By Jyothi Venkatesh
Not many know this, but it is a fact that Mani Ratnam always makes it a point to can the first shot of his film every day exactly at the dot of 6 am, whether he is shooting a scene with Aishwarya Rai or for that matter actor Karthi, who happens to be the son of senior actor Sivakumar or for that matter the younger brother of superstar Suriya.
Karthi, who plays the titular role of Ponniyin Selvan Vandhiyathevan in P.S 1 asserts that he started his career as an assistant to Mani Ratnam long before he had made his debut as a leading man with the Tamil film Paruthi Veeran, way back in 2005, when Mani Ratnam wanted to cast an actor as Suriya’s younger brother in Ayutha Ezhuthu. But as Karthi confesses, since he was weighing 110 kgs when he came from the US, Mani offered him a job on the sets as his assistant. In fact, Karthi has to date acted with 21 different directors on the trot before committing to a film with Muthaiah for Viruman having a second time collaboration for the first time in his career.
After graduation, he worked as an Engineering consultant in Chennai and considered higher studies abroad. “I was earning about ₹ 5000 per month and found the work monotonous. That was when I thought, “I should do something more”, he recalled in an interview. Karthi got a scholarship for his higher studies in the United States and enrolled at Binghamton University, New York, where he earned his Master of Science in industrial engineering. While pursuing his master’s degree, he also took elective courses on filmmaking.
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During his stay in New York, Karthi worked as a part-time graphic designer. He then decided to pursue a career in filmmaking and attended two courses in basic filmmaking at the State University of New York. He always knew he wanted to be in films, but I did not know exactly what he wanted to do. Karthi says that he loved movies and watched a lot of them. But his actor father insisted that he get a good education before he joined the film industry.
When Karthi returned to Chennai, he met director Mani Ratnam and got a chance to work as an assistant director for the film Ayutha Ezhuthu because he wanted to become a film director and preferred directing to acting, though he did appear as an extra in Ayutha Ezhuthu . He continued to receive acting offers and his father convinced him to take up acting, telling him “One can always direct films, but one will not get a chance to act once you grow older”. He accepted his first acting assignment with Priyamani as the female lead in April 2005 in Paruthi Veeran.
Karthi says that he imbibed from his guru Mani Ratnam passion as well as discipline. “Mani Sir pushes you but never compromises and extracts the best from you as an actor. It has been my dream for the last 40 years to act in a film by Mani Ratnam, while it has been the dream of Tamil Cinema for the last 70 years to come up with a film like PS1. Mani Sir keeps the basic emotions and asks actors not to stress on every word that they set out to deliver.”