Tamil Features

On An Actor’s Trail: Natarajan Subramanian

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What’s the day of an artiste like, really? Our reporter shadows actor-cinematographer Natty aka Natarajan Subramanian as he prepares for the release of his film Enkitta Modhathey, interacts with fans (not all appreciative), and reviews himself on screen.

Ravi is a ‘cut-out’ artiste. Colourful clothes, lovely, patterned lungis – he’s ridiculously-fit, but not the steroid-pumped six-pack body you’d imagine. He’s also hot-headed for a good measure, adores Rajini, and makes life-size effigies of him to earn a living. 

He has great hair, too. The kind that looks artfully tousled in the wind.

Natarajan Subramanian aka Natty plays Ravi in Enkitta Modhathey.

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He’s well at ease in every frame – perhaps a little flamboyant with his dialogues, but quite an actor, nevertheless.

Natty sits a little behind me in the theatre, watching his film intently. We are at Prasad Labs, at the first show of his film, amidst a sea of cinema journalists and film fraternity.

He has great hair off-screen, too.

*****

Cut-out artistes were a rage in rural Tamil Nadu in the 80s, director Ramu Chellappa tells me when I meet him outside later. Enkitta Modhathey weaves in a lot of true incidents into its narrative.

Chellappa had heard about violent clashes between fan groups of actors Rajini and Kamal in Tirunelveli where he’d spent a lot of time. A place where the tale of Enkitta Modhathey had played out on a much smaller level.

Ravi – a Rajini fan, and his friend Nala Perumal – a misogynist, fellow cut-out artiste, and a fan of Kamal Haasan turn foes following an event.

*****

Just before the show could begin, Natty sips his coffee leisurely, has a round of conversations.

Nervous?

The butterflies in my tummy are going to be around for a while, he laughs. “It’s only the first show – also, 90 percent of my work has been received well…”

Shortly thereafter, I receive a crash course in music composition from music director Natarajan Sankaran. He speaks of the nuances of music that listeners seldom notice. “Composers from the 70s or 80s used to get a lot of inspiration from Western beats. There’s 1-2-3, 1-2-3, and it goes on. It’s subtle, but pretty blatant once you catch on to it,” he says.

Actor Rajaji, the other lead actor in the film, is visibly nervous. It’s his third film. “I feel I need to heed criticism more than the others,” he says.

Rajaji is the rabid Kamal fan.

Natty fishes a cigarette from its case.

“I take it as it comes.”

He flicks the lighter on.

*****

There’s romance in Enkitta

Oh yes, one for each lead hero. All hell breaks loose just about then. The love stories seem forced, and there’s a lot of chaos, fight sequences… not all of them fan wars. It nevertheless feels great to relive the 80s on screen – the rural crowd, the cult movies themselves…

Natty sits with him team, intently studying Ravi.

*****

Two hours later, Natty is relatively at ease. He smiles more, obliges a few journalists with selfies. He’s on his third cigarette since the press show.

We soon head to AVM Rajeshwari theatre – pegged to be one of the real determiners of a local Tamil film.

In the car, Natty is euphoric.

Team in tow, he scrambles into one of those roomy Innovas; the others check their phone for the film’s reviews.

Natty, meanwhile, whistles.

“What’s the name of this song?” he points at the radio “I don’t the remember the film.”

It’s a Kamal Haasan number.

Idhu Rosa Poo from Oru Kaidhiyin Diary, a thriller drama released in the period Enkitta Modhathey is set in.

“This feels like the time when we were shooting for the film,” Ramu Chellappa suddenly says, “All of us packed in a big car, singing away…”

A few minutes later, AVM Rajeshwari emerges, with a heartening “House Full” on the gate.

The theatre is packed with men, a stray whistle once in a while.

Natty is now quiet, his expression almost unreadable. He watches himself on screen with more intensity, occasionally responding to a clap or a laugh.

During the interval, he poses for photos. School boys, auto-men, the demand for selfies increase.

*****

 

Natty is exhausted after the show. He has two more theatres to hit, though.

While he obliges everyone with more selfies, a fan screams from afar: “Sir! I watched the film for you, but please don’t act in such films.”

Natty is briefly taken back, but quick as a thought, the smile is back on. “I don’t get affected by all this,” he says, “I’m happy with the general response.”

Mops his brow, has a drink of water.

*****

Natarajan Subramanian’s Enkitta Modhathey released last Friday.

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