PERSONALITY Cinema brought her fame, but dance is Lakshmi Gopalaswamy’s enduring passion
“This is my wonderful room,” says Lakshmi Gopalaswamy, getting ready for an interview in her room on the eighth floor of Kochi’s hotel Crowne Plaza. The view from the room is indeed fantastic. Kochi lies sprawling beneath, simmering in the midday sun. It is 1.15 p.m. and Lakshmi is just back from rehearsal for a dance show she was to perform that evening. After a brief rush to find her watch, she settles down.
Lakshmi’s natural warmth makes you feel as if you have known her for years. She speaks in English, but makes it a point to bring in a Malayalam word here and there. Whenever she appears on television shows in Kerala, Lakshmi takes the effort to speak only in Malayalam. “I am not worried about making a fool of myself. I’m only happy to entertain,” she says. “If you are in a particular place, you have to respect the local language. It is your duty to learn it.”
Time for change
Since her debut in Arayannangalude Veedu , Lakshmi’s has been a bright presence in Malayalam cinema. Twelve years and a handful of sensible characters later, she feels it is time for a change. “Malayalam has been so good to me. I don’t think I would enjoy the name I do today had it not been for Malayalam cinema,” she says. “But now I feel, I was too Ms. Goody-two-shoes. It is important to have a few really dashing roles in one’s career, isn’t it?” she asks, toying with a piece of apple on the fruit tray placed in front of her.
A deserving break from the mould is on the cards with V. K. Prakash’s upcoming project, in which she will do a “drastically different” role. “All I can say now is that it is a far cry from what I have done so far,” she says.
A career in films was something Lakshmi never planned. “Until I did my first Malayalam film, my knowledge of Kerala had been next to zilch,” she says. But Malayalis loved this girl from Karnataka even before her film debut. Her angelic face was pretty much the anchor for the Mountain Mist tea commercial, which eventually led to her popularity in Kerala.
Lakshmi follows her own logic while choosing a role, but admits she often gets carried away by the story.
Her last significant role in Malayalam was opposite Baburaj in Naughty Professor . “I tend to ask too many questions to the director. You know, sometimes, my intellect actually gets in the way of my career,” she says, her laugh joyfully contagious.
She is interrupted by a call for room-cleaning service and politely turns it down. “This is something I believe in. There is no need to clean the room unnecessarily. So much water goes waste like this every day. This is how I do my bit to save water. When you are in the public domain, people will read up on you and at least that way, I can pass on this message,” she says.
Though acting has brought her name, dance has been her most enduring passion. Having started at the age of eight, dance is a natural way of communication for her. She thanks her gurus for the strong foundation she received in Bharatanatya. Lakshmi has pursued it with a fierce passion, rarely digressing from it, except once, when she performed a Kathak piece with dancer-actor Vineeth. “I got a lot of appreciation for that, but somehow, I have not considered branching out to other genres,” she says.
Dance was a natural journey. “My parents never pushed me. So it isn’t contrived,” she says. She likes to take things at her pace. “There have been phases when I don’t perform and just watch others. There have also been times when I am just performing. It is my way of getting back rejuvenated.”
She does not, however, mix dance with acting. Her Kannada blockbuster, Aptarakshaka (2010) was a different experience in that sense. Made along the lines of Rajnikant-starrer Chandramukhi , the film has her playing a dancer who is possessed. Television has always been a part of her life. Apart from commercials, she had done a Tamil serial, which won her much praise. A dance reality show she judged on Asianet was a “fresh experience”. But Lakshmi is not too keen on signing on another reality show. “It is creative, it is fun, it is interesting…but I don’t know if I can last through another one,” she says.
A few ideas are in place, she says, for a piece she is planning to choreograph. “Right now, my preoccupation is with effective living. Everybody is so busy. We are always in a hurry. But what are we achieving at the end of the day? So the piece might be a comment on today’s society,” she says.
“Ultimately, your dance is a reflection of your personality.”