Revathy has a special place in every Malayalam film lover’s heart given the memorable roles she has played over the years — the innocent yet quirky girl who is taken away from her family in Kakothikavile Apoopan Thadikal, the childish Nandini in Kilukkam, the determined Bhanumathi in Devasuram and as the former Health Minister of Kerala, Shailaja teacher, in Virus. This is just a small snippet of a storied career where the actor has worked across languages, genres and industries all over India, making her place as one of the most accomplished actors in the country.
As Revathy returns with Rahul Sadasivam’s Bhoothakalm, a film that walks the fine line between the psychological and the paranormal, the expectations are high. She plays Asha, a woman who lives with her unemployed son (played by Shane Nigam) in a house where dark secrets and past regrets lurk in the dark nooks. In this interview with indianexpress.com, the ace actor talks about her new film, her preparations for the movie and her experience working with Women in Cinema Collective (WCC).
How different is your role in Bhoothakalam from other roles of mothers that you’ve done?
The character in Bhoothakalam is a complicated and complex one. You can’t define the character in one line. I’ve discussed with Rahul to find who Asha really is. He was very clear about the character in his mind. For me, it took some time to really understand her.
Did your approach to such roles changed since you became a mother in real life?
Normally, if the situation in a movie is really close to real life, we will be more involved. But in this movie, there are no such situations, which can be compared with my personal life. However, the situations and characters in this movie are very real and relatable to many.
What makes you say yes to a project?
I’ve never been able to answer this question with clarity. Frankly speaking, I don’t know. When you hear a script or a character, sometimes it feels right and sometimes it doesn’t. Since my second movie, I’ve chosen my films after hearing the script. I only say yes then. Recently, I don’t want to repeat the roles that I’ve done and I don’t want to do roles that are insignificant. People approach me with many insignificant characters and I say ‘no’ to those characters.
If I accept one role, I’ll have long conversations with the directors to understand what’s in their mind. Once I collect all the information and ideas from the director, I’ll get a sketch of the character.
It is a different exercise with each co-actor. There are certain actors who are instinctive. Each character is a different process.
What are your preparations before you transform into a character?
Once I commit to a project, I need to be comfortable with most of the people working in that project, be it the director, DoP, co actors etc. Only then, I feel comfortable enough to perform. This is the first thing I do during the first two days on a set– to connect with the people around me. On some sets, this communication won’t happen at all. In that case, you just do your job and leave. But in Bhoothakalam, the connection with Rahul, the DoP and Shane was nothing short of fabulous. In some scenes in this movie, Shane and myself were practically behaving like a mother and son. There were instances when I was only reacting to his performance. It was that easy. During some scenes, he had the upper hand while I took charge in other sequences. The balance was beautiful to say the least. He doesn’t have any inhibition once he’s in front of the camera. I’ve seen his movies and I knew him as an actor and what he is capable of.
About using your own sound in this movie
The movie uses sync sound and the dialogues are recorded while shooting itself. So I was prepared and more careful with my pronunciations. We did an exercise before every scene to perfect the dialogues. I, Rahul and Shane would sit and practice the dialogues many times to make it sound like a natural conversation rather than just saying what’s written in the script. Rahul was very clear about what he wanted, whether it was the expression, action or sound modulation. We just wanted to make a good film and everyone was ready to work for it. There were no personalities on the set.
About your next directorial venture in Hindi
We can’t say anything about that project yet. We’ll start the work on the movie by February first week, and announce its name.
About your recent post criticising the hypocrisy of people in power, who were once self proclaimed revolutionaries
There are a lot of incidents that are happening in Kerala, which prompted that post. I always viewed Kerala as an outsider, because I’ve never lived here. It was always a vacation spot for me during my school days. But in the last five-six years, I’m more involved with what’s happening here. I was a bit taken aback when I viewed what’s happening in the state more closely. Kerala is a very educated and cultured society, and I’ve always been in awe seeing the people here, given their interest in literature, cinema, and how everybody in Kerala has a clear political perspective about any topic. But now, the silence I see from many people on very relevant issues is disappointing.
About the changes you felt since your involvement with WCC
I won’t say people in general, but the change of attitude from my own colleagues has been shocking. I’ve been vocal about my political and social views in Tamil Nadu, but I haven’t felt this difference in attitude from my colleagues, but I have felt that in the Malayalam industry.
I’m still learning the ways. This is a path less travelled. So we are slowly going forward, learning new things on the way. I won’t call it a revolution, but it is a movement — towards a safer society, safer work conditions, and also the basic right to live without fear. The changes WCC strives to achieve is for our kids and the future generation. I just cannot understand the resistance and indifference towards that.