Ten-year-old Sadhna Venkatesh talks about her experiences of playing Chellamma in Thanga Meengal

Concerned parents of Sadhna Venkatesh mulled over the decision to let her act in the role of Chellamma in director Ram’s Thanga Meengal. “We come from a conservative family. Also, as a parent, I felt very uncomfortable to let a girl child act in films,” says her mother, Lakshmi. It took two hours and 10 minutes of narration from Ram to convince the parents that this film will turn out to be a memorable one for their family and, most importantly, for Sadhna. “The importance of Chellamma to the story and the director’s conviction helped us take a decision. We wouldn’t have agreed otherwise,” says her father, Sankar Venkatesh.

Big responsibility

As parents slowly overcame their misconceptions about cinema, Sadhna was bestowed with a big responsibility of playing a character that is so central to the film. Director Ram auditioned over 150 girls for the role before he zeroed in on her. A chat with 10-year-old Sadhna reveals why Ram had chosen her. Did she understand her character? “Oh yes,” she exclaims. “Ram uncle would describe a scene in detail to make sure I understood what he wanted.”

Sadhna is full of stories; about how she was saw a bear on the way to the shooting spot of AchanKoil; about how she dislikes fishes thrown on her face; about the pranks she plays on the assistant directors… She has also learnt a lot. She claims she can even spot the continuity errors in films! “Cameraman Saaraa uncle has taught me all about lighting and continuity,” she says. The family’s biggest take away is that they seem to have understood how difficult it is to make a film, which, in turn, has translated into respect for the art. “There have been times when mom has felt bad when I have had to work long hours. I always told my mom that was how cinema was and that we needed to help Ram uncle complete the film,” says Sadhna as her mom and dad nod in agreement.

Sadhna and her family have moved to Dubai, where she will continue her studies. Will she miss acting? “Of course. But it will be difficult to find time for acting. Then again, what are vacations for!”