2023 is a special year for Gautham Karthik. Not just because of his back-to-back releases — Pathu Thala and August 16 1947 — but also because it’s been ten years since the actor began his journey in Tamil cinema. Over the past decade, Gautham has had his share of hits and misses, but he maintains that he would never trade his journey for anything else.
Looking back at his career, Gautham points out how Mani Ratnam’s Kadal gave him the best possible debut an actor could make. “Honestly, I had absolutely no expectations until I saw the final product during dubbing. That’s when it hit me that I was part of such a huge-scale production and it’s rare for a debutant to get something like Kadal (2013). I couldn’t have gotten a better start.” Acknowledging his ups and downs in the industry, he says, “I have learnt a lot and I am where I am in life because of this journey and the experiences. The internal growth has been phenomenal.”
His biggest learning has been in the way he accepts criticism. “Instead of not taking the negatives at all, one can always see if there is anything constructive they can gain from it. For me, this phase of adapting my mindset to look for positive things in the negative, and to use that to move forward has kept my momentum going.”
This attitude has helped him make decisions, choose scripts, and stick by them no matter what. “Initially, whenever I would hear a narration, if I found it good or fun and if I could relate to the character, I would select the script. It was sort of an easy-going approach. But, after a while, I realised that you needed to select good scripts in order to perform. I realised this when I listened to the narration of Rangoon (2017, directed by Rajkumar); there is a lot more to a script than just the feel-good effect. My script selection has evolved over time. Of course, there have been a few misses, but there have been good ones as well.”
As an actor, Gautham loves to look for takeaways from his characters. Paraman from August 16 1947 encouraged him to be more confident. But when it comes to Pathu Thala, it was Silambarasan TR who taught him many things, he recalls. “As a human being, STR is immensely genuine. If he likes you, he goes out of his way to help you. He is also very open about what he feels. Beyond that, as an actor, he is an institute himself. There is so much you can learn from him. For instance, whenever he performs, he has the editing of the scene in his mind. He knows how to cut between the shots. It was inspiring to watch a performer like him in action.”
So, what’s next for Gautham? He is on the lookout for versatile roles, he says. “It is a search to find what I can do, what I can’t and to understand what else I can learn. I don’t think I will ever reach a conclusion but I enjoy the process.” In that line, his pursuit has now led him to his upcoming film Criminal, co-starring Sarath Kumar. Is he the criminal the title suggests? “I don’t think I can reveal it. I can’t let you know if I am being accused, or if someone else is. You have to watch the film to find out the real criminal. But it will be very different from my other roles.”