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Changing gears successfully

Fresh from the success of `Mitr, My Friend', Revathi has worn the acting cap once again. This time for a Telugu film `Eshwar' being shot in Hyderabad. She unwinds for a chat after a shot.

FLYING HIGH: `Eshwar' is a love story with two debutants.

"FILMS ARE a passion which has developed over the years not something I was born with,'' she says. From Manvaasanai to Mitr, My Friend, from an acting debut to a maiden directorial venture, Revathi has traversed a long path in the last two decades. Actress, director, creative head of a production unit, activist for social causes - it seems quite a handful but that is what creativity is all about - dabbling in many spheres. She has touched the pinnacle in her acting career. Awards and accolades have poured in the course of her career spanning almost a hundred films in about five languages but she is unfazed by the limelight and success of Mitr ..., made by an all-women crew. With her feet firmly entrenched in the ground, she has quietly gone ahead with her activities and projects - the latest being a Telugu film Eshwar directed by Jayant Paranje which brings her to Hyderabad. One caught up with her on the sets at Dhoolpet - the locality of Ganesha image-makers and illicit liquor. Dressed in a simple sari befitting the role of a stepmother of a lower-income group family, she spoke after a shot.

The film introduces Prabhas and Sridevi (yesteryear heroine Manjula's daughter). "I play the stepmother of Prabhas. Since the role was interesting and emotionally (the relationship between the stepmother and son is sketched out well) important for the film I decided to do it. Jayant is a capable director too."

Mitr... naturally formed the subject of discussion. Revathi enlightens us about how the subject of a telefilm was widened to a feature film. "Priya, Mani Ratnam's assistant told us the story as we have a production house. My husband Suresh and me felt that we should make this into a feature film. We worked on it and shifted the whole base to USA and I changed the language to English not just to cater to a larger audience, but now the genre of Indian-English movies is interesting as one can experiment with something more than the usual romantic stuff.'' Regarding casting, Shobhana was an automatic choice because "we felt she would be a perfect Lakshmi, the protagonist. She is good performer and my friend too and I thought I would be comfortable working with her. We chose Nasir Abdullah as the role demanded a suave, good-looking middle-aged man. We saw him in an advertisement and called him for the audition and Shobhana and he made a good `couple'. The rest of the cast was selected in the US.''

Reminiscing on the good experience, Revathi mentions this was the first film for practically the whole crew except the editor Beena. "All of us put our heart into it. We did not expect any awards as such. I felt excited when Shobhana won the Best Actress Award, Beena won the best Editor Award and the film was adjudged the Best English Feature Film.''

Was direction a natural corollary of acting? "Absolutely. If you like the technical aspects you can easily learn it. I am disappointed I don't get challenging roles now. There are hardly any roles sketched for my age-group. The roles like sister-in- law, mother and so on are just not interesting to portray. I suppose that is what has changed into my need to direct,'' she says pensively.

Revathi is planning to direct another film but does not want to divulge anything about it till it is finalised. It could perhaps be a foray into Bollywood too -- who knows.

Most of you would remember that Revathi contested the elections from a constituency in Chennai some time back - though her foray into politics was disastrous. Why did she do it? "It was in a sense of anger and frustration. I feel that educated people who are aware and want to make a difference should enter politics." Was it a hasty decision? "No I don't regret it. It was a good learning experience. Because of that and the kind of social activities I am involved in people look at me as a human being. It has given more meaning to my life than just being an actress on screen. One needs a little more maturity and one has to give up everything else, which I am not ready now. It's a responsible job that takes a lot of time and energy,'' she says hinting that she may take it up later.

SUITABLE ROLE: Revathi plays stepmother.

Not many know that Revathi works with some voluntary organisations associated with women and children - basically health issues. "It provides me a different perspective, keeps me in touch with reality,'' she emphasises.

For Revathi, cinema is and will always be a medium of entertainment. "I would like it to be so. A rickshaw puller pays his hard-earned money to sit and watch music, dance and entertainment. A bit of social message may be woven in but it is essentially entertainment,'' she maintains.

Every film has been a learning process for Revathi. When she took the plunge into movies by sheer accident she was too young (16 years) to realise the meaning of hits and success. "Films came to me on a platter and now I am making use of that. The passion increased with each film.'' Revathi's acting is natural and effortless. If you have seen her mind-blowing, award-winning performance in Thevar magan you would know her talent and calibre. But one would be surprised to know that she was called in at the last minute and reached Pollachi the night before for the shoot next day.

If Revathi had not been an actress what would she have been? "I don't know whether I would have concentrated on dance. Dance is like meditation for me. I am choosy about my performances,'' she says.

``I am happy where I am,'' says this creative mind bubbling with ideas and itching to get on with the next directorial venture.


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