Guru Somasundaram
Interviewer : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar | Camera : Maran | Text : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar
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GURU SOMASUNDARAM INTERVIEW
When Guru Somasundaram walks along, you are likely to go past him not realizing this is the man who wowed the audience with his brilliant performance as Kaalaiyan in Thyagarajan Kumararaja’s Aaranya Kandam. The man looks very different from the role that he played in the film. In an exclusive conversation with senior editor Jyothsna Bhavanishankar, Somasundaram talks about his journey into Aaranya Kandam and its experiences.

A brief introduction

Hi, I am Guru Somasundaram and I have done the role of Kaalaiyan in Aaranya Kandam. I am a theatre person from Koothupattarai.

Koothupattarai

Koothupattarai is a well known Tamil theatre group in Chennai and in fact it is one of the full time theatres groups in India. Koothupattarai was founded by Naa Muthusamy in 1977. I joined in 2002 and was there till 2011. Koothupattarai is involved in creating a modern actor.

How did Aaranya Kandam happen?

Aaranya Kandam is my first film. In 2003, director Thyagarajan Kumararaja met me while I was playing the role of Chandrahari in Koothupattarai’s play by the same name. He said that he has plans to make a film in the future and wanted me to play a role in it. In 2008, he took me in Aaranya Kandam.

Did you choose your role in Aaranya Kandam?

Kumararaja suggested that I do this role. However, in many interviews, he had mentioned that he wrote the dialogues keeping the artist in mind. He had also stated that the voice modulation and pattern of Kaalaiyan character was conceived after seeing the way I spoke in the play Chandrahari which resulted in my casting in the film.

Homework you did for Kaalaiyan’s role in AK

Yes, I did a lot of homework. I lost around 6-7 kilos of weight and grew a ‘Ma Po Si’ moustache. The script clearly says that Kaalaiyan is someone from south Tamil Nadu, a Zamindar who has fallen from grace and comes to Chennai along with his son to solve a financial problem. I am from Madurai and the slang was easy for me. I did some home work by losing weight and in terms of hairstyle, moustache, walking styles, body language and mannerisms. Director also gave a lot of instructions.

Did you have rehearsals?

Yes, many. I grew my hair and moustache to different lengths and finally we arrived at the style that you see in the film. Kumararaja had narrated the entire story to me for almost two hours and gave me the bound script. Veyil Vasanth (who played Kodukapuli character in AK) and I rehearsed a few movements but the rest happened at shooting spot.



Kumararaja has put me in a

quandary

Thyagarajan Kumararaja

He is a brilliant director. He has put me in a quandary now. Directors who see me now find it difficult to believe it’s the same person who they saw in AK. They of course, appreciate me and Kumararaja has elevated me to a much higher level. Now I am perplexed as to whether I should stay in the same league or should I wait or should I try for something else if things don’t materialize.

Kumararaja’s work is such that he would not compromise easily. He would extract even from a trained artist what he exactly seeks. He is also very cool and friendly and does not terrorize to get things done. At the same time, he is keen about his work. AK team itself was lively and everyone would wait for the shoot to commence after the break. Kumararaja does not take things lightly and at the same time, we would not even realize that we have put in so much of effort. That was his specialty.



Kumararaja would not

compromise easily




Jackie Shroff is a like a baby

How was Jackie Shroff to work with?

My first day shoot was with Jackie Shroff and I was a bit apprehensive because he is such an established artist. I have seen many films of his. Jackie is a like a baby in the sets and is very down-to-earth. He did his work and I did mine.

Master Vasanth

I learnt a lot from Vasanth. There are some issues when you share screen space with a child artist. In a frame, when a child and an adult are seen, it is natural that the child will be the cynosure and same is the case in a man-animal combination. Hence in such frames, we should go along with the flow and if we try to outsmart, it would not appeal.



I learnt a lot from Vasanth




We have to be careful while

working with the child artist

Vasanth is also from Madurai and he did not have any problem with the slang. It was fun working with Vasanth and I never felt as though I was working. Once he is out of the frame, he would be playing and when called, he would deliver, like a toy operated by a key. Despite being in theatre for nine years, I would prepare for my shots by writing in small notes etc, but Vasanth would just come in and perform nonchalantly with ease. We have to be careful while working with the child artist. Vasanth is a good actor and I hope that he also becomes very successful.


Any tough scene in AK?

Yes, the scene where Kodukapuli and I would be searching inside a small room in a mansion in Triplicane for the chit with the phone numbers. The camera was like a candid camera and we would not know where it was placed or its movements. We needed to keep on talking and searching for the paper. This scene was difficult where improvisation was needed and dialogues were added. This sequence was challenging and interesting to me. That apart, as we shot in real locations, people thought that a small boy was being chased by someone and they started talking about it which I found interesting.

How do you feel about the media appreciation?

I am very happy about the appreciation that I get from media. But more than that, when my friends from Koothupattarai lauded my work, my joy knew no bounds because as fellow actors, they know the merits and demerits. They said that they only saw Kaalaiyan and not Somu. But all credits should go to Thyagarajan Kumararaja who structured the character. The popular Tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan had also praised my work. When I went to the theatre, I heard comments like- Who is this guy? Where have they caught hold of him? I am happy but unfortunately, nobody is able to recognize me. I think I should put a name board as Kaalaiyan and stand! In other ways, it is an accolade for my work and I feel good.

Projects that you have signed

Yes, people have asked me, talks are on but I have not signed any film till now. Thyagarajan Kumararaja has also asked me for his next project. It is a good sign that the director that I have worked wants to work with me. Let’s see.

Tags : Guru Somasundaram, Aaranya Kaandam, Kumararaja, Jackie Shroff, Vasanth
 
 
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