Before Kaatru Veliyidai, Karthi had already worked with director Mani Ratnam, not as an actor, but as an assistant director, for the film Aayutha Ezhuthu. Now, the actor is back on the sets with him, but this time, as his leading man in one of Mani Ratnam’s romantic movies. Fans have watched Mani Ratnam’s work for years now and marvelled at his ability to portray the nuances of a relationship beautifully. Karthi tells us how he felt working in one such marvellous tale. During a candid chat, Karthi spoke about what he learned on Mani Ratnam’s set, and teaming up with actor Aditi Rao Hydari for the first time.
About Captain Varun, and first day of Kaatru Veliyidai shoot:
Nobody would have believed that Varun was me. I wouldn’t believe it myself, and I had to convince myself that I could do this. I went for flight training and met many fighter pilots. My look in the movie is so different that I didn’t know how I looked while I was emoting – when I cried, or laughed, or even spoke. It was bizarre because it felt I was looking at a stranger. It took me some time to get used to myself and before I knew it, Mani sir pushed me to the deep end of the pool. We started the shoot with the pre-climax scene. I, on the other hand, thought that we would start with something smaller and easier first. But working on the tougher scenes first gave me a better handle on my own character.
To play this character, I had to lose myself and go through a phase of learning to think and act like somebody else. I had to leave Karthi behind – not just look wise, but even the behaviour had to be different. Mani sir will give preparation time for you to understand and become that character, but there is no time for it on the sets. Also physically, I did put in a lot of effort. I had to be strict about my diet and Mani sir would check about my workouts every day.
I had two look changes, and I had to wait two months to lose further weight, but even while doing all this, I was constantly interacting with Mani sir.
Mani Ratnam as a Director:
Mani sir’s writing is so superior, especially the way he portrays women is so beautiful that anybody who acts these roles will be beautiful. Above that, he also takes care of every detail – from making sure that there is not much crowd when we are shooting important scenes to making sure that the atmosphere is calm for us to relax and be that person.
Working with Aditi Rao Hydari:
The two of us were always thinking about our character, the roles we were playing and thinking about how we can make our characters better and complement each other’s performance. Also, it is true that when you believe in your craft and are confident about it, you do not have to feel nervous. But many actors are when working with someone like Mani sir. Aditi on the other hand surprisingly was not nervous at all. And she was so comfortable in a new place and blended so beautifully on the sets and that somehow helped me relate to her character and get a better handle on it as well. Her character in the film is not something that I understood initially, everything about this character was new to me.
On the sets with Mani Ratnam:
For me, working on the sets with Mani Ratnam is so familiar. It is the place where I grew up so I am not nervous here. I have never experienced this thing about discussing what I learnt on the sets with any of my directors before. Mani sir gave me the scope for it and to discuss the nuances of a performance, or a particular scene and that I got only on this film. Discussion on the sets was one of the greatest things about working in this film. Even when he had inputs for a scene, he would tell us to incorporate it only if we believed in it and it worked for us. That kind of a freedom was new for me.
And, we heard no complaints on sets. Not from anyone, because even when we were shooting in extreme climate, we were more concerned with what we were shooting. It was so exciting. And imagine talking to him about other movies, there is so much to learn. For example, in freezing temperatures, we were sitting there and talking about a shot in Pagal Nilavu and how he took it. Hearing it from him about all of that is like a treasure.