Sivakarthikeyan

Along the journey from actor to producer (with the Aishwarya Rajesh-starrer Kanaa), Sivakarthikeyan seems to have gone up a few notches on the maturity scale and is busy like never before. Amid shooting for Indru Netru Naalai director Ravikumar’s sci-fi film, he is promoting Seema Raja, which will release this Thursday. In the pipeline is a romcom with Siva Manasula Sakthi director Rajesh. The film will see Nayanthara star opposite him for the second time after Velaikkaran.“I want to strengthen my grip on the commercial space, and that’s what I try to achieve with every film,” he says.

Excerpts from a conversation follow:

Seema Raja is your third collaboration with director Ponram after Varuthapadatha Vaalibar Sangam and Rajini Murugan

Yes. We understand each other extremely well, and I’ve known him for quite some time now. He knows what works for me and what doesn’t. Seema Raja was written for me, and I can’t wait to watch it in theatres. You see, this comfort factor is important. We give each other space. What really caught my attention was the characterisation in the film. Each person has been sketched so realistically. Since I grew up in villages, I could relate to the subject a lot.

This is another Vinayaka Chaturthi release

Oh, yes. Varuthapadadha…was released on the same occasion in 2013. We tried to do the same for Rajini Murugan, it didn’t happen. Let’s see if the magic repeats with Seema Raja! It’s really not the auspicious factor or something, but a Thursday release (especially, a holiday) gives the film a four-day uninterrupted run. Cinema, is, after all, a business. Festival releases, naturally, draw more families to theatres, and that’s what matters.

How’s this one different from your earlier films with Ponram?

Varuthapadatha Vaalibar Sangam and Rajini Murugan are two different films though Ponram directed both. When you watch Seema Raja, you’ll know the difference. There’s a shift in terms of the filmmaking style, which was deliberate. We have period portions in which I appear as a king. I enjoyed playing the role. It demanded a fit physique so I had to put on weight in 15 days. Also, the interval block stunt was one of the most challenging scenes we’ve done.

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Your forte appears to be humour even today though you’re focused on commercial cinema

Undoubtedly. Humour-driven films can be good cinema, and I don’t subscribe to the view that good cinema has to be serious. I want my films to reach everybody, and that’s what I largely aim for.

Did you choose Seema Raja because you knew it was a safe bet?

If you were referring to the template of the film, then, yes. (Laughs) We tried something, and it worked to our advantage in the past. What’s wrong in repeating it? Well, cinema is about calculated risks. Seema Raja is the kind of film that works because there are audiences who like to indulge in such storylines. There’s always an audience for commercial films.

How was it to work with Simran and Samantha?

Simran ma’am is fun to be with and she plays a negative role in the film. She kept saying this was something new that she hasn’t done before. We have a couple of scenes together, and just watch out for them. I grew up watching her films and I’m a huge fan of her dancing style. As for Samantha, she’s a terrific performer. Kashta pattu silambam kaththukitaanga. I was amazed by her involvement in learning the art form. No, I don’t have silambam-related scenes in the film. Avunga fight pannuvaanga, naan vedikkai paarpen! (She fights, I simply watch) (Laughs)

Your films have had simple storylines — be it Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga, Maan Karate or Kaaki Sattai. But it’s interesting to observe that your presence can elevate even an ordinary script to the next level

Thanks for the compliment. That’s because I stay true to my character. As of now, I want the audience to believe in me, and my focus is to make them happy by giving hit films in a consistent manner. I am glad I’ve been given the opportunity to do the films I like. But my real-life persona is more like Harish. (his character in Ethir Neechal) (Smiles)

I’d like to produce a children’s film in future. Because they bring parents to the theatres. Not vice-versa.

Let’s discuss the chemistry between you and Soori, a regular in your films

Some friendships just happen without any effort, and trust me, we’ve had so much fun – both on and off the sets. We bond over cricket, food and lame jokes. The best comedy tracks that you see on screen is the result of our friendship. We keep improvising dialogues on the spot.

How do you enjoy this phase of turning producer?

I believe everything is about timing in life. It’s been a huge learning process, and it’s nice to own the product you’ve worked for. Kanaa is an ambitious film. The plan was to understand and support my friends. When you nurture something that you firmly believe in, you get a larger understanding of things. Directed by Arunraja Kamaraj, the film revolves around the life of a woman cricketer, who dreams big. The film doesn’t have an actor in the lead, but I am sure it would be a success. The audience will see me in a cameo role, too.

Did you ever think you’d become a bankable name in Tamil cinema?

I never thought I could make it to films. Even today, I think about those days of struggling as a television show host. Recently, I met Robo Shankar, and we were discussing how our lives had changed for the better. When I started, I knew nothing. I remember asking my technicians silly doubts. For instance, “Anna, paththu camera iruke… edha paarthu pesanum.”(Ten cameras are around, which one should I focus on and talk to?) The transformation, of course, wasn’t easy. I could break the shackles and prove that television personalities can become ‘saleable heroes’.

You keep using marketing terms

Hey, don’t you know that I am an MBA graduate? (Laughs)

That explains a lot. Do you put all that into use?

Ozhunga dhan padikkala. At least, padichadhavadhu use panren. (Smiles) I display a keen interest in the business side of films. And yes, I plan, build a brand, strategise, promote and execute things. I use all the finance lessons I got from my Masters. Ellame marketing dhane? (Everything is marketing, no?)

Do you take your critics seriously?

I do. But I don’t know why I am repeatedly targeted for promoting “stalking in films”. Am I the only one who does it here? It’s wrong, agreed. But there’s a way you say that. Deep down, I know how much I respect women. And women in my life know what kind of a person I am. I’ve stopped explaining myself to people. I don’t know why they dissect and analyse films like Remo that were meant to “purely entertain the audience.” I’ve had female fans tell me how much they liked the film for the costumes I wore and the effort I took to pull off the nurse character. All those who had problems with Remo, where did you go when I did Velaikkaran? It was a quality film. I am not saying it wasn’t a hit film. But it wasn’t celebrated the way it deserved to be. I go by certain principles – my films won’t have smoking scenes or bloodshed. Panathukkagavum padam panna maaten. (I don’t do films for money).

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