Actor Ineya, a native of the city, is the latest Malayali belle to take Kollywood by storm
Sara Sara Saara Kathu…, the breezy number from A. Sargunam's period Tamil flick Vagai Sooda Vaa, has you singing along to its charming tune as you wait for its star, Ineya, to answer her phone. Although you know that Ineya is a Malayali, a native of the city, it still comes as a complete surprise to hear her answering questions in her native Malayalam! Such was the power of Ineya's portrayal of an illiterate tea vendor named Madhi in Vagai Sooda Vaa. Ineya's Madhi captured hearts with her rustic charm, her tough-as-nails attitude and her decidedly quixotic but flawless Tanjavur dialect of Tamil. Ineya's looks too take you by surprise. If you're expecting her to be like Madhi, simple and thoroughly rustic, you couldn't be more wrong. In real-life she is perky and sleek, and thoroughly “modern” in attitude and style.
“I'm nothing like Madhi in real life,” muses the actor, adding: “I worked hard to perfect the slang and make Madhi seem real, though her character profile, her attitude, and her milieu were something completely alien to me.”
Ineya, who was formerly known as Sruthi (director Sargunam gave the actor her new stage name, which means ‘sweet' in Tamil), is the latest in the long line of Malayali belles to leap onto the Kollywood bandwagon. Not that she was particularly nervous about joining the ranks of Asin, Nayanthara, Amala Paul, and the like. “For sure, they paved the way, but I have faith in my ability as an actor to make a space for myself,” says the actor.
Vagai… may be her debut film in the lead but she is no stranger to the camera, having debuted on screen as a child artiste while in class four (at Amrita Vidyalayam in the city) with the Malayalam tele-film Koottilekku. She has been learning classical dance since she was three years old and was always active in stage productions for KESCA, an organisation of employees of Kerala State Road Transport Corporation, where her father, Salahuddin, works as an inspector. She went on to act in a number of tele-serials such as Orma by K.K. Rajeev, and SreeGuruvayoorappan by Vayalar Madhavan Kutty in which she plays demon Poothana's younger version.
Post-winning the Miss Trivandrum title in 2005, she starred in a number of ads, before landing author backed roles in the Malayalam films Dalamarmarangal – directed by Vijayakrishnan, Saira – directed Dr. Biju, Vijayakrishnan's tele-film Umma and in The Sacred Face, a short film in English on child abuse directed by Rajesh Touchriver.
Kollywood finally came calling in 2010 with the release of director Mysskins' thriller Yuddham Sei, in which plays the role of Cheran's sister. “You can't really say I am a full on directors' actor. I try to meet the director halfway,” says the actor. “As for language issues, it helps that I can fluently speak, write, and read Tamil.”
Next up for Ineya is Mouna Guru, in which she stars in the role of a medical student, opposite Arulnidhi, grandson of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi. The film, which Ineya has dubbed for herself, will hit screens soon. She's also lined up to play the lead, a character named Radhika, in director Bharatiraja's film Annakodiyum Kodiveeranum, starring opposite Vinay Rai (of Unnale Unnale fame).
“I feel blessed for the breaks I have been given in life. Bharatiraja sir had come to launch the music of Vagai... and as soon as he saw me he said I have found my Radhika! I thought he was kidding. But lo and behold a few weeks later I got a call from his office requesting me to act in the movie!” says Ineya, with a laugh. And will we get to see Ineya in Mollywood? “And in Tollywood, Bollywood… I want to do all kinds of movies. Discussions are on, and in Mollywood, at least, you'll see me someday sooner than later,” she says.