Aishwarya Rajesh on ‘Farhana’, the under-representation of Muslims in films and the changing scenario

Actor Aishwarya Rajesh talks about her upcoming film ‘Farhana’, how she prepared for her role and why women-fronted films deserve some breathing space

Updated - May 09, 2023 06:31 pm IST

Published - May 08, 2023 05:35 pm IST

Aishwarya Rajesh in a still from ‘Farhana’

Aishwarya Rajesh in a still from ‘Farhana’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In a career that has spanned over a decade, Aishwarya Rajesh’s current phase is probably her best. In the last four months, she has had four releases and is gearing up for her fifth, Monster-fame Nelson Venkatesan’s Farhana. “All of them are important films to me; I really liked the stories. Farhana will be one of the most important as I consider it to be on a par with Kanaa and Ka Pae Ranasingam which were intense. Not to take away credit from other films, but people have always loved such thrillers,” says Aishwarya Rajesh, who plays a married Muslim woman in Farhana. “The film will give the audience a sense of walking into a Muslim community. It’s the journey of Farhana. The first and second halves are contrasting to each other and there’s even a thriller element to it.”

We draw her attention to the recently-released Run Baby Run in which her screenspace was minimal despite the story revolving around her. “The role and content are important at the end of the day. I initially declined the offer but the director (Jiyen Krishnakumar) convinced me with his storytelling. Interestingly, that narration happened while I was shooting for Farhana which is also high on content,” says Aishwarya. Despite being an edge-of-the-seat thriller, Farhana is anchored by a strong emotional connection. Apart from that, we have Selva sir (director-turned-actor Selvaraghavan) as a surprise package.”

A still from ‘Farhana’

A still from ‘Farhana’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

On the under-representation of Muslims in our films, Aishwarya says, “I think they just didn’t write such characters and I wonder why they don’t. When I accepted this film, I realised that I have not done a Muslim character before, albeit in the role of Zubeida in my Hindi film (Daddy, 2017).”

When asked about the importance of representation of minority communities, at a time when films like The Kerala Story claim women are being converted to Islam and recruited into ISIS, Aishwarya says, “One has to be responsible when doing a film and when it’s likely to court controversy, one should have the knowledge to face it. As far as Farhana is concerned, Nelson was very clear about his script; so much so that we have discussed what might and might not turn into a controversy. When the trailer was released and some tried to raise an issue, my producer and director called me to ask me not to worry, though I wasn’t in the first place. I don’t see the point of seeing the promotional material and jumping to conclusions. If after the film’s release, something is pointed out to be wrong, then we can talk about it.”

Aishwarya also points out that Nelson was cautious about the representation and even asked her to learn to offer namaz. “A Muslim family came in every evening for 10 days to teach me. I was also taught how to prepare for the prayer and perform the purification ritual (Wudu). We were keen to make sure that the namaz sequences be authentic. I also learnt a lot about Islam and the slang that I speak in the film. Such crucial roles need such levels of preparation and it’s similar to how I was trained in cricket for six months for Kanaa. Oru character eh justice panradhu dhaan oru actor oda velai,” says the actor who also feels that artists should be aware of what the film is conveying. “We all might have our own ideologies but, as far as films are concerned, we have to be extra careful and responsible as that content is going to be consumed by the masses.”

A still from ‘Farhana’

A still from ‘Farhana’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In an earlier interview with us, Aishwarya had said that women-fronted films should be given a breathing space of at least a week and that was the reason for Kousalya Krishnamurthy (Kanaa’s Telugu remake) not faring well at the box office despite getting positive reviews. “I feel so with Tamil films too. An Ajith sir, Vijay sir film or something like Ponniyin Selvan will definitely get their audience. But for smaller films, people check reviews before venturing to the theatres. Our films actually run well only after the second week,” says Aishwarya, who, despite having films alongside GV Prakash (titled Dear), Jai and Joju George in the pipeline, adds that she gets more women-centric films. “Appadi dhaan varudhu, naa enna panradhu (laughs).”

The actor has been vocal about the lack of opportunities for heroines with dusky complexions. Ask her if it has changed now and she says, “I think it is changing for the good. A popular director recently met me for a web series and though it didn’t work out, he narrated the story to me and wanted to work with me because he liked my work. I think more importance is given to the performance of actors now.”

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.