A blend of Che Guevara and Subhash Chandra Bose!
Tamil actor Satyaraj is the man of the moment.
Having done more than a hundred films of every genre, mostly distinguishing him through action and comic roles, Sathyaraj has slowly but surely morphed into a character artist of merit over the years. Never afraid of poking fun at the establishment or even ripping apart his own peers, brutal humorous honesty has always been his forte.
With his much anticipated Tamil film, S A Chandrasekar's sharp political statement Sattappadi Kuttram releasing this Friday, Pavithra Srinivasan gets down to a freewheeling chat with the star, amidst his choc-a-bloc shooting schedule:
Sattappadi Kuttam is supposed to be a slap in the face of a corrupt, fraudulent establishment. Tell us about your role in it.
I play an activist, something along the lines of Che Guevara. Che has always been an idol to me. My character is called Bose, and his job is to make sure that injustice is always set right.
Subash Chandra Bose was a freedom fighter as well, so I feel that my character is a combination of both heroes. Obviously, I would love to play Che Guevara himself in a movie, but since he was a Cuban, it would not be possible to have someone like him in Tamil cinema.
'My work is to get my views across'
This movie has generated a lot of anticipation and some nervousness among certain quarters. Do you think the audience will receive it well?
I am very sure that the audience will like it. After all, look carefully at some of the many cult films of earlier years like Nadodi Mannan. MGR took so many potshots at the establishment in that movie, and it was a blockbuster.
Sattappadi Kuttram will simply state the affairs of the country, as it stands. My own performance in the movie will be almost like, if not equal to one of my earlier hits, like Amaidhippadai.
You've been very vocal when it comes to certain political issues. Do you see yourself playing an active role in Tamil Nadu politics?
Not really. (pauses) I can't see myself knuckling under anybody. Politics would prove very difficult for me. See, my job is to educate people about what's going on, tell them what's what, like expressing my views on the lan issue. What they choose to do with it is their business. My work is to get my views across. I have never particularly felt that I should do more because this is like getting together a buffet: you set everything out and hope people will choose the right dishes. Your work ends with presenting them the choices.
'I am doing Boman Irani's role in 3 Idiots remake'
Are you working in Mani Ratnam's version of Ponniyin Selvan?
Absolutely. And I am enjoying every moment of it. If there is one filmmaker I really appreciate, it is Mani Ratnam. He is a legend, and has a completely different way of working, from, say Shankar.
I play Periya Pazhuvettaraiyar in the film; a strong, capable warrior. I read the book a long time ago; haven't read it in recent times. But I've always been into sword fighting. In fact, I think I'm the only person in Tamil cinema who can sword-fight with both hands. So preparing for that role was not really that difficult.
What about Shankar's remake of the 3 Idiots?
I am doing Boman Irani's role in it. It's a very interesting one, and we tried out about 10 different 'looks' before finally deciding one. It also helps that Shankar himself is an actor, so we managed to work on exactly what was needed.
This is the first time I am working with him and expectations are naturally high. I am also enjoying myself, working with my co-stars.
Image: A scene from Sattappadi Kuttram
'I am keen on doing projects that challenge me as an actor'
You're seen in quite a few multi-starrers, which isn't the norm here.
This is a decision inspired by Hindi cinema. Over there, they have no problems collaborating. I am keen on doing projects that challenge me as an actor.
Is there any role that you wish you could have done, or wish to do, in the future?
I have already done the role of E V R Periyar, my idol. That was the role I yearned to do, and I was incredibly satisfied that I could play it, and am very happy with the response it received. That was the high-point of my career. Everything else that came after it was a bonus.
What movies are you working on now?Plenty. Aside from Shankar and Mani Ratnam's movies, there's Ayiram Vilakku, Ponnar-Shankar, and I'm doing a TV show as well. My plate is full.
Image: A scene from Sattappadi Kuttram