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‘It is easy to blame art’


Express News Service

LOL—Enga Siri Paappom, that is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, has come out to mixed responses from the audience. But even those who didn’t have great things to say about the show have shared that they liked some of the contestants, including Sathish, Pugazh and Premgi Amaren. Here, the trio speak about the memories they shared with the show’s host, late veteran comedian Vivekh, and of the bond they share with each other.

Excerpts from a conversation…

Could you speak of taking up comedy as a profession?
Pugazh: Upon my birth, the nurse  handed me over to my mother and said, “Comedian porandhu irukan paarunga!” Since then, I knew this was my calling. (laughs) On a serious note, from a very young age, I got great satisfaction in entertaining people and making them laugh. I would be willing to fall down 10 times in school if it made people laugh. Making people happy became an addiction as I grew up and I guess that led me to  TV.

Premgi: I am in no way related to comedy. I just parrot what my anna teaches me. I don’t have my own comic timing or creativity. I am more a composer. I can create and orchestrate music for any situation. Having said this, I feel extremely blessed and happy to see the audience having a hearty laugh on seeing me on screen.  

Sathish: I guess the craziness in me comes from my home. I learnt to give funny repartees by speaking with my mother and friends. Fortunately, I have always been surrounded by people with an amazing sense of humour. It just grew on me. I wrote and directed a drama when I was in 8th grade and it was a huge hit then. Everyone appreciated me for it. I took it as a sign from God and ventured into acting.
But honestly, nobody believed that I would actually enter showbiz. Even when I told amma that I am stepping into cinema, she said, “Poitu seekirama vandhudu, idli panni iruken.” (laughs)

Enga Siri Paappom featured an ensemble of talent. Did you have any inhibitions about contesting with each other, considering two of you (Premgi and Sathish) are acting as leads in films?
Sathish: Certainly not. They paid us well, especially during a global lockdown, and we couldn’t have asked for more. (laughs) Not many people know that most of us knew each other and were good friends, even before the show. So, it was like a week-long escape from the harsh reality of COVID.

What were your experiences with the late Vivekh?
Premgi: We knew each other for a long time. Only during this shoot did I get a chance to interact with him personally. We spoke a lot about music, his fondness for Periyappa’s (Ilaiyaraaja) music and spirituality. He also showed me videos of him playing the piano and asked my opinion on it.

Sathish: When we shared screen space in Vai Raja Vai, he was extremely welcoming, and he encouraged me to give counters during our combination scenes. He had no qualms about sharing the limelight with a fairly new comedian like me.

We were provided with a private charter flight to reach Chennai. All of us gathered around his seat and had a great time listening to him talk. He shared a lot of interesting things from his journey and also discussed cinema across regions. His loss feels heavier after the week I spent with him on this show.
Pugazh: Vivekh sir took care of me like his own kid. He was like a Godfather to all of us there. Every time he sat down for a meal, he would look at everyone and ask, “Chella kutty, saapteengala?” He was an angel.

Sathish: Be it Vivekh or SPB sir, the works of these legends are always around us. We can’t cross a day without remembering the gems they gave us.

Social media has drastically reduced the distance between the audience and the actors. How do you handle harsh criticism online?
Sathish: ‘Ignore negativity!’ I think every comic out there must stick to this advice of Thalapathy Vijay. Forget us, even the Prime Minister, the most powerful man in the country, gets abused on Twitter.
Compared to people like him, we are insignificant. Some from the audience ask me to experiment more with my style and looks. I value these comments a lot and try to work on them. But I refrain from replying to them, as I am worried that may get mocked.

Premgi: Criticism no longer affects me. I will never change myself for others. Initially, I used to lose my cool when someone abused me online and I would give it back. But now, I am in a zen mode where nothing bothers me. I strongly believe that any change must come from within.

Sathish: It is always easy to blame art, or any other field when you are not related to it. I realised it when I caught myself commenting on the performance of our Indian cricket team. Right after I said, “Idhuku naane nallaa aadi irupen!” it hit me that I wouldn’t even last for a single delivery if I were there and I was commenting without a second thought.

Pugazh: I always focus on the likes and forget about the dislikes and criticism. As long as the likes are more than the hateful comments, I know that I am on the right track.

What is your reply to those who ask, “How can you be laughing when there is a pandemic out there?”
Sathish: It surprises me when people create issues like that. We are comedians and we make our living by making people laugh. And no matter what happens, life has to move on.
Once I had gone to Paris for a show and I posted a picture of me standing in front of the Eiffel tower. Many cheered me with positive comments for my growth, but I got equal abuses saying, “Producer kaasu la unakku idhu thevaya?” I could have become a keyboard warrior and proven them wrong. But we choose to smile and stay away most of the time, as these viewers have gifted us this life we are living.

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