When Santhanam was a much-in-demand comedian, many told him that he was the real hero of the film. Today, when he harbours hero dreams — his latest Sakka Podu Podu Raja releases on Friday — some gently remind him that he’s a comedian.
“When they called me a hero, my mind told me I was a comedian. I never aspired for anything beyond. Now, whatever people say, I believe I am a hero,” smiles the actor known for sending the audience into peals of laughter.
Santhanam has lasted all this while without antagonising anyone. That’s simply part of his persona. “I always made it a point to tell everyone that I was nothing without STR. It is the truth. He gave me a break in 2004, and I would be ungrateful if I forgot that.” Today, STR is said to have gone the extra mile to compose music for his protégé’s movie. “This was an unexpected surprise,” confesses Santhanam, en route to Tiruvannamalai from Tirupathi, in a thanksgiving trip of sorts.
As we speak, he sounds distracted. “Urgent poiturekken pa, innora naal paakalam,” (I’m in a bit of a hurry. Shall we do this some other time?) he speaks to someone amid wind noise. A bunch of fans on motorbikes spotted him on the highway and rode close to his car to get his attention. “I get terrified when this happens. It’s very unsafe for them. They wanted a selfie.”
Santhanam’s popularity among a section of youth has stayed alive over the years. The same is with his relationships in the world of Tamil cinema. Many have been tweeting about his film. The actor turns philosophical when asked how he manages to maintain bonds. “What we think of others is what others will perceive of us. If I believe you’re not really keen on speaking, but here to finish work, I’ll react in a similar tone; so will you. I like to look at everyone with positivity. I don’t expect anything and am sincere in my relationships. That helps.”
There was a time when Santhanam’s mere presence ensured that many films stuck in the cans for a long time saw the light of day. Considering turning producer and making movies is a tad more difficult, is he ever tempted to get back to that life? “No. I enjoy everything I do. I was very happy as a comedian. I am very happy now. I’ve worked on my body and have taken dance and fight classes to look better on screen. That was a phase, this is a new one. I’m getting better.”
Santhanam has always been a part of certain directors’ creations. That continues. He’s signed up for a film each with M Rajesh and Selvaraghavan, and is working with Manikandan, director of Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaya, the actor’s maiden production venture. “I want to be part of interesting projects, not just those with humour. I want to do films that I can watch with my children. As for sensitive humour, because I’m the hero now, the comedy is a bit muted.”
The hero says that he likes to go with the flow. “I’ve had the same friends for years, and I believe that if you lose relationships, you’re a failure in life. I am satisfied with what I’ve achieved. I sleep well, that’s very important. And, what is the point of earning if there’s no one to spend it on. You can buy a new car, but the joy is when you have friends alongside you to enjoy the drive.”