I want to retain my innocence: Sivakarthikeyan
Sivakarthikeyan, in conversation with Sudhir Srinivasan, about his next film Rajini Murugan, and his desire to become a ‘complete package’
You’re going back to directors you have already worked with. You didKaaki Sattai with Durai Senthilkumar, who gave you one of your earliest hits in Ethir Neechal. Now, you’re doing Rajini Muruganwith Ponram, who gave you perhaps your biggest hit withVaruthapadatha Valibar Sangam.
I have also done two films (Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga and Marina) with director Pandiraj. Did you know that he was severely dissuaded against using me in such an important role (inMarina) by people who felt that a TV anchor wouldn’t be received well in cinema?
But yes, when I feel comfortable with a director and his team, I like going back. Even when I was doingEthir Neechal, Durai and I knew we wanted to make another film (Kaaki Sattai). Similarly, Ponram and I knew we’d go on to work again when we were making Varuthapadatha… We decided that our next would retain the humour from our first film, but touch upon a new topic. So, in Rajini Murugan, we talk about a joint family in Madurai. There’s a lovely track about my friendship with my grandfather (Rajkiran). It’s quite unlike Madurai as you’ve seen it in other films.
Are you talking about its portrayal as a violent city?
Exactly. People don’t seem to realise that it has a totally different side to it — a softer, passive side that brims with joy and affection. Moi ezhudhardhu, koottu kudumbam, morapponnu-morappaiyan kalyanam… you get the idea. I have some experience in all these topics. I ended up marrying mymorapponnu, after all (Laughs).
The emphasis, no doubt, will be on humour?
Yes. In fact, the first scene I shot was a comedy track with Soori anna. Think of it as my hitting the first ball for a sixer. Starting off with such a sequence takes away all the pressure and nervousness of doing a new film. Humour, after all, is my strength.
What then would you say is your weakness?
Well, I don’t think I’m in a position where I can convincingly beat up dozens and dozens of people yet. That’s why we reduced the number of fight scenes in Kaaki Sattai. I am also getting better at other aspects like dancing and emoting. I want to be known for being a complete package; not just for my comedy.
But for the moment, it appears that you have no cause for concern. You’ve been delivering hit after hit for the last three years.
(Smiles) It seems that I’ve grown a lot as a star during this time. And to think I just wanted to be a comedian in the film industry when I started off! But I think it helped my career that I decided very early on that I’d not do insignificant little roles. I already had a one-hour spot in Vijay TV, where I could showcase my comedy prowess. Why’d I settle for something less?
You mentioned you’ve grown a lot as a ‘star’. What about as an ‘actor’?
Well, I’m growing all the time. I’m trying to become versatile in the limited commercial space that I’m now active in. I can’t already start doing the sort of roles that an actor like Kamal sir does. Humour comes naturally to me; so naturally, all the directors I’m working with are using that to the fullest. We try and stay away from too much bloodshed and vulgarity of any kind. We are able to attract large audiences mainly because we do such clean films.
So, if a director like Mysskin approached you with a dark subject, you wouldn’t say yes?
(Laughs) I can’t imagine him approaching me.
Let’s say he did.
A script with a lot of violence, I imagine?
Well then, I’d have to say no — for the moment. People come to my films with certain expectations. It is in that little zone that I can do my little experiments. It’s only as long as the camera is on that cinema is an art form. Once the work is over, it becomes business. When I become more accomplished, perhaps, I could experiment by doing two roles in a film, with one character being experimental.
I’m a big fan of the type of films Aamir Khan does. At once, he’s doing films like 3 Idiots, Talaash andPK. Years down the line, maybe I’ll also get there. It’s still early days for me in the industry. The excitement of working with actors whose films I grew up watching is still not lost on me.
In Rajini Murugan, for instance, I was thrilled to hear I’d be acting with Rajkiran. I’ve watched hisAranmanai Kili, when I was a little boy, from the front row. I told him about it, and even asked the director to shoot a scene in which both of us walk together. I felt a similar rush of excitement when I worked with Sathyaraj in Varuthapadatha…
Surely, this thrill of doing films with such actors will fade with time?
I really, really hope not. I think that this thrill translates to my relatable performances on screen. I enjoy the nervousness I feel when in the presence of such actors. I’ll consider myself blessed if this lasts throughout my career. I want to retain that innocence.
But considering that your quotes are now starting to court controversy, do you think you will succeed in retaining this innocence you speak of?
I don’t know. The people have accepted me. Wherever I go, I have people shaking my hand, and taking liberties with me by asking me about my wife, and my daughter, Aaradhana. They don’t see me as a ‘boy next door’, as reviewers sometimes say it. They see me as one of their own. It is because of their acceptance that my daughter, my wife, and I have a home to live in, and food to eat.
But as you say, suddenly, there is a section of people who are attributing different motivations to my words. The last thing I want when I have a mic in hand is to be worried about the repercussions of my speech. All I’m interested in is making people laugh — not offending anybody. But I’m now getting used to some people attributing hateful intent to my jokes. If I start being diplomatic, I’ll lose who I am — the Sivakarthikeyan that the world knows. I guess I will just have to try and get smarter.
|1||He is a teetotaller. “Not out of any promise I made anybody, but I just didn’t take to alcohol at all.”|
|2||His all-time favourite commercial film is Baasha. “Who can forget the legendary fight scenes?”|
|3||He plays tennis ball cricket regularly at a private space on ECR. “I’m a medium fast bowler. I am careful never to keep wickets though. I hate having to pick up the ball.”|
|4||He is good friends with Ravichandran Ashwin. “We have a WhatsApp group of common friends. I congratulated him on his performance in SriLanka last week.”|
|5||His favourite composer is A. R. Rahman. “Kalayil Dhinamum is my favourite. I also love Kurukku Siruthavale.”|
|6||He used to read a lot of Tamil poetry but stopped after he got into films. “I stopped as I didn’t want such serious literature to affect my jokes. It’s difficult to switch off from something as serious as profound poetry.”|
|7||He doesn’t understand Christopher Nolan’s films. “I tell my friends to inform me in advance, so I can get a good night’s rest before I go to watch his films.”|