Karthi interview on ‘Sulthan’: Making a industrial movie is the hardest

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How the actor’s gut instinct made him choose ‘Sulthan’, which hits screens this Friday

Can a peace-loving man manage a hundred rowdies at once?

That is the one-liner that Karthi heard from director Bakkiyaraj Kannan a couple of years ago. The actor’s ears perked up. He listened to a 20-minute narration, and gave the green signal for the project, something he has never done before in his career.

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“I normally insist on reading the entire script. This one-line idea and the few scene arcs, however, sounded like it had a great scope for drama, and I went with my gut instinct,” says the actor, over a phone call, “In Kadaikutty Singam (one of the actor’s previous hits), I had four sisters and that had so much drama. Now, I have hundred brothers who are all thugs!”

It gave Karthi the notion of an arresting visual, and that got him excited. Producer SR Prabhu too shared the same emotion, and Sulthan was underway.

“For the first few days, we did not know where to keep the camera…because there were just too many people in a single frame. The script was challenging for the technicians and cinematographers,” says Karthi, recalling the days of shooting in a village near Dindigul. Sulthan also stars Napoleon, Lal, Yogi Babu and Rashmika Mandanna in vital roles.

‘Don’t put marks’

He is still receiving acclaim for his portryal of Dilli in the 2019 Lokesh Kanagaraj-directed Kaithi, but Karthi feels that a balance of genres is a must for any actor.

“With Kaithi, being an action film, the target group was clearly youngsters. Making a commercial film (like Sulthan) is the toughest, because you have to engage audiences of all age groups by packing in multiple emotions. One character has to pull off the different moods of the film. Also, audiences need to enter a commercial film with a relaxed mindset; they ought to come to be entertained, and not give marks for it!”

Like his 2017 hit Theeran Adigaaram Ondru, Sulthan too will have a strong villain who will have an important space in the storyline, promises the actor.

Here, Karthi comes face-to-face with Ramachandra Raju, who made his presence felt in the Kannada superhit KGF. “The hero can become bigger only if there’s a strong villain; only then does it become fun to watch. Thanks to KGF, Ramachandra had a great screen presence and following on set, despite not being from the film industry,” he says.

Karthi and team have taken the theatre route to release Sulthan, despite offers from OTT platforms. “During the pandemic, we lost the sense of gathering and socialising. We filmed Sulthan long ago, but the fact that it is being released now is almost like it is bringing back celebration. For lovers of cinema, movie-watching in theatres is a cultural process.”

That, however, does not to rule out OTT for the actor. He is willing to take up a project, provided it allows him to experience a completely different culture. “They (OTT platforms) give you the freedom to explore different types of content, things you cannot do for the big screen. Last year, when we were all unsure about theatres, OTT was the only relief for a producer. We have crossed that stage now; Master has proved that people will still throng cinema halls.”

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