Actor-director Revathi is comfortable in her own space. She talks about her two new Hindi films and her life on television

Revathi appears a little hassled as journalists and television microphones hover around her. She humours them all, nevertheless, maintaining her sunny smile. Though it is way past lunch time, she settles down for a brief one-on-one. The actor-turned-director is anchoring Surya TV’s latest reality show Malayalee House, set to premiere on Sunday.

As she speaks, unhurriedly and enjoying the process of articulation, Revathi seems an intensely private person, a stark contrast to her vivacious on-screen persona. “I know all the things I am not. I have no illusions about who I am,” she says.

Thirty years in films have been a “beautiful journey”, she admits, having acted in all the South Indian languages as well as in Hindi and later making her mark as a director. “I am very happy at the point I am in now,” she says.

Revathi is sure she would not do something at this juncture that she wouldn’t enjoy. “When I choose to do a project, there has to be something in it to excite me.”

She has just completed Shonali Bose’s Margarita, With a Straw, a ‘different’ film in which she plays mother to Kalki Koechlin. “It talks about the mother-daughter relationship in a very new way. The film is going to create waves,” she says.

After its world premiere at the Sundance Festival, the film will release in India. Revathi will also feature in Two States, an adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s book by the same name, directed by Abhishek Varman. “It will be a fun film, a dramatised version of a Punjabi and Tamil family getting together.”

As Molly Aunty in Molly Aunty Rocks in Malayalam (2012), Revathi portrayed with effortless ease a US-returned middle-aged woman taking on the system. “I enjoyed being Molly. It was about an ordinary woman, who had extraordinary courage,” she says. The role won her appreciation, too.

As director

Right now, she is not directing. The last directorial project was a short film in English, Red Building Where the Sun Sets, in 2011 which won the National Award for the best non-feature film on family welfare. Direction is something Revathi picked up on the job, out of sheer love for cinema. “I have never learnt it technically. It is really a lot of work. The director has to take care of every little detail.” Her films have been centred on issues— Mitr, My Friend, which traced the ups and downs of a mother-daughter bond, or Makal, a powerful take on child trafficking and Phir Milenge on HIV, Revathi is particular about her films conveying a message. “I want people to think about my film — something for them to carry back with them. I don’t want people to forget them.”

Acting and directing has never created an internal conflict. “When I act, I’m only too happy to relax and not interfere with the director’s vision. It is fantastic to be just an actor.”

Having recently moved to Mumbai, Revathi is savouring an entirely new city, “a very different city”. Inspiration comes from life around. “But it is also quite disheartening.”

Disgusted with news

Books are a constant companion. “Reading keeps me going.” She has however, stopped listening to news. “News has become even more dramatised than films. Everything seems to be about getting noticed. Screaming for attention.”

As anchor of Malayalee House, Revathi is entering a format she has never tried out before. “Honestly, I have no idea what to expect from the show. It is utterly spontaneous. And it feels a bit like I am jumping in with a blindfold.”

However, this is not her reality TV debut. Her sympathetic handling of a show on runaway children hosted by a mainstream Malayalam channel struck a chord with the TV-viewing public. “I don’t see TV anchoring as very different from my profession. All these are just extensions of an actor,” she says.

Malayalee House, is purely in the entertainment genre. Produced by Mumbai-based Vedartha Entertainment, it has 16 celebrities from different walks of life living under one roof for about 100 days; it is a formula that guarantees full-on drama. “I am seeing it in a completely different perspective. In this age of nuclear families, it would be interesting to see how people share a common space; how each character handles a given situation. I think it is going to be a thorough behavioural study for me,” she laughs. For the benefit of the “typical Malayali audience”, scope for a bit of “intellectual thinking” would be thrown in too.

For someone who “does not get stressed and loves to just vegetate on the couch”, Revathi says she has begun to feel that she needs a drastic shift — experiment with something radically different. “I have always lived by the day. Things just happened to me. I never did anything to make things happen. Which, I probably should have,” she says, “but then again, I have no major regrets about anything”.