As her third film Kuttipuli releases on May 30, Lakshmi Menon hopes her success will continue with more versatile roles. K. Jeshi catches up with the actor
Two critically-acclaimed films — Kumki and Sundara Pandian — gave Lakshmi Menon a good start. She played Alli, the obedient daughter of the village head in Kumki, the story of a mahout and his elephant. In Sundara Pandian, a romantic action thriller, she was a feisty village girl. “It just happened,” she says about how she landed roles in two important films even while she was a class X student at Tripunithura in Kerala. “I realised Kumki was a big project only on the first day of the shoot. During Sundara Pandian, I took a break and wrote my exams,” she says.
Director Vinayan introduced her in the Malayalam film Raghuvinte Swantham Raziya, and then Kumki happened. Now, she has back-to-back films — Kuttipuli, Manjappai, Sippai and Pandiya Naadu — and is happy with the films that have come her way. “I am taking baby steps…thankfully the journey so far has been effortless.”
Lakshmi wants to emerge out of the shadow of Kumki and Sundara Pandian and take up other challenging roles. “I have been a part of good films. Now, I want my individual performance to be noticed in versatile roles. Glamour doesn’t interest me. All I look for while signing a film is a one-line summary and my costumes.”
In Kuttipuli that releases on May 30, she is acting with actor-producer-director Sasikumar for the second time after Sundara Pandian. “I am eager as the story has not been publicised much. It’s Sasi’s film. It’s for the family, an entertainer. Working with him was a great learning experience. In Sundara Pandian, the cheerfulness of the character he played rubbed off on to the others on the set. In Kuttipuli, he plays a serious character and that’s the emotion he displayed all through the day. He approaches every role with such dedication.”
Language has never been a barrier for this Malayalee, who is also a trained Bharatanatyam dancer. “My mother studied dance at Kalakshetra, Chennai. We watch Tamil films at home. And there are similarities between the two languages. A background in dance led me into films, and it gives my performances that extra edge. Nevertheless you have to be talented as it is a competitive industry. I give every role my best. I believe in spontaneity, and am happy when the director says ‘okay’,” she says.
Lakshmi enjoys the affection shown by the Tamil audience and says it’s a pleasure to work here. Her wish list of directors has all the big names…Gautam Menon, Bala (if you are an actor, at least one film under his direction is a must, she says), Mani Ratnam, Murugadoss…and she looks up to actors such as Suriya, Vikram and Ajith for their individuality, style and hard work.
Kumki turned out to be a career-defining film and she thanks her guru, director Prabhu Solomon, for the opportunity. “The experience was just like what he had prepared me for. Every shot was adventurous and challenging — acting with the elephant, shooting at the picturesque Jog falls — every day was memorable.”
Manjappai — An urban girl. Direction by Raghavan (assistant to director Sargunam who made films such as Vaagai Sooda Vaa and Kalavani)
Sippai — She plays a bold girl who brings about a change in the life of the hero, played by Gautam Karthik. The director of this youth entertainer, set in a college, is Saravanan.
Pandiya Naadu — The village girl is back with actor Vishal. It is directed by Suseenthiran.
Director Karthik Subbaraj’s untitled film with actor Siddharth.
Her favourite heroine
Vidya Balan for setting the trend where women call the shots in films (Kahaani, Dirty Picture and No One killed Jessica) Lakshmi says it is a bold step that will inspire youngsters aspiring to be heroines.