After grabbing attention with her performance in Majid Majidi directorial Beyond The Clouds, Malavika Mohanan is all set to debut in the Tamil film industry with Rajinikanth starrer Petta. The actor, in an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, talks about being a part of Rajini’s film and much more.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Q. What is Petta all about?
It is everything. An out-and-out Rajinikanth film. I will not put it in a single genre. I would not define it. In fact, I would rather say it belongs to Rajinikanth genre, in all honesty. What his fans expect from him will be delivered, for sure.
Q. What about the script made you say ‘yes’?
So, I personally like Karthik Subbaraj as a director. Even though I am a Malayali, I have followed his work. He has made some really cool and cult films in Tamil. As an actor, I think it is very important to trust your director who you are submitting yourself to. Apart from that, everyone is sold at Rajinikanth. As an actor, it is one of the bucket list things to be able to act in a Rajinikanth starrer. I really like him. And also, it is not an everyday thing. You never know when you would get such an opportunity. Having said that, the character is also amazing with enough to do as an actor. So, everything just fell into place.
Q. How was your experience of shooting for Petta?
I was a little apprehensive because I do not speak Tamil. I really had to prep for it because the film had a huge star cast with a lot of amazing superstars across different languages coming on board. Apart from Rajini sir, the film has Vijay Sethupathi, Trisha, Simran, Bobby Simha and others. And when you are a part of such an ensemble cast, you need to be well prepared as you cannot be goofing up the scene. So, I hired a Tamil tutor. I learnt the language as much as I could and learnt the dialogues beforehand. All in all, the experience was quite fulfilling in a creative sense because it was amazing to work with a director like Karthik and of course, I was perpetually awestruck by Rajini sir. That was fun. It was unbelievable as well.
I have to say Rajinikanth is the most humble co-star I have ever had. There are some people you like even before you meet. In his case, I have started liking him and respecting him even more now than before. He is so encouraging and makes you feel comfortable, which is rare for a superstar of his stature to go out of his way.
I am very excited for Petta’s release as an actor because the film has a global reach. Rajini sir has fans all across the world. Every Rajinikanth film is like a festival. I also think visibility of any kind is good. Being a part of a project that has a wide reach will bring more recognition.
Q. This is your debut Tamil film and that too with Rajinikanth. Has the feeling sunk in?
The first time I got a call from the director’s office, I did not believe them. As an actor, you keep getting calls for films. Initially, they had just told me that it is for a Tamil film and I would have to give a look test. I thought – okay! Then he said it is with Rajinikanth and I was like ‘wait, what?’ I could not believe it. Like, seriously. And it came out of nowhere. This is a month after Beyond The Cloud had released. After that film, I was looking for something that was an out-and-out commercial film since Beyond was for a niche crowd. And then I got this and I thought – it cannot get massier than this.
Another thing which was beautiful about the set was the fact that we had people coming from different industries. So, the conversations were stimulating. All of us would often talk about culture, films and much more.
Q. Akshay Kumar had said in an interview that when Rajinikanth walks in, people observe him and only him. Do you have any such experience or story to share?
There was a tough scene where I had to deliver a lot of dialogues in Tamil. It was a lengthy and emotional scene. The moment I finished, Rajini sir clapped. I was blown away with that gesture. I did not even know he was attentive. It is such a huge encouragement. I keep this memory very close to my heart.
Q. Within a year, you explored two different industries. How will you sum up the experience?
Now, I am open to doing films in any industry be it Telugu, Hindi, Tamil or Kannada. I think good cinema is good cinema. There are people in every industry I would love to work with. I have grown up and been inspired by Mani Ratnam, AR Rahman and even Rajinikanth. In Telugu, I think SS Rajamouli is kickass. So, I think it is silly for actors to restrain themselves to a particular industry. At the end of the day, I am okay working in any industry.
Q. Being the daughter of a cinematographer, how exposed were you to films while growing up?
Not too much. Once or twice a year, we would visit the set but back then, I was just star struck and had nothing to do with sets. I decided to act when I was offered a film by Mammootty. Once I got into it, I started having fun. The initial film came to me but after that, I had to work on it. As a child or even as an adult, being on set is intimidating. I was little inclined towards other aspects of creative art other than acting.
Q. Also, any plans to explore life behind the camera?
Not anytime soon. I am getting good offers as an actor. Maybe some point in my life, I will take it up.