Sunday, May 28, 2023

Happy Birthday Karthi: An actor who can play both Paruthiveeran and Paiyaa

Karthi is one of the few actors in Tamil cinema who is versatile when it comes to choice of films. He can be a ruffian in a Muthiah film and a suave pilot in Mani Ratnam's movie.

KarthiKarthi will be seen next in Japan.
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Happy Birthday Karthi: An actor who can play both Paruthiveeran and Paiyaa
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For someone who is looking to make an entry into the film industry, a gut-wrenching film like Paruthiveeran (2007) would have been a stern ‘NO’. The brutal climax would have even made top heroes approach the film with skepticism. But not Karthi, who was 3o and wanted to make an entry into the film industry. On top of his dad Sivakumar’s legacy, Karthi’s elder brother Suriya also made a significant mark with films such as Kaakha Kaakha, Pithamagan, and Ghajini. All the more reason for Karthi to turn down the violent story of Paruthiveeran. However, Karthi found it compelling, and it became the biggest hit of the year. Critics and audiences were left baffled by the performance of Karthi, who didn’t betray an iota of the newcomer’s anxiety.

Karthi was every bit the ruffian Ameer conceived for the film. He was convincing as an alcoholic and a violent nuisance of the village. At the same time, Karthi exhibited a vulnerable dimension of Paruthiveeran, who was at heart a longing child, who was traumatised by his parent’s past. The side of the protagonist came out during his romantic moments with Muthalagu (Priyamani). However, the humour portions of the film made it a commercial hit, and Karthi, who did his Masters in the US, was effortless in pulling off the rooted comic sense of south Tamil Nadu.

With such a performance, Tamil directors didn’t need any convincing to believe that Karthi is dependable, and hence, he was immediately flooded with offers. Selvaraghavan’s Aayirathil Oruvan was his next release, which bombed at the box office but earned a cult status over the years. In the film, Karthi was a porter working on a ship, which is on a mysterious mission. Karthi proved that Paruthiveeran’s performance was not just beginner’s luck and that he really has it in him.

The actor finally got to play an urban guy in his third film Paiyaa, directed by Lingusaamy. A road-trip movie, Paiyaa showcased an entirely different Karthi, but the actor looked well at home even in this film. Then came Siruthai which made Karthi a mass hero. Whenever a Tamil actor tries to become a star, the usual route is to do a cop movie or a gangster movie. Khakka Khakka did the magic for Suriya, and Siruthai did it for Karthi.

Karthi played a dual role in the film. One as a small-time thief and another as a DSP Rathinavel Pandiyan. The actor seamlessly shifted between roles. It is not as if Karthi hasn’t had his bad patch over the years. All in All Azhagu Raja, Briyani, Kaashmora, Kaatru Veliyidai, and Dev ended up as box office duds but seldom does the actor get blamed for the failure because he always holds up his end as an actor.

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If one has to gauge the range Karthi has with respect to his performance, it lies in the difference between what he does as Paruthiveeran in Ameer’s tragedy and Mani Ratnam’s Kaatru Veliyidai. There are definitely many Tamil actors on par with Karthi and even better than him, but Karthi might have this unique ability to be a ruffian and also a dapper pilot, and the audience wouldn’t bat an eye.

First published on: 25-05-2023 at 07:58 IST
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