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A comedian, and much more!

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

Charle, who was conferred Kalaimamani recently, talks about his films and future plans.



YEARNING FOR THE RIGHT ROLES: V.T. M. Charle

A mind-boggling 567 films! A repertoire, which includes assignments with veterans of the Tamil scene from K. Balachander to Shankar! Recognition in the form of the Kalaivaanar Award some years ago and Kalaimamani now! Velmurugan Thangasamy Manohar Charle's ("Please don't spell it with `lie' as I don't want the word even in my name," he quips) tryst with cinema is engaging indeed.

Charle defies the general observation that comedians are a serious lot as he cheerfully traces his sojourn in cinema. He's a spontaneous actor, you note, as he acts out to you scenes from his films with flawless voice modulation. You remember his miming prowess in a talk show some years ago as he vividly but silently brought out the mannerisms and body language of a man at the grinding stone in a hotel kitchen getting ready the dough. "Mono acting is creative while mimicry can only thwart individuality," says Charle.

Govindarajan of Kalakendra took Charle to KB who asked him to act out a sequence. "I did a silent scene of a person reading the newspaper in a barbershop. `Have you been trying to get into films,' KB asked. I nodded and he said, `Don't approach anyone else in the future.' I looked at him perplexed. Imagine my relief when he added: `Because I'm going to launch you.'

The film was `Poikkaal Kudhirai' and my first shot was with Vaali," Charle recalls. That was when KB changed Manohar's name to Charle. Charle has acted in every KB film after that except for the yet to be released `Poi.'

None can forget his portrayal in `Nanba Nanba.' "Working in the film gave me immense pleasure. `Nanba ... ' gained recognition at the international level," he says. Fazil is another director who has used Charle in nearly all his Tamil films. The actor then goes on to strum an axiomatic refrain: "I never get frustrated because I believe true success does not lie in not falling down at all but in the ability to rise every time you fall."

Memorable performances

Of late Charle feels he has reached a stage where he can afford to be choosy. Most of the time he has been playing the hero's friend. Yet who can forget those memorable portrayals in films such as `Mounam Sammadham' and `Friends'? As a labourer who becomes a blank faced nincompoop after being hit on the head, he had you in splits. Greatly inspired by Stan Laurel in Alfred Goulding's `A Chump at Oxford,' Charle was waiting to do something on those lines. He got such a chance in `Friends' and made the most of it.

The short part he played in `Anniyan' was one that made much impact. Says Charle: "Shankar told me, `People should see only the character. Only later should they realise that it was Charle.'" From miming to street theatre, this erstwhile staff artiste in the Drama Division of the I & B Ministry, has tried it all. His plus, he says, is that he is never stereotypical. "Even if it's the usual friend of the hero role I bring in some individuality to it."

An ardent devotee of the Pondicherry Mother, this father of two school going sons hails from a family of teachers. In fact, his wife Annie was also one. "But I was willing to play teacher only in films," he laughs. However, Charle's academic pursuits continue even today. Completing his Masters in history last year and holding an M. Phil now, `The Contribution of Comedians to Tamil Cinema' is the dissertation topic he is working on.

Charle's dream is to play Bharatiyar. "It should be like Ben Kingsley's `Gandhi.' I'm waiting for an Attenborough," he laughs. Meanwhile he is thrilled about two projects he will embark upon soon. "They will be on the lines of `Mera Naam Joker' and Nagesh's `Server Sundaram.' I'm sure I'll score in them," he says. And on that confident note you take leave.

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