Kaatru Veliyidai: Don’t expect a breezy, romantic story like OK Kanmani, says Karthi
In this exclusive interview, Karthi talks about going from being Mani Ratnam's assistant to his actor in Kaatru Veliyidai, working with Aditi Rao Hydari and doing a role without a moustache for the first time.
Working with Mani Rathnam is a dream-come-true for most actors, and the hero of Kaatru Veliyidai, Karthi Sivakumar, confesses that he doesn’t feel differently.
The trailer gives us a quick glimpse of a clean-shaven Karthi in an air force uniform wooing his lady love, but it also reveals a few grim, intense moments—probably why the actor cautions us against expecting another Alaipayuthey or OK Kanmani.
During a brief interaction, Karthi, former assistant of Mani Rathnam, shares his experience of working with his mentor again as an actor, on working with Aditi Rao Hydari and talks of his experience playing Varun aka VC in Kaatru Veliyidai.
How long have you been working on KV? What was your initial reaction on hearing about the role?
Karthi: We’ve been talking for some time; we were supposed to do another script earlier. But at that time I was doing Thozha and Kaashmora, and both the projects were not finished. The movies that were supposed to get over in October, were likely to continue until January or February 2016. I explained this to Mani sir, he told me to go ahead and finish them. He called me in March and told me he had a different script for me and that I’d be playing a pilot. I was taken back, but I knew this was going to be challenge and I took it up.
You worked as an assistant to Mani Rathnam for Ayutha Ezhuthu. You must have impressed him enough for you to have landed this role in KV?
Karthi: Do you think I would have any say in this? I’m still surprised that he called me for a role like this. I couldn’t even imagine myself playing this role and I don’t look like myself in the movie. I feel it’s a great move for me at this point in my career as I am able to showcase a different facet. As an actor that’s what gives me a kick: to behave and emote like a totally different person. I enjoy doing homework for my roles-trying to find out about the background of a person and everything.
This film really gave me that opportunity. How often do you come across a fighter pilot, right?
How is it to be directed by Mani Ratnam? Especially, while shooting those intense scenes?
Karthi: His direction is very interesting. He is a real director who gives you inputs for a performance in every scene, instead of just explaining where it comes in the movie and leave it at that. He also monitors how you would like to do it. When you explain it and he likes it, you feel kicked about it. He takes a lot of effort in translating the emotions on screen not just through the actors, but even through the backdrops. Those are the moments when you realise you’re working with the master.
You play a role that you haven’t played before. What kind of homework went into it?
Karthi: I play a squadron leader. I took basic flying lessons I met a fighter pilot who served in the Air Force. I also met up with my friend who is in the air base and spent time with him. I met up with officers who are in different stages in their careers and interacted with them. I went through cross-fit training and lost weight to fit the role.
The trailer also seems to have some grim, intense parts.
Karthi: It’s not a breezy romance; don’t come expecting another Alaipayuthey or OK Kanmani. It’s a different take on romance. Both the leads in the film are really strong individuals, who have been characterised powerfully. The story is about how they get along. It’s not all lovey-dovey. It’s not all going to be like Azhagiye…(song from the film) throughout. It’s an emotional love story set in the backdrop of Indian Air Force.
Your role in Kaatru Veliyidai is a departure from the massy entertainers that you normally appear in — save may be a Kaashmora or Thozha? Are you looking for more challenging roles now?
Karthi: What do actors do—we select from scripts that come our way. Whatever excites me—I take it up and do. You cannot decide every time, what you’re going to do next. I don’t want to repeat myself. Komban and Kaashmora came at the same time. I didn’t know which one to do first. There’s no pattern or strategy to how I pick my films. But I understand my roles have to give me scope to perform and have to be a bit emotional, because people still remember Paruthiveeran and want to see me in similar roles.
Was it overwhelming to work with Mani Rathnam and Rahman team? High expectations before the release?
Karthi: No I have grown up in that office, so there was no pressure. But it’s great to be on the sets interacting with Mani sir so much. It’s a character-driven story. As his assistant, our interaction was limited. Now that I’m back as an actor, he would sit with me and go over each scene and was open to my inputs. What more can you ask for?
Aditi is a newcomer—new to Tamil film industry. How was it working with her?
Karthi: She was waiting for this opportunity. She would come to the sets well-prepared, thorough with all the Tamil dialogues for an entire schedule. She has put in all her effort to make sure that she’s received well. When you have a co-star who’s geared up to do her best-that works to our mutual benefit.
You have always sported that moustache—but playing the role of Varun would mean sporting a clean-shaven look. Was it easy?
Karthi: It was a big inner struggle to give up on my moustache. Mani sir encouraged me and said if it wasn’t looking good, we could grow it back again. But it looked okay.
There was a portion when I had to grow my beard, but after about 10 days I had to clean-shave and everyone on the sets was like, “Oh look, VC is back.” That’s how excited people were about my character. I met an officer who looked just like me, wearing the same aviators and the cap and I thought, “Not bad, I’ve copied him well.” I had to bring in the aura of being an officer in every frame and I used to worry if I was doing it well.
Every scene was difficult, but it feels good if you have something meaty to do, right? I was quite thrilled.
Your next project?
Karthi: My upcoming film is Theeran: Athikaram Ondru directed by H. Vinoth.
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