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The Rediff Interview / Sarath Kumar
'I wanted to be like MGR'
October 30, 2006
He's just made his 100th film, and turned director.
Now, as Sarath Kumar turns to more realistic cinema -- the actor stars in Gowtham Menon's Pachakili Muthucharam next -- the actor is raring to go. Here are some excerpts from a conversation with Shobha Warrier:
Cricketers raise their bats when they hit a century. How did you celebrate your 100th film?
Everything about my 100th film was sober. Yes, today, it is not an easy thing to complete 100 films. I don't know whether the newcomers will be able to do 100 films! It is very difficult to sustain yourself. I started out 22 years ago, and I must thank my fans that have supported me all through these 22 long years. Isn't it amazing that they still look at me as a hero?
So, there was no celebration for your 100th film?
No, releasing the 100th film for my fans itself is a celebration for me.
How do you differentiate between your film fans and political followers?
I don't know. I am still unable to gauge the two. I think moviegoers are different from political followers. Moviegoers go to a theatre only for entertainment. There are no political messages in my films. I do films only for entertainment.
Was it because politics and cinema are interlinked in Tamil Nadu that you also moved to politics?
No, I have a political background. One of my uncles was once a minister in the DMK ministry, another uncle was a leading Communist party leader, and my brother in law was a minister. So, you can say my family has been inclined to politics.
When you were young, were you also attracted to the ideals of Communism?
I'm still young!
I meant your teen years and your early twenties�
Even when I went to Parliament, I spoke about unemployment, sustenance, food for all, and the poor in society. I feel these are major issues we have not attended to even after so many years of independence. These issues have always haunted me and I wanted an answer to my questions. I always think, why is one man privileged while the other poor. I wouldn't call it a communist thought, but I always felt for the poor. I like to share what I have with someone who doesn't have that. Though I was not attracted by the communist ideology or anything like that, I felt there should be equality in society. I feel there shouldn't be any differentiation based on caste, creed or religion. Yes, that is communist ideology!
How do you differentiate between the actor and the politician?
There is a slight difference between actor Sarath Kumar and politician Sarath Kumar. Basically, I'm an actor; that's my profession. I also feel I should concentrate more on acting. Even as a normal person, I like to do something for society. So, as far as my role as a human being is concerned, there is no difference between Sarath Kumar the human being and Sarath Kumar the politician. But as a politician, I have certain duties to perform like campaigning for the party, making speeches at various platforms, and I have to devote a lot of time to these. The problem is I do not have enough time to devote to politics.
So, I have not still made up my mind as to what exactly I want to do in life. I have understood that you cannot ride two horses at the same time. I have reached such a stage in my life that I feel either I quit acting and concentrate on politics or quit politics and concentrate on acting. If I try to do both, I may not be doing full justice to both.
Does this feeling affect your acting or political activities?
When I am acting, I try to fully immerse myself in acting and when I am campaigning, I devote myself to it fully. I think I should decide what exactly I want to do. If you have some ambition in life, you have to work towards that goal. You can be either a total entertainer or a good politician: you can't be both at the same time.
When you have to take a decision, what profession will you choose?
My profession will definitely get top priority. Without cinema, I am nobody. Unless and until I am popular, I will not be useful in campaigning. So, popularity has to be maintained. It is true that I have achieved something as an actor but I have to work hard to keep that popularity alive.
That means you have to be in both fields�
Yes, in my case, I have to ride both the horses. I have got the ability and energy to ride both. But it is very difficult to balance both the careers.
It is an obvious question but when you acted in your first film, did you think that one day you would do 100 films? Did you have any goals then?
I had no goals at all. I was not even sure whether I would do a second film. When you have such a frame of mind, where is the question of thinking about 100 films? I wanted to act, and I started acting. I wanted to be like MGR. I wanted to be as popular as him and also as healthy as him. He was so agile even when he was old.
One thing I can say for sure. Whatever I do, I give my 100% to it. But I feel I haven't got any challenging roles in my career as an actor. I feel I am underused as an actor.
You worked as a journalist after your graduation. Did you enjoy your tenure as a journalist?
I did enjoy my journalistic days. That was my first job. It was my brother in law's paper (Dinakaran) and I was taking care of the circulation and also reporting from Bangalore. I worked as a journalist for 7 to 8 years. But I had to move on because my ambition was to be an actor.
You worked as a journalist in real life. So, you know how a journalist works. Still, in your film Thalaimagan, the journalist is more like a superhero. Why did you have to do all that?
This is commercial cinema. Yes, I agree the way movies are made has to change. I strongly feel we should make more realistic films. I want to do something different. In most films, you have fights, songs, action, etc and the filmmakers say the audience wants it. I don't think the audience wants to see all these ingredients, but you are giving such films to them. You are not giving them good realistic films. I don't think the audience relishes what they see on screen.
But you are the director of Thalaimagan. Why didn't you make it different?
I got the film after it was 30-40% complete. Yet I have made an attempt to make it different in whatever way I could. I tried to do justice to the script given to me.
Didn't you feel the journalist in Thalaimagan should have been a normal person?
Yes, he should have. But since it is my 100th film, people may expect something like my earlier films, not something totally different.
You could have shocked them with a totally different film.
Yes, I can shock them. But here, I was given a half cooked meal. I had to work from where it was left. I was making a film for a corporate company and it was my responsibility to bring the first copy on time. My deadline was Diwali. I think Radaan Media works (the production company headed by his wife Radhika, that produced Thalaimagan) is the only film company that gave the film on time.
You didn't have any experience in directing a film before. Why did you decide to take up that responsibility when the earlier director left the project?
No other director would be interested in taking up a half-project. So, for the sake of my wife's company, I decided to take it up. Rather it fell on my shoulders. I must say I would have done the same thing for any other company too.
Earlier you spoke about the need to have realistic Tamil films. How much effort will you take to make such films?
I am doing a film called Pachakili Muthu Charam by Gowtham Menon. In it, unlike in my other films, I am thrashed and bashed. I am not a superhero at all. I wear normal clothes and go to office everyday.
After that also, I want to do such films. I think producers and directors also should come forward to make such films.
Your wife has a production house...
Yes, we have a production house, and we will definitely do something different. Priya (who made Kanda Naal Muthal) is doing a film for us. I will be in the film Gowtham Menon is going to do for us in June next year. I will certainly attempt to do something different. I want to step into the shoes of Amitabh Bachchan. After doing 100 films, I think I can afford to experiment, and I will.
Photos: Sreeram Selvaraj