Aishwarya Rajesh’s carefully thought-out and prudent choices reflect on her filmography. She had five releases in Tamil last year — Lakshmi, Saamy Square, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, Vada Chennai, Kanaa — and she feels content about it. “I barely had free time because I was occupied with back-to-back film-related commitments. It’s something like ‘Make hay while the sun shines’ kind of a thing. It’s all about keeping myself busy and doing films that I like. 2018 was a high point for me as a performer — just being the character I was meant to play. I wanted people to think this is not the same person they saw before, that’s what excites me,” she says.
It’s been quite some time since Kanaa got released. The Kaaka Muttai actor chats with us on the overwhelming response the film has been receiving from both the audience and critics alike.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Q. It’s not easy for a mainstream female actor to shoulder a film, Kanaa, based on sports.
I get what you’re saying. I was in the sun for many days and my skin got burned. Director Arunraja Kamaraj was actually looking for some sportswoman who could act, but thankfully, I ended up bagging the role. Ever since I read the script, I wanted to be a part of it. I almost thought Arunraja lost hope when I told him I had no idea about cricket. But I wanted to try, and give it a shot. I learned the game eventually. Now, I can say I’m a decent bowler and a wicket-keeper. I had coaches train me for four hours starting from scratch.
My gut told me Kanaa was worth taking up, and it’s a dream role for any actor. Every scene in the film is what I’ve seen in real life — the simplicity of the script was its strength. It was an amazing experience, and worth all the pain. I liked my character (Kausalya Murugesan). She had baggage of her own which she was battling. I loved the tone of the film and the way it was written.
Q. Do you think the film will fetch you a National Award?
I would rather have people say it’s a hit film. (Smiles)
Q. What’s the best thing about your director, Arunraja Kamaraj?
Both Arunraja and Sivakarthikeyan (the producer) believed in this project (Kanaa). They nurture the talent when they believe they have potential.
Q. How do you choose your films?
I am not interested in doing a film on the basis of a good story. I want a proper screenplay. So far, I’ve had some of the best scripts come my way. Take Chekka Chivantha Vaanam for instance. I never thought I’d do a film with Mani sir. I’m so glad it happened in the early stages of my career.
If I don’t relate to the story or the character, then I feel there is no point in trying to make it work. That way, I could relate myself to the story of Kanaa. I lost my father when I was barely 10. This film had many beautiful moments between the daughter and the father. I saw my father in Sathyaraj sir and I felt emotional while shooting.
Q. Having said that is there a pressure to constantly be around and do films?
Not really. But I know that I want to do good films. I want to stand out with all my characters and I want to give the audience as much variety as possible like how senior actors including Revathy, Suhasini, Radhika, Simran once did. I want to be remembered for my roles and films rather than my looks. At the end of the day, everything is a risk and I’m not scared of risks. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t. But you need to understand what is working for you at a particular time.
Some film choices were conscious, and in other cases, I went with the flow. But what I feel is that, when you understand your character pretty well, your performance becomes real and that’s what happened with Kanaa.
Q. How do you react to trolls and criticisms?
I totally have the ability to laugh at myself, but I think I’m the least-trolled female actor on the internet. I think so far the audience has liked me.
Q. In a short span, you’ve played some of the unconventional roles. Nobody thought we’d get to see you as a 55-year-old woman in Daddy.
I always do what the character demands, and that comes to me without much effort. But playing a 55-year-old woman was, indeed, challenging. I had to wear prosthetics for about 15 days. But after that film, I feel extremely confident about myself.
Q. You also have Dhruva Natchathiram in the pipeline among other projects. How was the experience of acting under Gautham Menon’s direction?
His style of dialogue delivery was difficult to follow in the beginning. Then, I got used to it. First of all, it’s thoughtful of him to have cast me in the film because I don’t get such stylish roles often. Now I can tell people that I also can do sophisticated roles. (Laughs) When they told me I was doing the film, I couldn’t believe it. Gautham sir has one fantastic trait — you never feel you are ‘working’ with him. He makes his actors feel comfortable on the sets.