Playing Savitri so early on in my career is a blessing: Keerthy Suresh
Thrilled yet nervous to have played the iconic personality like actress Savitri so early on in her career, Keerthy Suresh, in an interview with HT, describes the opportunity as a blessing for her career.Updated: Feb 05, 2018 16:56 IST
Keerthy Suresh is undoubtedly one among the most sought after southern actresses. Recently seen in Pawan Kalyan’s Agnyaathavaasi, her next major release of the year is Mahanati, the bilingual biopic on legendary southern actress Savitri. Thrilled and equally nervous to have played the iconic personality so early on in her career, Keerthy describes the opportunity as a blessing for her career. In this exclusive chat with Hindustan Times, she opens up on her flourishing career, playing Savitri and why it’s important to strike a balance between commercial films and performance-oriented projects.
Excerpts from the interview:
You’re path to stardom in such a short span of time is astonishing. Have you tried to unearth the reasons behind your success?
No, I never thought about the reasons. I’m just going with the flow and accepting things as they come my way. However, I do believe luck played a major role. I’m just glad things fell in place the way they’re supposed to and everything worked out. Honestly, I don’t try and analyze the reasons behind my success because then I’d be under a lot of pressure. Moreover, I think it’s too early to analyze my career.
In the last couple of years, you worked on multiple projects in quick succession. Did being so busy take a toll on personal life?
I like being busy, but sometimes I’m so occupied with work; I don’t even get enough time to rest. In September and October of 2016, I was shooting for five projects. I was juggling between the sets of Mahanati, Bairavaa, Nenu Local and Agnyaathavaasi. It was super hectic, but when I get to see the final product, I feel it’s worth it. It makes me really happy.
Out of your upcoming projects, Mahanati seems very exciting. Were you apprehensive about playing an iconic character like Savitri so early on in your career?
I had too many thoughts when I was offered the project. I know of Savitri, but till I signed the project I didn’t realise its value. I asked myself if it was too early to do a film like Savitri. I also felt the project - considering it’s about the life of Savitri, who has had her share of ups and downs, and was known to drink - might draw attention which will eventually lead to controversies. But I found her story to be fascinating. Telugu audiences treat her life like that of a goddess, so it was important that I play her fittingly on screen. When Nag Ashwin (director) told me the film was being made as a tribute to Savitri, that’s when I realised the importance of the biopic. He told me that I didn’t have to look like Savitri, and that they’re merely narrating the legend’s story through me.
How convinced were you that Ashwin, who is only directing his second film, could pull off such a big project?
I could ask the same question to myself. How many films have I done to be eligible to be part of this prestigious project? I was convinced by the way Ashwin narrated the story. It took him about three hours and I was hooked to his narration. More than the story, the screenplay worked for me. It’s not a sad story and that’s what makes Mahanati really exciting. The story is told through the perspective of Samantha, who plays a journalist. It has drama, humour and tragedy. The way Ashwin chose to narrate Savitri’s story makes Mahanati a very unique biopic.
When Mahanati was announced, rumours made the rounds that the project would require you to gain weight? Could you talk about it?
I actually lost weight to play the younger version of her character. To play the older portion, we used prosthetic. People need to look at this story beyond all these things. Savitri’s life was so fascinating. When people talk about her life, it’s mostly about how she started drinking towards the end of her career or how she gained too much weight. But there’s so much more about what made her one of best actresses of her era.
Since you play Savitri in the film, what inspired you the most about her?
I realized nobody can replace her. Ashwin gave me clips from her movies to prep for my character. As I started watching, I felt tremendous pressure because I have to live up to her legacy. If someone explains a character and asks me to do it, I’d play it the way I want it. But it’s very challenging when you’re asked to act as someone. But everywhere I went after I signed the film, I was told that it is a blessing to play Savitri on screen. This gave me a lot of confidence to give my best to the role.
Do you see Mahanati as a departure from the commercial films you have mostly done so far?
I don’t usually categorize my films. I think it’s healthy to have a good balance of commercial as well as heroine-centric films. Otherwise, audiences will get bored of seeing me in similar roles. When I signed Mahanati, I had to forgo two big project but I didn’t mind because I wanted to try something different for a change.
You made your Tamil debut alongside Vikram Prabhu in Idhu Enna Maayam. Today, you’ve worked with superstars Vijay and Pawan Kalyan. How do you see the transition from small heroes to star-studded projects?
The transition didn’t happen overnight. Everything took its own time. Maybe the process happened quicker than I expected in my case, but it didn’t happen immediately. After working with Vikram Prabhu, I worked with Sivakarthikeyan and then with Dhanush sir. Later, film with Vijay sir happened and I did a film with Ram in Telugu. If you’re talking about being part of big projects, Mahanati is the biggest of all because it’s being made on a very big scale. I have about 120 costumes in the film. Average number of costumes for a heroine in a film is about 30. The film is set in golden era, so you can imagine the magnificent the sets would look on screen.
Thalapathy 62 with Vijay must be special. Tell us something about the film?
I’m yet to come out of Bairavaa hangover. It’s going be to a very interesting role; quite different from what I did in Bairavaa. To finally get to be associated with AR Rahman sir feels special. I can’t talk much about the project right now.
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