Mani Ratnam Made Me Realise That I Can Do Anything: Karthi

When Karthi Sivakumar worked for the first time in a Mani Ratnam, film he was a complete newcomer. He got to play his own brother, superstar Suriya’s friend, in Aaytha Eshuthu. Now 13 years later, Karthi plays the lead in Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Veliyidai (KV). The actor talks about his journey with master filmmaker Mani Ratnam.

Karthi Sivakumar, ActorIt’s been a long journey and I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to be the leading man in Mani sir’s film. When he offered me the role of a fighter pilot, I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. I didn’t know if I would do justice to this character.

Not that Karthi has ever been content cruising in the comfort zone.

KarthiFrom the beginning of my career, I’ve been looking for fresh challenges. But KV is another level altogether. Like I said, it’s about the life of a fighter pilot and it’s an intense love story. Now let me tell you, where I come from, there is very little knowledge and awareness of the armed forces. I had little idea about the kind of lives fighter pilots lead, the risks they take, and the sacrifices they make.

This is when Karthi began meeting real fighter pilots.

KarthiI began to learn about their lives, their families, the way they think. What it’s like to be up there in the sky… Mani sir’s film has liberated me in ways that I had never imagined. I don’t know how to fly yet. But I may continue my exploration of aviation. I learnt how to ride a horse for my last film Kaashmora, and I continue to learn riding. There are four aviation schools in  Chennai and I may learn to fly properly.

Learning how to play an intense passionate lover was even harder.

KarthiMy character Varun is someone I didn’t know at all. His feelings and the way he expresses them were so alien to me, I was not sure I could play him. It’s a very unusual lover’s role. Varun is not a boy, he’s a man. Not too many love stories are made about men in our country. I had to dance, but the dancing was not conventional. I had to lose 6-7 kilos to look leaner. And I had to be completely clean-shaven, something I haven’t done for any of my roles.

Having the very beautiful Aditi Rao as his co-star helped.

KarthiAditi’s passion to excel was infectious. She had to learn Tamil from scratch, whereas I already knew the language fluently. She not only leant the language, there came a point in our shooting when she would be ready with her lines before me. I think this film will be a turning point in her career, and dare I say, in my career too.

Whether it was Mani Ratnam, or music composer AR Rahman, film editor A Sreekar Prasad or cinematographer Ravi Varman, Karthi felt he was working with a distinguished family.

KarthiThese are stalwarts, geniuses who have worked with my brother (actor) Suriya. I’ve grown up watching them. Now, while working with them, I could see their enthusiasm level. Varman sir used to get so excited while arranging every shot. As for Rahman sir’s songs, I have always been a fan of his music in Mani sir’s works. What fabulous melodies Rahman sir has given us in KV! I can’t stop humming the songs.

Karthi laughs off his Baahubali fears, the mammoth sequel is releasing soon after KV after all.

KarthiLuckily it comes three weeks after us, so we’re safe. I think Mani sir has his own audience. They will see our film regardless of Baahubali.