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'Veppam will change my destiny'

Last updated on: July 28, 2011 13:13 IST

'Veppam will change my destiny'

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Shobha Warrier in Chennai

Tamil actor Karthik Kumar is slowly and steadily shedding the image of the US-returned Mappilai (son-in-law) that he got with his first film, Mani Ratnam's Alai Paayuthe. He is anything but that in this week's Tamil release, Veppam, directed by debutante director Anjana and produced by Gowtham Vasudev Menon. Karthik plays a slum boy in the film that tells the story of two boys (Nani and Karthik) and a girl (Nithya Menon) from a Chennai slum.

In this interview, the actor tells Shobha Warrier about the film and Evam, the English theatre group he has started with his friend Sunil.

It has been a while since a film of yours was released.

Yes, it was a year ago that my last film Kola Kolaya Munthiringa was released. As soon as I finished the film, I started Veppam. By December, we finished shooting and we were hoping it would release by February but it got delayed. I am waiting for the film to be released as I know I will get some interesting offers to act in Tamil and Telugu films.

How did Veppam happen?

Anjana was looking for an actor to portray this character, Vishnu. When she contacted me two years ago, I was shooting. So, I suggested two other names and she even booked one of them but the shoot of the film got delayed and by the time she was ready to shoot, the actor was busy with another film. So, she came back to me.


Image: Karthik Kumar

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'I am looking to do something different in each film'

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Do you believe in destiny?

Totally. Otherwise, this role would not have come back to me.

What is so exciting about the film?

When you see the film, you will know. Anjana was with this project for three years. As an actor, I have been on this project for one-and- a-half years. I don't think anybody else would have offered me a role like this. The guy Vishnu is from a slum in Chennai and he is this non-stop-talking mechanic who dreams of becoming a rich boy one day. Nobody would offer me the role of a slum boy. They think of me only when they need someone to portray an NRI or a rich guy in India.

As a theatre person, I am looking to do something different in each film.

After Veppam, do you feel you will escape from the US-returned mappilai image trap?

I really hope so. More than that, to get such a role when you are trapped in an image is so difficult. The director has to be convinced that I can portray the role of a slum boy. But Anjana was sure that I would be the right choice for the role.


Image: A still from Veppam

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'Anjana convinced me to do the role'

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How did she think of you?

I have no idea. She has been aware of me as a person for a long time, but she has not seen most of my films, which was a good thing as I was typecast. After I read the script, I asked her, are you serious? Hats off to her conviction.

How did you transform yourself internally to play the role of this chatty mechanic from a slum?

I followed the director's directions because she knew the character in and out, how he feels, how he looks, how he behaves, etc. I learnt the dialect of a slum boy from an assistant director. He recorded my entire dialogue and I used to listen to the tape every day so that I got the slang right.

Nani and I play friends in the film and both of us are from a slum. We get caught in drug dealing because of our high ambitions. We want to make some quick bucks. What happens in the next two days is the story.

How was Gautham Menon as the producer?

He never ever interfered. He never came on the sets to check how it was going. Once we finished a schedule, he used to sit with the director and discuss future plans. I think he gave Anjana the freedom she would have wanted as a first time director. All of us actors saw him only at the audio launch.


Image: A still from Veppam

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'I want filmmakers to change their image of me'

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How memorable was the shoot?

I have been in the industry for the last 11 years. But all of us acted as if it was our first film. The entire film was shot in real locations so we used to finish the shooting in record time as we were supposed to move out after the stipulated time. It was like a guerrilla operation. Every day was a challenge.

Are you really looking forward to the release?

I have waited seven months of my life waiting for this film's release. I feel this film will change my destiny. I have heard narrations but have not committed to any film except one Malayalam film. I want film-makers to change their image of me.

Do people still come to you with the US-returned mappillai roles?

Yes, yes, even today.


Image: A still from Veppam

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'I don't think I have reached the heart of the audience'

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So, Mani Ratnam did you an injustice...

Oh no, he gave me a career. After that, it is up to me to build it. I don't think I have reached the heart of the audience. Everybody says I am a good performer but I haven't got a role that will take my career to a different level.

How is Evam, your theatre group, doing?

Evam is doing very well. We are just back from Washington DC; we were on a scholarship there for a month. We are going international next year. Right now, we are performing regularly in five or six cities in the country.

The play based on Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone is Evam's biggest hit...

Yes, we have been running it for the last four years. Our next project is Chetan Bhagat's Two States. Before Shah Rukh Khan comes out with the film version, we will come out with the stage version.


Image: Karthik Kumar

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