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a la Karthi

Star son shines bright.

Rinku Gupta

He is the son of yesteryear actor Sivakumar while his brother Surya is the current heartthrob of the Tamil screen. Seemingly unfazed by all the expectations from him, actor Karthi Sivakumar has come out trumps in his debut film itself. His Paruthiveeran was not only a runaway commercial hit but also got him critical acclaim with the Tamil Nadu Government’s Best Actor (special) and Best Film awards 2006. It also won the Best Film award at the 9th Ci nefan’s Osian Asian-Arabic Film Festival 2007. It has been selected for screening at the Berlin Film Festival 2008 and shortlisted for the Oscars. Such an impressive start seems to have made Karthi a Next-Gen actor to reckon with already.

Despite all the success, Karthi remains level-headed. “I’m thankful that I’m doing what I love for a living. Being born in this family gave me an opportunity to be at the right place at the right time,” he says. Of course, a lot of hard work and perseverance went into the debut film. The movie took nearly two years to make after several hiccups and wrangles between director Ameer and producer Studio Green. But Karthi stuck on, believing in the vision of the director. “Ameer is a good director. With his great team I knew he would do justice to the script,” he explains. The critical acclaim and box-office returns seem to prove him right.

He is upbeat about his next film, director Selvaraghavan’s Ayarithil Oruvan, followed by director Linguswamy’s next venture.

The transition

But how did Karthi, with his BE in mechanical engineering and an MS in industrial engineering from the State University of New York, Binghampton, decide to join films?

“I was earning my scholarship, working 20 hours a week as a graphic designer in the US, when I realised that I never got tired of creative work. I suddenly understood my priorities. Earlier, I never had the clarity or courage to tell dad that I wanted to be in films though I always loved the medium. At that point I decided I wanted to be part of movie-making, the most interesting job ever,” says Karthi.

So, shunning lucrative job offers and armed with a course in film-making from SUNY, he returned home, determined “to get my feet wet in the creative world of films”.

Luckily for him, brother Surya was acting in Mani Ratnam’s Ayutha Ezhitha and Karthi bagged the dream job of his assistant director. “My aim was to learn and I wanted to start with the best!” he grins. He remembers Mani Ratnam’s advice, “Due to your background you have a chance to try your luck in cinema. But your success depends on your hard work and your ‘smart work’.” But why direction? “The visuals, the complexity and creative scope of direction attracted me,” he says.

Paruthiveeran happened when director Ameer offered him the role and brother Surya was excited about the script. His dad’s advice, “There is only a certain age for playing hero. Direction can follow at any time in life,” clinched the decision.

Family ties

For Karthi, ‘Big Brother watching’ has positive connotations. “Surya is the ideal brother. I trust his judgment. He’s been through the same situations and rough patches. He has warned me to be careful after a huge success and stay enthused during failure,” he says, adding that he admires his father’s achievements too. “Dad came in when MGR and Sivaji were active screen legends. He made his mark amidst such great pressure,” he recounts.

Proving himself with Paruthiveeran, Karthi is now enjoying the process of acting sans pressures. What do the awards mean to him? “It’s encouraging when you give your best and it wins an award,” he says. About the delegates’ response at the Cinefan’s Festival, he says. “For most, it was their first exposure to Tamil cinema and they were completely floored.”

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