When I listened to Asuran's script, I yearned to play Pachaiammal: Manju Warrier
The Dhanush-Vetrimaaran team's Asuran focuses on the battleground of hostility, revenge and struggle. The movie has been widely appreciated by audience and critics alike ever since its release. Asuran hit the theatres in Kerala with the tag of Manju Warrier's 'first Tamil film'. Audience have heaped praises for her stunning performance. Asuran is based on Poomani's novel ‘Vekkai’. The stunning performance of Dhanush and Manju Warrier attributes the movie’s success.
Manju Warrier plays the character of Pachaiammal in the movie which deals with caste, authority and property. Local slang of Tirunelveli has been abundantly used by the character. Manju herself gave voice to the character.
Don’t you think your entry to Kollywood industry was a bit late…
Well, I have got many chances to act in the Tamil movies before. But nothing got materialized due to many reasons even though there were cases where negotiations was completed and the shooting commenced. Well I don’t regret the delay because finally Asuran has become my first Tamil movie for which I’m proud of. Vetrimaaran – Dhanush rapport have garnered national attention. I was fortunate that I was chosen to handle a noted role in their movie.
The characters in the movie use Tirunelveli Tamil dialect. There were many difficult usages. Wasn't that an effort to dub your character?
It was my strong desire to give my own voice to the character. I know Tamil to some extent. I was born and raised in Tamil Nadu until I was ten years old. So the first learned language was Tamil. My childhood friends and neighbours used to speak Tamil. I studied Malayalam as a third language at that time. But Tirunelveli dialect is quite different from the Tamil I heard. It was indeed a challenge to speak the local dialect without losing its natural beauty. I know that if I dub the characters ineffectively, then it won’t do justice to my character. I was a bit circumspect to dub in my own voice. Vetrimaaran sir encouraged me to recite the script incessantly. He believed that actors' own voice is best suitable for their characters. Although the attempt was not a complete success in the beginning, I could manage it with a ‘pass mark’. The dubbing was completed in six days. Suresh Kannan sir's who is well versed in Tirunelveli diaect also helped me. I committed many mistakes and I must appreciate his patience.
Asuran is a movie giving significance to emotions. In Tamil movie the expressions, whether it is happiness or sorrow is a bit more than dramatic than Malayalam, so don’t you think you have to take more effort while acting in Tamil movies...
I have never experienced the difference while acting in Malayalam or Tamil movies. I try to understand the characters' emotions and act naturally. Never have I thought there is a need to add "an extra dose" to the emotions while playing the Tamil characters. I also have heard that Tamilians love exaggerated scenes on the screen. But today it seems that everything has changed. I have received many positive feedbacks after I completed acting many scenes of the movie. All of this gave me a great deal of confidence to continue the subsequent scenes.
The Vetrimaaran style…
Vetrimaran is a director who illustrates different scenes in many ways. He would narrate the sequence of some scenes quite elaborately. He would even decide the camera angles to be used for specific scenes. For other scenes he would first leave the responsibility solely on the actor themselves. The shooting progresses through team work, that is Vetrimaaran style. I have seen him clarifying several doubts of the crew, while on the set. I have disturbed him asking many doubts. He does not have any compulsions or stubbornness. He is quite flexible in his approach. He used to make corrections and clarifications even in the last moment.
Have you noticed the social media comments on Pachaiammal? Many had been juxtaposing your roles in Kanmadam and Asuran?
I knew that Pachaiammal was a strong character Dhanush had invited me to join the film. In fact, I had yearned to get the role of Pachaiammal when I listened to the script. Since the release of the movie I have been getting calls appreciating my role. I’m getting good responses from Tamil Nadu as well. Caste discrimination is still prevalent in the Tamil Nadu. Everyone is wondering if I had any special preparation, but I don’t do that. Even if pre-plan something for the role, I won’t be able to follow that in front of the camera.
The moment the posters of Asuran were released which had my image with a towel tied on my head, people started comparing the role with that of Kanmadam. It could be the rustic scenes, the reason for such comparisons. I was thrilled when I received calls from Sathyan uncle (Sathyan Anthikkad) and Kamal Hassan sir congratulating me.
What are the basic factors you consider while cooperating with a project?
I don’t think too much before choosing a role in movies. I’m not confident about my own selections. I don’t know, I don’t go too deep into the script. I only check that if the character can attract viewers and bring them to theatres, there were many occasions when my selections went wrong.
Your upcoming movies...
Rosshan Andrew’s Prathi Poovan Kozhi is progressing well. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Kayatam, Santosh Sivan’s Jack and Jill, Priyadarshan’s Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham are my upcoming projects.