I know I don’t fit the glam doll profile: Varalaxmi
A folk dancer in Tharai Thappattai, a cop in Nibunan and now a don in her Mollywood debut Kasaba — Varalaxmi, actress and daughter of Sarathkumar, seems to be building a catalogue of eclectic roles across Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam film industries.
Nithin Renji Panicker’s directorial debut Kasaba offered her a chance to work with her dad’s Pazhassi Raja co-star Mammootty, an opportunity that not everyone gets, she says. The actress tells us about her experience working in the movie and why her type of roles is hard to come by…
You finished filming Tharai Thappattai with a veteran director like Bala. So, why choose to work with a debutant for your first Malayalam film?
I wasn’t actually looking for it. It just happened. What interested me was the character because it was a pretty challenging role to play after Tharai Thappattai. Also, Nithin comes from a great lineage with his dad being one of the best scriptwriters; so I am sure he can’t go wrong.
Tell us about your character in the film…
I play Kamala, a headstrong and stubborn don in a village. The trait makes her get away with things easily, but then comes Mammukka’s character and things change. I act along with Sampath sir who is also a don in the movie.
Do you dub for your character as well?
I understand Malayalam and knew what I was saying. It wasn’t like I was speaking gibberish.
The plan was to dub in my own voice but this character has a very strong village accent. I don’t think I can get that right for my first Malayalam movie. My voice is perfect for the character but my accent is different. So, probably two or three movies down the line, I will start dubbing in Malayalam.
It must have been a great opportunity working with Mammootty in your first film…
Of course! We have all grown admiring him and he’s a legend in terms of acting. My dad worked with him in Pazhassi Raja. So I am a great fan of Mammukka. During the shots, he used to advise me to ‘say my lines slow’ and ‘take your time’ because I used to rush with my dialogues.
Any advice from Sarathkumar when this project came along?
My dad doesn’t get involved in my work. I am free to choose my scripts. He was happy that I got to work with Mammootty sir in my first Malayalam film. Plus, it’s also got a negative shade, so that was nice.
Since your debut with Podaa Podi, you don’t seem to be in a hurry to sign projects. Is that a conscious move?
It’s not conscious. It’s just that I don’t fit the glam doll profile. I think that’s pretty much established. The Tamil movie Madha Gaja Raja is the only film that had me in such a role and it’s yet to be released. If you notice, my kind of roles don’t come too often. But the scripts that I do are interesting. I will next be doing a horror film Ammayi, which is not a regular horror fare. Then I will be playing an army girl. So, the roles that I am offered are strong and in women-oriented films that require powerful performances.
For me, the only criterion is that the characters should be challenging. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 20 minute or a full-length role, but it has to stay in the minds of the audience even after they leave the theatre. For Tharai Thappattai, my character appears only in the second half of the film but it was a memorable one. Those are the kind of roles that I want to do.
You are also active in the Kannada film industry…
I have actually finished shooting for my second Kannada movie, which will be released in Tamil with the title Nibunan. It’s got Arjun sir and Prasanna. All three of us play cops in the film.