When KV Anand approached you with ‘Ko’s script, what did you expect?
Karthika: I knew after ‘Ayan’ he would make nothing less than a blockbuster, when he narrated the script he told me I am not just playing an ordinary role in the film, I playing a powerful character and a role of a journalist, named Renuka. I was quite surprised for the kind of responsibility he was offering me in a debut movie, I was quite nervous due to the huge responsibility but I was mentally prepared to do my first professional character, he is the best director to work with so I was mentally prepared.
Radha: Actually, my mind was set about the bubbly nature of the female lead in ‘Ayan’ and I was expecting something similar. We met him and the way he approached her wasn’t like in the search of just another heroine but someone who can play the character and get into their shoes. After two days I called him and urged him to take Karthika in for the movie only if he is very confident that she would fit into the role and not because of me. But KV said that Karthika is on the dot and is just like the journalist, Renuka, in the movie and also expressed that he is looking for a Tamil girl
What was your experience working with KV?
Karthika: Earlier KV was not just a director but also a cinematographer. He is good in almost every aspect and takes care into the details of costumes; he has even choreographed many dances! He’s super energetic and can head a one man show… Even if there’s a lot of commotion going on backstage he is always calm, composed and explains every detail to the actors.
Radha, did you always want your daughter to become an actress?
Radha: It wasn’t an aim as such. When you have a kid you want them to become a doctor, engineer and so on. After my wedding, I haven’t thought about getting back to movies or to acting, my husband is a businessman and we are into the hotel business. So naturally, you want your first child to lead the family business. I always advised Karthika to help my husband immediately after her studies, but the same time, I had this wish deep down that I will make each of my child to act in atleast in one movie, that is, if they are interested.
Heroines usually do a bubby role in debut films, but yours is quite serious. Why?
Karthika: Although this character is professionally mature, she is still young. She’s just a young journalist with a professional mind set. For a debut role, it’s comparatively easier to play the role of a mother or a daughter, but then to play a certain professional you need to be thorough of the technicalities; even KV sir was a photo journalist at Times and was able to guide me through. We had a lot of real life journalists helping us, including a senior journalist Ms. Prathiba. She used to help me with the technical knowledge, spoke to me about the gerunds to be used, so it was quite a learning experience. There wasn’t much time but I tried to do the best (smiles).
Radha: Speaking about her character, during my time I never used to research any character deeply. But at the same time, I didn’t do any role that was above my age level, I played a young woman. So when I heard to ‘Ko’s script from KV, I understood the seriousness and so I used to wonder if a heroine can do such a role in the debut movie, but KV knew what he wanted from minor to major details, so it’s not a big deal for an artist when you just have to follow what the director asks for.
But Radha, you started off doing chirpy roles…
Radha: ‘Alaigal Oyvathilai’ was a different movie for its time. For that generation, the movie was filled with modern thoughts, now people know more and I cannot afford to wait for such a character for my daughter’s career to be started. An artist can only wait for a good banner, good director and a great producer. Luckily, my daughter was also blessed with an experienced and a talented hero. So it was almost like a campus for her, so it cannot be compared, even mine was a random decision and even Karthika’s was a random decision (smiles). Comparison is not possible.
How was your experience in traveling to a place like Norway, where it’s biting cold?
Karthika: It’s not about being bold but being professional, especially when the crew has a lot of old and not prepared people, so it has to be okay for us. When the director narrated the script to me he asked me if I can handle a minus twenty degree cold, I was cool with it and told I would love it. Only later did I realize that we can hardly bear an eighteen degree temperature in an AC, how am I to do this? (smiles). The director was very particular about locations; he wanted to shoot in the toughest places to get the best results that even shocked the locals. After so much trekking and hard work I can’t refuse a scene claiming that it is dangerous, that would mean that all our efforts are going for a waste! So I of course had to be professional and do it (smiles).
How easy was it to work in ‘Ko’?
Radha: She was very comfortable in the sets of ‘Ko.’ To me, my daughter should be comfortable wherever she goes, in fact I had never mingled much with others in the sets during my movies and restrained myself to a few people. But she is completely opposite and very outgoing. She understands technicalities and is very professional, and unlike me in most ways. I can say I understood a lot about my daughter after this movie’s shooting (smiles). I am really proud of her for that matter. And KV gives a lot of freedom to artists and he is the best to handle a new-comer.
What was the experience like to work with Jeeva?
Karthika: Everybody knows about Jeeva, the great actor in him and how he has even bagged awards for his performance. I used to wonder of how I should handle such an experienced actor, when I am a debutant. But he is so down to earth and I learned from him of how we can improvise so well on scenes, so the learning experience was very easy with Jeeva. We had that joined effort and cooperation from one another. He’s very jovial and he’s the best co-star one can get.
Radha: I have noticed that Jeeva is really committed and yet has a small kid inside him, he’s really nice to his co-stars and I would proudly say my daughter is lucky to have gotten such a crew to work with.
Radha, what difference do you see in movies in these twenty years?
Radha: I don’t know about the quality and camera and other technicalities. But till date, our audiences still want that heroism in the heroes and their attitude towards the heroines is also the same. But these days, audience are adapting to a variety in scripts. They relate themselves to the characters in the movie are technically sound.
Any fun memorable moment in the sets of ‘Ko’?
Karthika: I was really lucky as the entire cast was very young, be it Jeeva, Ajmal or Piaa. It was more of real life friendship than just the reel life. Especially Piaa and I are from Mumbai and we were always together, if there’s no shoot we hangout or go for a movie. It’s the first time I got to mingle with people of my age and my youth level so it was very exciting (smiles).
Radha, back in your days, how were your competitors?
Radha: During my acting days, I didn’t know about my position in the film industry. But after doing the films and looking back I can proudly tell Radha did have a separate position that was not filled in by any other, there was a separate space for Radha and Ambika. I have never been keen in doing serious or powerful roles; mine were always glamour oriented films. I have never had the time to consider anyone as a competitor, but when I look back I understand Radha is there (smiles).
Is there something, apart from acting that you would like to contribute to the film industry?
Karthika: (Laughs), of course I am new to the film industry. Earlier if you had the talent you can get into the film industry, but now, with the increased technicalities and everything I guess acting is the only thing we can do without the qualification for it. So if I need to get into something else, I need to start studying now, so I guess we’ll see about it (smiles).
Radha: There’s a lot to explore in acting itself, even if we act for a lifetime we are not going to be satisfied. You will always want to do more with a variety of crew and team. It’s not that easy to change a profession.
If not for an actress, would journalism have been on your cards?
Karthika: Well, yes I am still pursuing my studies. I am doing my bachelors in business studies from London School of Economics; I will in obvious ways be into business (smiles). Radha: Whether journalism is on her cards or not, she will ask one million questions (laughs).
Any yesteryear heroine you look up to?
Radha: Please tell her someone apart from your mother, otherwise she shouldn’t feel that I will feel bad and tell my name (laughs).
Karthika: It’s not just my mother, but also aunt Ambika. She has a done diverse roles, she’s very expressive in tense roles. So Ambika – Amma clash is Karthika (smiles).
What was KV’s feedback after completing the movie?
Karthika: After people watched the movie during the censor board screening, KV sir told me that nobody is willing to accept that this is my debut movie. I am really thankful to KV as he has given me so much freedom and trusted me and my feedback.
Radha: He is perfect for handling new comers; even if he is not happy with a shot he doesn’t follow a Take 1, Take 2 concept… He simply takes each shot differently so that the artist will not feel de-motivated but will think one of the shots will be used. KV sir never talks much during the sets; he never comes and complains or appreciates to me about my child. But after the movie was completely shot, after the editing, he called and told me that my daughter is just perfect for the role. That’s really satisfying.
Was being trained in Bharathanatyam helpful to do movies?
Radha: A proper agrengetram maybe done in the future. I love dance and it means all my life to me, my children are brought up in Bombay, I just wanted them to understand and value classical dance and wanted them to realize how fortunate they are to dance, that’s why I had taken them to Chidambaram to know more about our culture. There’s no better a way than classical dance, to preach our culture to our children. It has been a learning experience for the both of us, she didn’t learn bharathanatyam for movies but yes it proved very helpful.
What did you learn after your debut film, since it’s not just a usual character?
Karthika: So far, in my three films I have done four characters, (two in Makaramanju), I can say my first two films have trained me for this movie. If I have learned from someone in ‘Ko,’ it would be Jeeva and KV sir. I had learned to improvise and an actor’s responsibility to add something new as well. You need to understand your team members’ efforts. More than as an actor, as a human being I have learned a lot through ‘Ko.’ My mother keeps telling that her ‘hundred film acting experience’ is gained by me slowly through these three films (smiles).
Few words about Ambika?
Karthika: After my mother stopped acting my only filmy connections were my aunt Ambika and uncle Suresh who are still in the industry. She always keeps me updated with the happenings in the film industry. Even if she comes to the set for a day, she’ll analyze everything critically and see if everything is fashionable and if the scenes can be bettered. Not just for acting but from my childhood, she always records Amma’s songs and her songs and couriers them to us. Radha: That’s true (smiles). My children never used to watch Tamil, Telugu channels so she always used to send them to us (smiles).
Any script you’re looking forward to be a part of?
Karthika: So far all my roles have been diverse, so I just want to continue to do good scripts. I should know I am in safe hands and mom knows the best (smiles).
Radha, what do you advice your daughter?
Radha: If I guide my daughter as a mother that’s enough, I need not give acting tips. It’s only the basic qualities that I talk about, like not to interfere in unnecessary things, we should accept that we don’t know something if we don’t know something, and other such general advice as a mother.
Radha, how was it work with Sivaji Ganesan sir?
Radha: People talk about ‘Mudhal Mariyadai’ with Sivaji sir, but I had worked for a Sivaji Productions project titled ‘Sandipu’ along with Prabhu sir. Back then, I was scared to even talk to Sivaji sir. Even if Prabhu sir will ask me to have lunch with his father, I used to freak out! I once went for lunch with their family and understood how very down to earth he is! If I have ever been close to a family from the film industry, it was only Sivaji sir’s family. During ‘Mudhal Mariyadai’ he asked me if I had watched ‘Thilana Mohanambal,’ I told him I had watched ‘n’ times! He told like Manorama’s character in the latter is my character in ‘Mudhal Mariyadai.’ He is so very sincere and is like a dictionary, you ask him anything and he has an instant answer! I am lucky to have worked with him (smiles).
Like your mother had a name change, have you thought of doing the same?
Radha: It’s not required now, whatever name you keep it’s going to be common somewhere. In my case, Bharathiraja felt ‘R’ was lucky, this wasn’t required now, we haven’t thought about it (smiles).
What are your hobbies?
Karthika: Dance is my hobby and passion. I wish to learn all forms of dancing. I also love to paint, but couldn’t continue as I couldn’t juggle painting with studying. Apart from that I love to read, I have a younger sister, she is in the eighth grade but then she is writing a full-fledged novel! She’s one of my favourite writers (smiles).
Does your mother decide your costume and look in movies?
Karthika: She gives her suggestions, but if you get a director like KV sir who knows what’s best, you needn’t worry at all!
Radha: It’s not required at all these days; makeup men know what’s best for the camera and tone of the artist. Children these days know to stay fit and dress according to their features; I just accompany her as a mother and not artist Radha (laughs).
Your upcoming projects?
Radha: Only after ‘Ko’ is out, people here know who exactly Karthika is, so we want to accept or look at scripts after this.
Your blessings for your daughter regarding ‘Ko’?
Radha: We need all blessings from fans (laughs). Well, both of us are thrilled. We are expecting blessings from fans; my blessings are always with her (smiles).