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Her tryst with cinema

From doing glamour roles, Soundarya has graduated to playing strong feminist roles. What's more, she recently plunged into production with the National award-winning Kannada film, "Dweepa".

SOUNDARYA IS one of the few surviving South Indian actresses still doing commercial films. An actress who does not depend heavily on make-up, Soundarya comes across as a classic beauty on the silver screen. The diva has kept the audience glued to their seats with her powerful performances and smouldering, expressive eyes.

Till recently, the Kannadiga from Bangalore was reigning supreme in Telugu cinema. She has played heroine to some of the biggest names such as Amitabh Bachchan, Rajnikanth, Chiranjeevi and Kamalhassan. Though Soundarya has largely been identified for her glamour roles, recently she changed tack when she played strong feminist roles in parallel cinema. She has produced and acted in Girish Kasaravalli's, "Dweepa", which bagged the National Award for Best Film. The film also bagged a major chunk of the Karnataka State Awards, including the Best Actress for 2001.

She has just completed her 100th film, "Sokka Thangam" with Vijaykanth. She speaks in detail about her attitude and career:

Congratulations! Very few heroines complete 100 films these days.

(Smiles) I am happy to have survived so long in an industry where heroines fade out after a dozen films. I owe it all to my audience. I am still starry eyed about the whole thing.

As a heroine, your success ratio has been simply amazing.

I have done some great movies and some not-so-great movies and I can't ask for more now.

How did you become so popular in Telugu cinema?

I have represented the Indian woman in almost all my films. I refused to be typecast as a glamour girl. Unfortunately women are suppressed in society and in a male-dominated industry, I have tried my best to portray the characters with conviction. I have a huge fan following among women.

But you are no longer the `numero uno' there?

Nobody can remain at the top forever. There will be ups and downs everywhere, but I am proud that the audience gave me my due and I am content. But as an actress, there is still a long way to go as I am still learning.

After being a glamour girl for long, you have switched to serious roles like the one in "Dweepa".

I am no feminist but I believe that men and women are equal. I have done family entertainers in the commercial circuit. I only do the kind of films that I believe in. That's why I decided to produce a serious film like "Dweepa".

Why did you choose to produce a film like "Dweepa"?

The film just happened after Girish Kasaravalli narrated the script to me. I have always been impressed by the way classical Indian poetry and the arts use elements of Nature as a metaphor for the feminine principles. "Dweepa" is the story of Nagi, her husband Ganappa and his aged father Duggaya, who are displaced when a dam is built. They refuse government compensation and risk their lives for home and hearth, which is under a serious threat of submission. The character of the never-say-die Nagi influenced me to produce the film.

Were you peeved that your author-backed role of Nagi did not fetch you a National Award for The Best Actress?

Like the Oscars, I have realised that even for a National Award, certain amount of lobbying is required. But I have no regrets.

Tell us something about your new film "Sokka Thangam", which is your 100th film.

The film is set in a rural milieu and my character is that of a woman who has a soft corner for Vijaykanth. It has been a great experience to work with K. Bhagyaraj, the director of the film. It is a commercial film and my role has been etched out well.

Any other exciting projects?

I recently acted in a Malayalam film, "Yathrakkarude Sraddhakku" with Jayaram, directed by Satyan Anthikkad. I play a modern girl who is forced to share a flat with the hero, which leads to a piquant situation. In Malayalam, they always make realistic films within the commercial format. Now, the trend is slowly catching on in other languages where directors are making niche films seeped in realism and are unapologetic about it.

Your critics say that you are donning insignificant `Amman' roles.

Yes I am playing the role of a Goddess in a Kannada film "Thaye Bhuvaneswari", which is being dubbed in other South Indian languages. I am also doing a Telugu film where I have an offbeat role.


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