A brief conversation with Sibiraj later, I’m quite in love with his house.
Earlier this week – a rather busy Tuesday morning when I had just wrapped up a news item about Jyothika’s Magalir Mattum (which is apparently based on a true story, according to director Bramma) – I receive a call from a PRO.
We’d been discussing potential interview candidates earlier that day; a few movies were scheduled to release this week, and one of them – Sibiraj’s Kattappava Kanom.
Would I be interested in interviewing Sibiraj later that afternoon, the PRO wants to know.
3.30 pm – at the actor’s residence.
When I wonder whether actor Sathyaraj would consent to be interviewed along with his son, the PRO is as helpful as he can be. I can almost picture his sweet self pondering over my request.
Check with him when you get there, he says.
Sibiraj’s home is a fascinating place to be.
A villa with a sloping roof, potted plants everywhere in sight, a cozy porch that leads into the garden – and, four people out to greet me. I’m soon led into a room that looks like an office. Pictures of Sibiraj and his father on the walls – some candid, some posed, one in which Sathyaraj is singing, hair intact. Circa 1980s, 90s, perhaps?
The assistant calls: “If you could follow me, Sir will meet you in the next room,” he says, pointing at a second door within.
The next room is prettier. Walls washed in yellow, minimal furniture, a few old photographs of who, I assume, are relatives, old-fashioned windows draped with block print curtains… and, several enlarged posters of Sibi’s films. I’m fascinated by the old world charm that the room exudes. And, that lovely vintage chandelier. The pretty room, I soon realise, is a bridge between home and office – some architectural smarts, this.
Sibi enters from the other door, and I get a brief glimpse of the house inside. There’s something shiny …a mirror, perhaps.
Sibiraj is here though, and on time. When I’d hoped – just a little – that he’d be tardy.
My father has always been down-to-earth, begins Sibiraj. “He doesn’t show-off. To be honest, I was never treated differently – as a star kid. I was popular for a little while in college – but that’s about it.”
Sibi was 20 when he began acting. He admits to being “young” and “naive with the kind of scripts” he chose. “My father was there for me, though, lending his opinion, and guiding me rather than instructing.”
Now, with a few years of experience, Sibi feels ‘mature enough’ to make his own decisions. After Naanayam (2010), the actor took a fairly long break before Naaigal Jaakirathai happened in 2014. A hiatus which he doesn’t regret. “I read nearly 200 scripts during those three years. I wanted a proper comeback. I shortlisted a few scripts, out of which Naaigal Jaakirathai was one, and another was one of Mani Seiyon’s – I’ve known him for a long time,” he says.
While Sibiraj went ahead with Naaigal Jaakirathai, the script he had chosen, with Mani Seiyon at the helm, ran into budget issues. “So when I was done with Jackson Durai, I met Seiyon again, and he narrated Kattappava Kaanom‘s story. I was sold.”
For once, Sibiraj says, Kattappa… will feature more romance than action. He was also quite shy when filming it; visibly nervous acting alongside a formidable female lead. “Aishwarya Rajesh is a terrific actress,” Sibi declares, “a National Award winner, and has done good movies. I was apprehensive of all those romantic scenes with her. But, she really made me feel comfortable.”
Here, I prod him a little about the treatment of actresses in the industry, and the accounts of harassment that some actresses have opened up about. “It’s commendable that they don’t keep quiet,” Sibi observes, “It’s a serious subject, but the perpetrators of rape and abuse are not dealt with properly.”
Sibi doesn’t offer more, so we move on to his films.
Unlike his father who would do six to eight films a year once upon a time, the younger Raj is in no hurry. He does have a lot of movies coming up, though. “There’s one with a debutant director called Vinoth, another with director Ramesh of Thegidi fame, and then, Sathya, which is slated for a May release,” he counts out.
Coincidental, yet by chance, his upcoming film, Kattapava Kaanom, also has a non-human as a central character – quite like Naaigal Jaakirathai.
The fish in the film is called Kattapa. “We came up with an unconventional name because it’d be fun. It has nothing to do with me being related to the real Kattapa,” Sibi laughs, “Rest assured, I don’t know why Kattapa killed Baahubali, too!”
Kattappava Kaanom, starring Sibiraj and Aishwarya Rajesh, releases tomorrow.
The Sibiraj interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.