Genelia D'Souza talks to Saraswathy Nagarajan about Arackal Ayesha, her character in Urumi, which reaches cinemas today, and her busy schedule as actor and model

It would not be wrong to call Genelia D'Souza a Southern Star. The Mumbai-based actor's substantial fan following lies south of the Vindhyas where she has a string of hits to her credit, especially in Telugu and Tamil. And now she is aiming at expanding her fan following with Urumi, her first Malayalam film that reaches cinemas today. Genelia makes her debut in Mollywood as the warrior princess Arackal Ayesha. Speaking on the telephone from Chennai, where she is shooting for Velayudam with Vijay, she says that of all her characters, now her favourite is Ayesha.

All for the challenge

“I never thought I would be able to do a role like that. But Santosh Sir [Santosh Sivan, director of Urumi] saw the potential in me and gave me a character that was nothing like what I have done before. Santosh Sir threw me a challenge and I took it up,” gushes the actor.

To enact a martial arts expert, Genelia had to undergo two weeks of hard training to learn to use the sword, the short stick, and movements of Kalaripayattu. She also learnt horse riding.

Ms. Sunshine became the heart throb of many youngsters in Kerala as Harini in the Tamil Boys. But Genelia warns her fans that Ayesha is not Harini or Aditi (her character in Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na. “Ayesha is so not Genelia. She does not smile at all in the film. She is determined and dedicated to her cause. There is so much of hurt and anger in her and those changes in her mood were a challenge to portray. I have done several action sequences and did all my stunts myself,” says Genelia.

What was difficult, she admits, was speaking the old Malayalam that is used in the movie. She is all thanks to Shankar Ramakrishnan, who has scripted the film, for his moral support and help in delivering her lines.

Prithviraj, her co-star in the film, too, was helpful and so “non-starry.”

“Many of the crew and actors of Urumi were amazed when I was cast as the princess in the period film. But once the cameras started rolling, they had to agree that Santosh Sir's decision was right. They appreciated the amount of work I had put in to breathe life into the role.”

The management student and top model, with a clutch of brands that flaunts her face and infectious smile, says that her management studies and work in modelling did ease her move to the big screen. Although her road to Bollywood was pretty smooth, it has been a bumpy ride with only Jaane Tu… to highlight as a hit. None of her films in Hindi (Chance Pe Dance, Life Partner…) clicked at the box office. “You don't work for a hit alone. Your satisfaction as an actor is important too. Moreover, I have never been an add-on in any film of mine. I do a film only if there is space for me. It can be a song and dance film, a serious one or a rom-com, but I must have a substantial role. And I don't think I have repeated my characters. That is the only reason why my fans keep coming back to see me in a film,” she argues.

One at a time

But somewhere along the line, Genelia seems to have realised that it would be difficult to do justice to her roles if there were too many characters on her acting palette. “Instead of doing several films at the same time, I have decided to do one each in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil. That way, I can give my best to each film. I am doing Force with John Abraham, which is the remake of Gautam Menon's Khaka Khaka and an untitled Telugu film with Rana Daggubatti,'' she explains.

And would she be willing to act in another Malayalam film? “Yes, if the role is challenging enough.”

Her style mantra, she emphasises, she is wear clothes that make her look like the girl-next door. Whether it be in ads or film, I try to wear clothes that make me look like a middle class girl. And it works. For instance, I met a girl who told me that she told me father that she would not get married until he got her the sari I wore in ‘Sasirekah Parinayam,' (Telugu).

Acting mantra

I am a spontaneous actor. I don't think I give my best even during the rehearsal. But once, the director calls for action, something happens.. something mniue and that is when I give my best. All the thinking that I have done about the character comes thourgh at that last minue. It has awlays worked for me.

Her style mantra, she emphasises, she is wear clothes that make her look like the girl-next door. Whether it be in ads or film, I try to wear clothes that make me look like a middle class girl. And it works. For instance, I met a girl who told me that she told me father that she would not get married until he got her the sari I wore in ‘Sasirekah Parinayam,' (Telugu).

Acting mantra

I am a spontaneous actor. I don't think I give my best even during the rehearsal. But once, the director calls for action, something happens.. something mniue and that is when I give my best. All the thinking that I have done about the character comes thourgh at that last minue. It has wlays worked for me.

Keywords: BollywoodGenelia