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Karthik Muthuraman - An Artist par Excellence - Is it really over?

Thursday, October 4, 2018 • Tamil Comments

At the outset, let me confess. Am a huge fan of Karthik the actor, but not a fan of Karthik the politician. 

Last few weeks, have been watching and reading news that “Navarasa Nayagan” Karthik is going to announce a new party and will become a full time politician.  

Does it mean retirement from show business? At the age of just 58, the man whose nonchalant and effortless acting made many a cinegoer fall in love with him has decided to hang his boots. Does he really wish to?

The very first movie I watched of Karthik was a non-descript movie known as Raja Mariyadai. It co-starred SivajiGanesan and the movie was regular masala fare. It didn’t demand any histornics from anyone in the acting department. 

After few years, I watched Agni Natchathiram on TV, that movie changed my perception about Karthik. He played the role of a smoldering wounded from within individual to perfection. As in many Manirathnammovie, dialogues were sparse but karthik emoted his hurt through his eyes but at the same time his love for his father was demonstrated in actions. It was one of the stand out performance from anyone am informed in the year 1988. 

Subsequently, my desire to watch more of this man began and thus my quest to explore his initial movies also started.

1980s

AlaigalOivathillai – Would rate Karthik’s performance as average. His body language was awkard to begin with but as the movie progresses; one is able to witness signs of brilliance to come especially in scenes which demanded emotion to be conveyed. 

Karthik during the early to mid 80s did many movies and if one to were to watch some of them like NinaivellamNitya or AgayaGangai, it is clear he tried to do variety of roles but many of the movies till 1986 like Bhawathypuram railway gate, Pei veedu and Raja thanthiram were typical low budget masala movies which had no head or tail.

And then 1986 - MounaRagamhappened

As the cliché goes, rest is history. The movie, which made many women fall in love with Karthik. The movie which gave Tamil industry an actor of extraordinary talent, an actor of immense artistry and one who was a natural performer. 

Screen time of hardly 20 minutes but impact is such people still talk about it. Karthik played a flawed individual who wished to reform the system but is caught between love and his calling in life. 

This movie not only catapulted Karthik to fame but even he would admit, it made him re-think his choice of movies and also instilled confidence and belief that he had what is required as an actor to succeed. 

1987 – 1991 – Golden years

A golden period in the career of Karthik, one witnessed numerous performance oriented movies from Karthik.  IdayaThamarai, Agni Natchathiram, Varusham 16,  KizhakkuVasal, VannaKanavugal and culminating in the black comedy GopuraVassaile. If we are not mistaken, the last mentioned movie was one of the earliest attempts at black comedy by tamil film industry.  

1992-1995 – Ups and downs.

A period of ups and terrible downs.  Also, period when Karthik took considerable risks in choosing movie scripts. 

Amaran – An action movie where karthik plays an orphan who eventually becomes a don.  When it released, it performed below expectations but with time has attained cult status with the song sung by Karthik becoming a huge rage during the last 10 years. 

NadodiTendral – A period film helmed by Bharatiraja. This was a huge risk during the 1990s when typical four song- four fight movies ruled the roost. Karthik acting was a revelation in the triangular love story. 

Ponnumani – A village based melodrama. First one for Karthik . Performance wise everyone did their bit but in terms of acting skills, not much was required though the movie was hugely successful.

This period also witnessed huge disasters like Marumagan, Chakravarty, NandavanaTheru. Karthikalso spent a considerable amount of time shooting for a telugu movie co-starring Vijayashanthi. 

1996 – Breakout year

Oh boy! What a year. One after another success in addition to laurels for acting. This was the year of Karthik. Ullathaialitha, Metukudi, KizakkuMugam and the icing on the cake called “ GokulathilSeethai”. This was undoubtedly the movie of the year. Performance of karthik was on a different level, the nuances, the pause, the dialogue delivery, the body language, emotions through eyes, - This was an artist who was at his very best and whose artistry had no peers. 

1997-1998 – Consolidation years

Two years of notable and successful movies like Sishya, Pistha, Unnidathilennaikoduten. In terms of acting skills, the last one was what one came to expect from Karthik. 

1999-2000 – Something goes amiss

Many movies came but nothing different were noticed or not one performance to be talked about.  Be it Rojavanam or Chinna raja, it was usual humdrum. UnnakagaellamUnnakaga was a hit but it had nothing new to offer except few laughs.  Ominous signs on the horizon.

2001 – Downfall begins

Lovely and AzhganaNaatkal. Not one movie to challenge the actor in Karthik. Things were beginning to spiral out of control. 

2002- 2009 – Years in wilderness

Game, Devan, Indru, Kusthi, Kalakarachandru –Each one worse than the other. It looked like the career of Karthik was over. Why did this happen? Absolutely unforgiveable movies from an intelligent person like Karthik. 

We tried to speak to many people close to Karthik on what happened during those turbulent years. There are multiple versions. One version is of course that personal and financial troubles forced Karthik into drugs and it resulted in him being out of work. 

But that version has its own gaps. During the period of 2002-2009, there were three movies, which got completed but didn’t release like Kashmir, Manathil and Kadaleswasam.  People who watched the rough cut of Prabhu Nepal’s KadaleSwasam say it was one of the best movies of Karthik. It was supposed to release during Diwali 2001. Got postponed multiple times and eventually no one knows why it was not released. Prabhu Nepal didn’t respond to queries. 

Similar case with Manathil, trailer was shown, audio release took place, and movie was completed and had multiple release dates. However, it also never saw the light of the day. We were informed producers could not settle their dues to financiers. 

An extremely funny case happened with regard to Kashmir co-starring PriyankaTrivedi. Movie again was touted to be different, was completed and had multiple release dates starting from 2003 to 2015. After the release of Anegan, it was re-named as UdayaNeram and new posters were released but alas not the movie.  When enquired, we were again given the same reason of financial issues not settled.

In addition to these completed movies, many movies were announced. KadalSollavanthen, AthaiMagan( Dir: Sundar C). Both were shot and one was 70% complete and had audio release function too.  We spoke to VichuViswanath, a prominent character artiste who can be seen in every Sundar C movie. He admitted both movies could not be completed but refused to elaborate when questioned if there was any disagreement between karthik and Sundar C. However, according to him, Karthik is not interested in acting anymore. 

Other movies announced were Gurudeva, Click, Kai korthuVaa. All three movies were stopped mid-way and no reason has been provided as to why.

Another movie, which was launched in grand scale during 2005, was Sivalingam IPS and Karthik was supposed to play villain. After 50% shoot, movie stalled. Raj Kapoor, the director says, producer backed out. 

KothandaRamiah, a producer lodged a case in NadigarSangam against Karthik accusing him of being errant and not reporting to the movie set. Case was settled outside and KR vowed never to take Karthik. 

Subsequently, word spread that Karthik is an actor who reports late on set, sleeps and will not shoot under the sun. It was alleged he had some skin issues and producers started to avoid him.  We were unable to verify this allegation against Karthik because no one was forthcoming with proof. It was simply put, one man’s word against another.  Point, which needs to be remembered here is KR, was producer of Solakuyil and En jeevanPaduthu, two movies starring Karthik in the 1980s.

Once the rumors spread, there was no stopping them. Karthik as is his wont, went into a shell and for reasons best known to him didn’t clarify till 2006. 

During an early morning segment on SUN TV in the year 2006, Karthik indirectly admitted his bad habits had resulted in few unsavory incidents and he mentioned he wishes to put his career back on track. Subsequently, he gave interviews in Vikatan and Kumudam wherein he reiterated he wishes to act in meaningful films. However, there were no takers.  

Hardly anyone approached Karthik during the period 2005-2009 and till date neither he nor anyone from Tamil industry has an answer as to why despite his coming out clean, no one wanted him.

2010 – Ravananan and ManjaVelu

Two movies back to back, one a commercial mass masala movie and the other by auteur Mani.Karthik didn’t have a substantial role in Ravanan but it was a comeback of sorts as an actor. In the limited screen time, he did a commendable job. Less said about Manjavelu the better. 

2011-2014 – Years totally wasted

Three years which were completely wasted. How, why and who to blame is something we were not able to explore or investigate despite devoting 5 years in the process. Spoke to many people including Karthik’s close friendactress Kusbhu who informed us he would be directing and hence busy in writing script. This was in the year 2014 and till date, he has not directed. 

Also, interacted with ThiranKarthik who informed us his father was doing one telugu film with Kalyan Ram. 

OM 3D- This was the movie spoken about wherein Karthik played a villain role. Screen time was substantial but to be honest, the movie was total bumkum. Screen play was all over the place and a total drag. Karthik’s attempt at playing a part with negative shades can be commended but somehow his acting was below par. 

From 2011, we were in touch with Karthik on FB once in a while and in every interaction, respect for him as a person has grown. He has always been polite, gracious and always positive. We did enquire on why some movies didn’t release, directors didn’t back him while he was down but till date he has not said one word against anyone. We believe he blames destiny for his downward spiral and not those who backstabbed him or didn’t stand by him during bad times. 

2015 - A minor comeback 

Anegan - Everyone by now is aware of the background story on how KV Anand approached karthik who was disillusioned and had decided to quit after being deserted by people who he thought were close to him.  Credit to KV Anand for giving Karthik a meaty role to sink his teeth and the output was fantastic. The pre-climax outburst was pure vintage Karthik. 

Karthik informed us that he did get offers after this movie but for reasons best known to him, only three offers excited him. One was Amaran 2, Jindha and an untitled movie by Priyadarshan. 

Amaran 2 was launched in a grand manner but after one month news came in that movie has been shelved. We spoke to Director K Rajeshwar numerous times and also to AnuManth who was said to be producing. Director mentioned he will start soon but he is busy with other work.  Producer has now denied he ran away and replied he was only involved in some PR work of Amaran 2. 

Karthik in his interviews and in private has mentioned some funding issues have forced the movie to be on hold. He has no clarity about the revival. 

Jindha – A movie directed by VetriSelvan. 30% shot and Vetri was kind enough to send us the small teaser. It was a promising teaser and requested him to connect with DhananjayGovind and see if he can produce. Vetri says, he met up but Dhananjay wanted Vaibhav to be replaced. Both parted ways and today Jindha is another movie in the long list of shelved movies of Karthik. Vetri is now about to start another movie with Vaibhav without Karthik. 

Priyadarshan untitled movie- this was a story about a father-son relationship and son was to be portrayed by Dulquer. After giving narration to Karthik and agreeing on terms and conditions, Priyadarshan got embroiled in his personal issues and again he decided to put this movie on the shelf. He has directed movies after 2015 but somehow he has forgotten about this story. Reason known only to him.

2018 – TSK and MrChandramouli

Karthik believes he was given a raw deal in TSK though the movie did well and he was appreciated in the small role he did. We believe that TSK should have been a faithful adaptation of Special 26 instead of the changes made by VigneshShivan to satisfy image of Surya. If the adaptation was faithful, role by Karthik would have been powerful instead of it being half baked since the original character was only one and not two people as in TSK. (karthik and Suresh menon)

MrChandramouli – Much was expected from the father-son combo. To be frank, thiru lost a golden opportunity. Lot of potential in the script but the screenplay was one huge gaping hole. Karthik sleep walked in many scenes and the only scenes where he showed his range was the scene with Gautham sitting outside the house.  

Before concluding, would like to thank MrDhananjayGovind. We connected with him sometime in 2016 on social media and mentioned that he should offer a role to Karthik in one of his movies. He was gracious and kind to provide that opportunity. 

Conclusion: Around 10 to 15 movies stopped mid-production, many announced but production didn’t start, 3 completed but lying in cans. This would have demoralized any person. Karthik despite such setbacks is still positive and wishes to act. We spoke to him on 10th September 2018 over phone and asked him about him deciding to quit. He replied clearly that he wishes to act but no one has given him any offer after Mrchandramouli. 

We tried to contact Directors KV Anand, GautamMenon, Atlee and Gaurav Narayanan, Kannan, Murugadoss who had expressed their love for Karthik’s acting. None responded except KV who said his Asst Director takes casting decisions. The Asst Director was quite rude and informed us, KV gets new people in each movie. When asked what about Jagan, the asst director blocked us. 

Our plea/ request to producers and directors in Tamil industry. Please give meaningful role to Karthik. It can be a two-scene role or screen time of 15 mins or 2 hours time but kindly make it impactful. He has no qualms about screen time. Humble request to those who love Karthik’s acting that the industry needs actor like him and this article is plea to Directors like Gautammenon, Mani rathnam, Mohan Raja and new age directors like KarthikSubbaraj, Ranjith to please offer roles to Karthik.  To Mani Rathnam, you gave us two movies, which will stand the test of time starring Karthik. Can you please give few more? 

Do not let an actor par excellence be lost to the cesspool of politics and casteism. Give him roles where he can sink his teeth and show his range. 

- Vibha Venkat

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