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Actor Karthi on discovering Chennai in his newest movie, Madras, and shedding his inhibitions

EASY and unassuming in real life, Karthi has been known to turn into a fire brand on screen with movies like Siruthai, Paruthiveeran and Naan Mahaan Alla. Next up is Madras, helmed by Pa Ranjith, where the actor plays an IT employee from North Chennai. The 37-year-old Coimbatore native says he prefers doing realistic films, but admits that a romantic film with action won’t hurt. He opens up about working in North Madras, shooting live and Komban:

People keep asking me why I stopped doing realistic films. It was not my decision, I just didn’t get good scripts. When Ranjith came to me with Madras, I liked it. It has distinct characters who you will remember and it also has a ‘wall’ that becomes the pivot of the film.
We decided to shoot live for the film. Everybody in it, except me, is relatively new. The heroine, Catherine Tresa, has done a few films in Telugu and Malayalam, but she is new to Tamil. I play a regular boy, not a hero, who shows how North Chennai has improved.
I pretty much stayed in North Chennai for 50-60 days and we would start very early in the morning. Since all the love scenes happened around the time people collect water from street pipes, we’d be there at 3 am to shoot. Live location is not an easy task. And I have to say, nobody makes fish curry like they do in North Chennai. That said, you can’t indulge if you are on a diet.

This movie shows the life of three guys—one who wants to become a politician, one who wants to become a criminal and one who wants a normal life. My father in the film is a railway employee and I have a concerned mother who keeps asking me not to hang out with the wrong crowd.
I am working on Komban next, a village story shot in Ramnad. Though we talk about water scarcity and how people depend on the rains, the main story is about a father-in-law and a son-in-law. Rajkiran plays my father and Kovai Sarla my mother. It was fantastic working with them. I am doing a village film after seven years. My main aim is that a movie should not be repetitive.

Madras is scheduled to release on September 26.

—Mrinalini Sundar

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