space with her. Being her first audience on the sets and seeing her perform was a surreal experience. She is a single-take artiste, and I thought it was impressive that she never used glycerine for the emotional scenes,” says Sasikumar, who shares that Udanpirappe was narrated to him just after his film, Kodi Veeran—which incidentally is another sibling drama. “The script was strong and completely different from Kodi Veeran, and that was enough for me. Some might say there are a number of sibling dramas right now in Tamil cinema, but so is the case with action films or love stories. Sibling sentiment is a successful genre across languages,” shares Sasikumar.
Though Udanpirappe is Sasikumar’s first release in almost two years, the actor continues to enjoy a dedicated fan base that seems to connect to him like family. “This is why I never do superhero-style films, and I am happy to play the common man. My fans see their own fathers or uncles or brothers in my characters. This relatability is not something that easily happens to an actor,” says a proud Sasikumar, who is happy that the audience doesn’t see him as a ‘hero’.
This expectation from the fans seems to dictate Sasikumar’s script choices, which have largely stuck to being commercial entertainers with liberal doses of sentiment. “If we see a horror-comedy make money, the industry begins to see more such films. It is the same with comedies, and true of any genre actually. So, when cinema gets bombarded with genre-specific films, a family entertainer gets widely accepted. That’s why I prefer this genre. It is a welcome distraction,” says Sasikumar.
And yet, Sasikumar has been part of experimental projects like Asuravadham (2018), in which he played a dark character. “The film spoke about child abuse, a raging issue in our state. It felt like the right film to do. It didn’t do well commercially... but well, that is what happens when you say good things in our world,” says the Nadodigal 2 actor, with his characteristic laugh. He is, however, quick to add that the commercial results of his experiments don’t discourage him from taking up such projects. “Even if these films reach only a small section of the audience, I strongly believe that they will be spoken about in the future. The experiments may not be groundbreaking; I think of them as slight detours,” says Sasikumar.
Being involved in many departments of cinema is something that has kept the director in Sasikumar very much alive and kicking. It is a facet of him that has been kept in the backburner for over a decade, and within a year, he looks forward to returning to the job that brought him national respect. Is he confident about starting where he left off in 2010? “Direction is within me. I have always been thinking about it. These past 10 years, I have been very much part of Tamil cinema, albeit in different capacities. In each of my acting assignments, I have been involved in the script development, the narration, the technical side... When I watch my directors adopt a certain edit pattern or a particular camera angle, I make a mental note for my next directorial. Nothing has changed over the last decade,” assures Sasikumar.