Meet 14-year-old Naga Vishal, National Award winner who won hearts in ‘KD’

The 2019 film ‘KD Engira Karuppudurai’ is the story of the friendship between a young boy and an old man, played by Mu Ramaswamy.
Naga Vishal as Kutty in the movie 'KD Engira Karuppudurai'.
Naga Vishal as Kutty in the movie 'KD Engira Karuppudurai'.
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“Ennaku naane TV, naane remote, ennaku epdi vennum, enna vennum nu nala clear ah irupen (I am the TV as well as the remote, I exactly know what I want for myself).” The dialogue, delivered by Kutty in the 2019 film KD Engira Karuppudurai, seems to encapsulate the personality of the actor playing him as well. Naga Vishal, the 14-year-old who recently bagged a National Award under the ‘Best Child Artist’ category for playing Kutty, has been celebrating the win at his home in Madurai.  

Speaking to TNM about it, an elated Naga Vishal says, “I did not expect to receive the National Award. I was happy to get the Ananda Vikatan award (in January 2020 for the film KD Engira Karuppudurai), which was the first award I received for my first film. I did not foresee such an honourable award coming my way.” His mother, M Mythili, shares a similar sentiment. “We definitely weren’t expecting a National Award. We are extremely delighted. We hail from an economically weaker background, and I am raising four kids as a single parent. The award has given me hope that things are looking up for my youngest child (Naga Vishal).” The young actor had also bagged the Best Actor Award in the Mumbai Jagran Film Festival last year, beating bigwigs like Ranveer Singh, Ayushmann Khurrana and Vicky Kaushal who were competing in the same category.

At the centre of the plot of KD Engira Karuppudurai’s plot lies the heartfelt story of an old man and a young boy. Bankrolled by Yoddle Films, this Madhumitha directorial hit the big screens in November 2019. In the film, KD (played by Mu Ramaswamy) is an 80-year-old villager running away from his children who want him dead in order to claim his inheritance. KD, who clearly hasn’t given up on life, meets Kutty, an eight-year-old street-smart orphan. The unconventional friendship blossoms as they embark on a journey, completing KD’s bucket list. Taking them to unforeseen places along the way and enabling them to redefine the meaning of life, the fun journey forms the rest of the story.

With the dynamic of the duo slowly changing as the film progresses, the story carries a few sweet surprises for viewers. With a twinkle in his eyes and an air of someone wise beyond his years, Naga Vishal won the hearts of all those who watched KD Engira Karuppudurai.

Naga’s performance as Kutty is natural, organic and seldom appears forced or rehearsed. It is with the same kind of spontaneity that he approaches all his roles. He shares that even his being a part of KD Engira Karuppudurai was the result of a spontaneous decision. It was his aunt who wanted to audition for a role in the movie, and Naga Vishal accompanied her. He ended up auditioning as well, without any sort of preparation. Unsurprisingly, he landed the lead role. “The audition for the role was impromptu, I did not know it was for a film. I just acted,” he says. 

Though the heartfelt storyline and well-crafted characters are impressive, the inseparable bond between the seemingly contrasting characters of the senile KD and spirited Kutty definitely steals the show. Talking about his experience of collaborating with actor Mu Ramaswamy on the sets, Naga says, “Aiya (Ramaswamy) has acted in over 25 films. I was initially intimidated to act with him.” However, he adds he was able to overcome it once he started looking at his co-star Ramaswamy like his own ‘thaata’ or grandfather.

The 14-year-old National Award recipient also has nothing but praises for the director of his debut venture, Madhumitha. Addressing her as ‘akka’ or elder sister, he says she took care of him like her own brother. He shares that he was extremely fortunate to be cast as one of the lead actors in her movie, adding that he hopes she will accompany him to the award function. Naga’s mother Mythili points out that Madhumitha helped her and her son to overcome the initial apprehensions they had before signing the film. She added that Madhumitha worked hard to ensure that Naga had a platform to display his talent.  

Naga, who is a ninth-grade student at Madurai’s Mangayarkarasi Higher secondary school, says he is eager to continue acting in films in the future, but is also determined to not let it disrupt his education. As for his future plans in the film industry, he hopes to receive more offers in the upcoming days, now that he has bagged a National Award. After the release of KD Engira Karuppudurai, he has worked in a couple of projects, including a short film titled Thantiram directed by London-based filmmaker Ashwin. He has also bagged the lead in an untitled project directed by debutant Rajesh, who has worked as an assistant director under popular filmmaker Prabhakar. 

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