Karthi on his mass entertainer Sulthan, Mani Ratnam's Ponniyin Selvan, and how he preps for each role
'Sulthan is a colourful entertainer with enough comedy, emotions, and sentiment,' says Karthi of his upcoming release directed by Bakkiyaraj Kannan.
Generally, Karthi would demand directors to narrate the full script before finalising any project but for Sulthan, the actor says he okayed the film by hearing the one-liner from Bakkiyaraj Kannan and another twenty-minute narration from the director.
“Sometimes you would fall in love with a script just by hearing the one-liner and fortunately, Bakkiyaraj came up with one such core plot. In the film, I play Vikram, a robotic engineer. He wants to launch a start-up company but his dad throws him a new challenge to tackle 100 rowdies. Though Vikram doesn’t like the idea, he takes up the challenge for his dad because he doesn’t want to regret it later by missing out on an opportunity. After the initial narration, I asked Bakkiyaraj to narrate the one-liner to my producer SR Prabhu, who also loved it. Later, we asked the director to enhance the script by adding a lot of layers. I always want my films to have an underlying emotional quotient. Thanks to the one and half years of work from Bakkiyaraj, the script has come out well," said Karthi in a group interaction about his upcoming Sulthan, which is all set to release in Tamil and Telugu on 2 April.
“I can’t do a film like Kaithi all the time. During the testing times like the ongoing pandemic, people like to come to theatres to enjoy with their family and Sulthan will satisfy them. I like all kinds of films like KGF, Asuran, and Kaithi but watching a mass entertainer in theatres still gives me great joy. Sulthan is a colourful entertainer with enough comedy, emotions, and sentiment. Also, making a commercial entertainer is as challenging as an authentic arthouse film. When I started shooting for Sulthan, thought that the experience is going to be relaxed and fun but for the first four days, my cinematographer and director struggled to set the frame for 100 actors. They finalised the lens to capture the 100 people only during the fourth day. Also, the 100 rowdies in the film never acted before in films. They were treated like set properties in other films but here in Sulthan, they have to act. Bakkiyaraj has extracted the best from all these unknown actors," adds the actor.
Talking about the ensemble of actors in Sulthan, Karthi says: “When we approached Napolean sir on a friendly basis, he wanted a bigger role but he later, agreed for us. Napoleon sir plays my dad in the film but I have more screen space with Malayalam actor Lal sir, he plays a Muslim man named Mansoor. Being a Muslim, he calls me Sulthan (King) and eventually it becomes my name in the film. Mansoor is analogous to Kattappa's character in Baahubali. Yogi Babu plays the accountant to the entire rowdy gang, his character will be hilarious throughout the film. After a long time, I got some fun romantic scenes throughout Sulthan. My portions with Rashmika Mandanna will be comic relief in the story filled with rough and tough rowdies. Despite being a pan-Indian star, Rashmika remains humbled on the sets, it’s a great quality."
Talking about his upcoming magnum opus Ponniyin Selvan with the maverick filmmaker Mani Ratnam, Karthi says: "It's quite natural that a lot of things will be condensed when you convert a five-volume book into a script but Mani sir has perfectly balanced all the characters in the film. For me, shooting with so many actors is a new experience. Mani sir has researched a lot for the script that he has written the film based on the historical facts. I also had to research for my role by reading several historical books. I was stunned to know the kind of water management and rich lifestyle our people had before thousand years. I can share more things about the film but only towards the release."
After Ponniyin Selvan, Karthi will juggle between the shoots of director Muthaiah and Mithran's films. "Yes, I play a dual role in Mithran's film. Contrary to the rumour, my film with Muthaiah is not Komban 2," clarifies Karthi.
Talking about his research as an actor for each film, Karthi says: "I'm not a voracious reader but for my characters, I pick up interesting books to get into the skin of the character and also talk to people in the field. For example, during Siruthai and Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru, I met many leading police officers. For a commercial film like Komban, I had to read Kuttra Parambarai to understand the lifestyle of people in Ramanathapuram. Also, old classics inspire me to choose scripts. I always wanted to do a big-size family entertainer like Varusham Pathinaaru and when Pandiraj sir came up with the script of Kadai Kutty Singam, I immediately grabbed the opportunity."
Karthi is also good at identifying the right talents. For example, only after Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru, H Vinoth got an opportunity to team up with Ajith. Only after Kaithi, Lokesh got the opportunity to team up with Vijay and after Madras, Ranjith made Kabali and Kaala with Rajinikanth.
"I pick directors based on their narration and script work. Their motto behind picking up film direction as their profession also plays a pivotal role. If they are genuine and their research work convinces me, I would give my nod. Also, I gauge their potential by watching their first film," says the actor.
For those who don't know, Karthi started his journey as an assistant director to Mani Ratnam but all of a sudden, he became an actor. "Assistant director is someone who helps the director on the sets. Mani sir once told me that in India, you have to first become a writer to become a director and to become a writer, he insisted me to read a lot of books. Only if we read so many books, there is a chance for us to create something unique and I lack in that aspect. In Hollywood, you don't have to write to become a director but here things are different. But in case if I get an opportunity to write something unique, would try my luck," he says.
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