‘I am a selfish actor’, says Tamil star Karthi

He talks about his recent release Japan, completing 25 films in the industry, and how he chooses his scripts  
Karthi opens up before his 25th film. (Photo | Special Arrangement)
Karthi opens up before his 25th film. (Photo | Special Arrangement)

You would expect a full house for Tamil actor Karthi. His father Sivakumar and brother Suriya are renowned actors in southern cinema. In his 16-year-old career, however, he has done only 25 projects, including his milestone film, Japan -- on an average, at least 10 less than most of his contemporaries. 

A straight shooter, the actor says, “I neither joined the field by accident nor was I forced into it. I am here by my own will. I don’t want to compromise on what I like.” Audiences have liked what he likes. Karthi has featured in some of the biggest hits in the Tamil film industry, including the Mani Ratnam-helmed Ponniyin Selvan franchise, actioners Kaithi and Kadaikutty Singam, comedy drama Oopiri, spy-thriller Sardar, and horror flick Kaashmora. 

Japan, which hit the theatres on November 10, is directed by Raju Murugan; the first film by the journalist-turned-filmmaker that has been headlined by Karthi. The two, however, worked together in Thozha (2016), for which Raju wrote the dialogues. The actor reveals that Japan was the first film for which he approached the director, and not the other way around. 

“I have always liked his work. We haven’t seen the kind of stories he has brought to the screen. His characters are different, and I wanted to be one of them,” admits Karthi, adding, “I like his humour. Like in Thozha, Raju’s light-hearted dialogues made the audience watch it again.”

In the heist movie, he plays an eccentric master thief on the run after stealing jewels worth Rs 200 crore. Elaborating on the character, the 46-year-old actor says, “We didn’t want him to be a ruthless guy, but a fun and quirky bad person. We also didn’t want the film to be restricted to any category.”

Similarly, the legacy actor admits to not following any particular set of rules while choosing his scripts. The unpredictability in his choice of roles is visible in his filmography.

“When they thought I would do an action film, I did Thozha, when they thought I would do a heroic role, I did the political drama Madras,” he says, adding, “I try not to repeat myself. I am a selfish actor and want my roles to be multilayered. That said, over time, I have also realized that other characters too should be powerful for a film to work.” 

Does he have a modus operandi to approach his roles? “I don’t know method acting. I simply take a lot of time to prepare for my parts. Films like Kaithi or Thozha did not need homework, but even for those I tried to understand the psyche and behaviour of the character. For Sardar, for instance, I saw documentaries to understand how spies don’t express and expect any form of appreciation. With Japan, I figured I had to be in my best element to bring out the quirks.”

While the actor is known for choosing unconventional characters, often with shades of grey, his off-screen persona is diametrically opposite. 

A man with a cause, he has voiced his support for farmers over the years. “My characters and I are different. There are certain roles I don’t want to do. I tell filmmakers beforehand because I also don’t like to infringe upon their freedom by forcing my politics on the films,” says Karthi, who has already wrapped up shooting his next film. 

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