P.K. AJITH KUMAR
Lakshmi Rai is set to fly high with her debut in the Bollywood film ‘Hey Gujju.’I was lucky that I could work with the two biggest stars in Malayalam cinema, Mohanlal and Mammootty, at the beginning of my career.
Being tall is not much of an advantage if you are a heroine in South Indian films, feels Lakshmi Rai. “On the contrary, it could actually be a disadvantage,” she says.
However, it pays to be tall in Bollywood, though. That’s where Lakshmi, after working in all the South Indian language films, is headed for now.
She has begun shooting for her maiden Bollywood flick, ‘Hey Gujju,’ opposite music-director-turned-actor Himesh Rashammiya, whose acting debut, ‘Aap Ka Suroor,’ was one of the surprise hits of last year. ‘Hey Gujju’ is directed by comedian-turned-director Satish Kaushik.
“I play a Punjabi girl in the film. It’s a comedy. I knew Himesh through the good tunes he gave to several Bollywood films,” says Lakshmi, whose third Malayalam film, ‘Parunthu,’ was released last Friday.
She says she has had to miss out on a few good Bollywood films, including one under the Yashraj banner, because of her busy schedule in the South.
“I was offered a role in the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer ‘Chakde India,’ but there was no way I could have done it since I had already committed to some other films,” she reveals.
Lakshmi admits she always wanted to work in Bollywood. “Who doesn’t? And I feel my height could be an advantage there,” she says. That doesn’t necessarily mean she would disappear from films in the South.
“I would certainly love to work here as well, especially in Malayalam cinema, which has proved lucky for me. Though it took me quite some time to adjust to the frenetic pace at which the Malayalam film industry works, I have got used to it. Film director Ranjith had cast me in my first Malayalam film, ‘Rock N Roll,’ after watching my ad for a coffee brand on television. My career graph has been going up ever since then,” says the actor who hails from Belgaum.
Although the Mohanlal-starrer did not set the box office on fire, Lakshmi was noticed. The jazzy song she featured in, ‘Chandamama…,’ topped the charts and was frequently aired on television.
“It was after Mammootty watched me in that song I got the role in ‘Annan Thampi,” she says.
‘Annan Thampi’ proved a big hit and Mammootty is her hero in ‘Parunthu’ too.
“I enjoyed working in ‘Parunthu,’ as I got an opportunity to portray a strong character. I was lucky that I could work with the two biggest stars in Malayalam cinema, Mohanlal and Mammootty, at the beginning of my career,” admits the actor. She adds that she has always admired their work. Lakshmi’s work during her short stint in Malayalam cinema has also won her admirers. Padmakumar, director of ‘Parunthu’, feels she could be an asset for Malayalam cinema.
“We need a heroine like her, with the right mix of looks and talent. I decided to cast her in ‘Parunthu’ primarily because of her height. But during the making of ‘Parunthu’, I realised that she is a born actor. Very often, she exceeded my expectations. There is a slot for Lakshmi in Malayalam cinema, especially opposite Mammootty or Mohanlal,” asserts Padmakumar.
Lakshmi has not signed any new films in Malayalam yet. “I want to do a role that is different from what I have done in my first three films,” she says.
At the moment Lakshmi is looking forward to the release of her Tamil film, ‘Dhoom Dham,’ in which she is costarring with Jeyam Ravi. “I am also doing another film, ‘Muthirhai,’ with Daniel Balaji and Nithin Sathya,” she says.
While growing up at Belgaum, Lakshmi always wanted to act in films. “Modelling was just a stepping stone. I did it for six months before I started acting in movies. My first film was in Tamil, R.V. Udayakumar’s ‘Karka Kasadara,’ in 2005. The same year I also did a Kannada film, ‘Valmiki.’”
She is not related to Aishwarya Rai, in any way, she says with a broad smile. “Both of us belong to Karnataka and are from the same community, that’s all. But yes, my name does arise some curiosity in Bollywood,” says Lakshmi.