How Karthi straddles commercial and content-driven cinema, from Kaithi to Madras and Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru
There is one man who can hold his head high and assert that he has been a part of quality projects, which also managed box office returns. His name is Karthi Sivakumar.
If you zoom in on Tamil cinema at the moment, there is only a handful of top-billed actors like Rajinikanth, Vijay, and Ajith, who guarantee a sizeable box-office number irrespective of how their films are, in terms of quality and reception.
When it comes to the rest of the male actors, it all depends on the kind of content they bring forward and the consistency they maintain overall. And out of the many actors in the second tier, there is one man who can hold his head high and assert that he has been a part of quality projects, which also managed to mint high returns at the box office. His name is Karthi Sivakumar.
As a youngster, Karthi was into academics. He graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from a reputed college in India and then flew to the United States to do his masters in Industrial Engineering. But somewhere, Karthi had the flair and the interest to get into filmmaking, and that's what made him come back to his homeland and join Mani Ratnam as an assistant director for Aayudha Ezhuthu (Yuva). A few years later, however, Karthi saw his path change as he made his debut as a shabby but lovable village ruffian in Ameer’s all-time classic Paruthiveeran. The film eventually became a blockbuster.
Karthi’s choices, thereafter, were a mix of highs and lows, but it is his recent graph that has piqued the interest of many avid moviegoers.
Over the last five years, he has carefully straddled commercial and content-driven films that have struck the right chord with the audiences, barring the exception of one or two films. Karthi is one of the few actors in contemporary Tamil cinema who has an uncanny knack to slip into various roles. Ever since his debut in Paruthiveeran, the audiences have developed a soft corner for his rooted characters, and he has smartly played to the gallery through films such as Komban and Kadaikutty Singam, which went on to become hit ventures at the box office with long theatrical runs. Interestingly, Kadaikutty Singam pulled in more footfalls in Tamil Nadu than Superstar Rajinikanth’s Kaala last year, reviving a newfound interest for family dramas in Tamil cinema – a genre which was slowly getting limited to the small screen after its kingly dominance in the '90s and the early millennium. Recent blockbusters such as Ajith’s Viswasam and Sivakarthikeyan's Namma Veettu Pillai have further acclaimed this fact, which began through Karthi’s decision to be a part of such a film with director Pandiraj.
At the same time, Karthi has also made it a point to be a part of strong content-driven outings that open up a new space in an existing genre. Joining hands with filmmaker Pa. Ranjith, Karthi’s Madras, was a hard-hitting and wholly engaging social drama that spoke about a lot of delicate topics and showcased the life of North Madras in stunning detail. The film is still seen as director Ranjith’s best effort to date, even after he worked on two big films with Superstar Rajinikanth, including Kabali and Kaala. On the other hand, Karthi worked with one-film old filmmaker H. Vinoth for a terrific, riveting investigative thriller in Theeran: Adhigaaram Ondru, which was widely appreciated for its remarkable research work, intelligent writing, and some edge-of-the-seat action sequences as well. Karthi’s recent blockbuster in Kaithi is indeed the talk of the town, taking him to the next level with its worldwide gross now standing on the doors of the 100-crore club. The film wonderfully blended a local and relatable character with an exciting storyline, a smashing support cast, and an emotional core that tugged our heartstrings, all at once.
Interestingly, Karthi is also looked at as the lucky charm for filmmakers who work with him, as they have all gone on to do films with the stars from the top tier.
It was only after Siruthai that Siva went on to do four back to back movies with Ajith in Veeram, Vedalam, Vivegam, and Viswasam. As mentioned earlier, Ranjith’s meeting with Rajinikanth did get firmed up after Madras happened, and the rest is history with the director being Bollywood bound right now. After Theeran, H. Vinoth landed an opportunity to helm Nerkonda Paarvai, the Tamil remake of Pink with Ajith, and has successively signed up the star’s next film in Valimai, which is all set to begin in December. And now, Kaithi director Lokesh Kanagaraj is busy shooting his upcoming movie with Vijay and has also been signed for a film in Kamal Haasan’s home production house, Raaj Kamal Films International.
When Karthi joins the shoot of Mani Ratnam’s dream project Ponniyin Selvan next month, it will be the very first time in his career that he will be rejoining a director he has already worked with in his career. Karthi might be breaking through his unwritten rule of not working with the same director again, but one thing’s for sure, he’s set to break a few more boundaries in cinema hereon.
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