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Bringing out the `artist' in him

"Films of today are mostly music-oriented and there is very little scope for character roles. I would take up one only if I am satisfied with the role given to me."


Clad in a white shirt and dhothi, he takes pride in calling himself a Coimbatorean. Hailing from Kasi Gounden Pudur, a village near Sulur, his is a case in point that one does not necessarily require to be highly qualified to lead an extraordinary life. After completing SSLC, his inclination towards fine arts, drew him to the Government College of Arts, Chennai.

Well-versed in watercolour painting, he can sit at a stretch for hours and sketch replicas of the architectural works in Tanjore, Madurai, Tiruchi, Thiruvannamalai, Tirupathi, Kanyakumari, and Kanchi. Before entering the film world, he had already performed in 1,000 plays, under the guidance of `Major' Sundarrajan.

Since his first `entry' in 1965, he has till date nearly 200 films to his credit. He has also won three Film Fare Awards and the Best Actor State Awards. The roles in `Maruppakkam' and `Sindhu Bairavi' revealed his versatility as an actor. Veteran performer, Sivakumar, speaks to Vidyashree Amaresh on the films of yesteryears and the changing outlook of modern filmmakers.

IN OUR days, story lines were mostly based on mythological subjects that would be of little interest to the modern generation. Youngsters nowadays prefer watching love stories with convoluted endings that stretch for more than three hours. Previously, films required a lot of dramatisation in acting.

But most directors of present day movies don't concentrate on this aspect.

As most actors of yesteryears had some grounding in some form of dance, they concentrated on expressions and dramatisation.

Movies with classical music as its main theme invariably brought laurels to the artist.

On a query as to what made director K. Balachandar choose him up for the role of JKB in `Sindhu Bairavi,' he said the director probably wanted to choose an individual with a clean image. About the hassles of having a large star following, he said cine stars should necessarily set an example for their fans. But they too have their share of private moments that need not be open to the public.

As for his upcoming roles, he says he is no more into films. Instead he is now focussing on the small screen, especially after the success of mega serial like `Annamalai', which has completed 230 episodes, and `Chitti', which reportedly has nearly four and a half crore viewers.

"Films of today are mostly music-oriented and there is very little scope for character roles. I would take up one only if I am satisfied with the role given to me".

"The first movie which I saw as a seven-years-old kid cost me 15 paise. But today tickets for movies starring top artistes sells anything between Rs. 35-60, and is impossible for a layman to afford. Films have been categorised as mass media, but unfortunately they are no longer affordable to the masses."

Moral messages for masses can also be disseminated even via serials. It is not mandatory that films should be the only medium. As an artist, his opinion on modern art is contrary to popular opinion.

"Modern art is all junk. If there wasn't a nail to hold the picture in the right position one would hardly know which side it has to be hung. Even the marks made by the tyre tread are now considered as modern art," he says acidly.

A yoga exponent, he started performing at the age of 17 and this has helped him to lead a disciplined life even at 60. On awards and honours, he feels it is an important source of encouragement for artistes.

Speaking of his actor-son Surya, Sivakumar says he has never tried to influence his son's performance, evident from the fact that he has never accompanied him during film-shootings. "Even today we don't discuss films at home though I gives him my opinion on his performance," he says.

On a more philosophical note, he says, "achieving peace of mind is probably one of the biggest achievements, something possible only if an individual is content with the success he has accomplished in life".

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