‘Chekka Chivantha Vaanam’ and beyond: Why Jyotika says 2018 is her ‘biggest year yet’

The actor opens up on her line-up of projects and why working with Mani Ratnam was special

Jyotika describes 2018 as her ‘biggest year yet’. It’s the year that saw her biggest collaborations — with directors Bala (Naachiyaar) and Mani Ratnam (Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, releasing September 27). It will also see her teaming up yet again with director Radha Mohan (Kaatrin Mozhi, due for an October release). Meanwhile, Jyotika has gone ahead and signed up a débutant filmmaker, S. Raj, for her next. In an exclusive chat with MetroPlus, she tells us her about her second innings, working with established directors and more. Excerpts:

You were absent from the recently-held audio launch of Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, which saw most of the cast and crew...

It happened during the same week my children had vacation. We had gone on a short trek to the Himalayas. I usually do not commit to anything during their holidays. In fact, Suriya and I sit down in the beginning of the year and mark all the important days and vacation of the kids, and ensure we don’t give those particular dates to anyone else.

Mani Ratnam’s film has an ensemble cast boasting names like Arvind Swami, Simbu and Vijay Sethupathi. What made you sign this film?

The first reason was, obviously, Mani Ratnam. He’d written each role beautifully. Everyone in the cast has those three good scenes to perform. I guess only a big director like Mani can write in such a way that all actors get equal screen space.

‘Chekka Chivantha Vaanam’ and beyond: Why Jyotika says 2018 is her ‘biggest year yet’

Karthi spoke extensively to us about how he was in awe of the director while shooting for Kaatru Veliyidai. Tell us your big Mani Ratnam moment.

I constantly kept looking at him. I couldn’t believe that I was working with him, especially considering that this was my second innings in cinema. There’s this whole aura of being in a Mani film; he is a livewire on the set. Before we started shoot, he sat down with every one of us separately for a reading of our roles. He wanted us to tell him what was right and wrong about all the characters. It’s beautiful to see someone so big giving you that space.

You play Arvind Swami’s wife in the film...

Yes. There is a certain trauma in all the women in the film, but each one has a different angle.

How difficult was it to leave Bala’s sets and enter Mani Ratnam’s project?

Mani sir kept telling me: ‘Jo, come out of Naachiyaar’. Both these directors leave an impact on you. Bala is the sort of filmmaker who takes charge; you cannot go wrong when you’re acting in his film. His choice of picking the right reactions is where magic happens. With Mani sir, he lets you explore your character completely. I think I got the best of both worlds at the same time.

The promos of Naachiyaar featured a cuss word, which came under a lot of criticism. Did you have any apprehensions about that, considering you’re largely seen as an actor who does ‘feel-good’ films?

As leading ladies, we cannot do biryani scenes, wine shop scenes, not look fat despite having children and cannot romance younger people. There are many things that are a straight no from a commercial angle.

I didn’t do it for style; it was done with a motive. As an actor, especially in my second innings, I am looking at doing more socially-responsible subjects. I thought Bala’s film strongly supported what a woman should do in trying situations. If someone touches your daughter, it is natural for any mother to slap him or utter a bad word. I don’t think I stepped out of my comfort zone at all with Naachiyaar.

You’re also in the Tamil remake of Tumhari Sulu. With the original widely watched, how well do you think a remake would be received?

It’s very important to bring out the message in the film to everyone out there. We kept the Tamil woman in mind while tweaking the scenes from the original. It’s always a burden when you start a remake, when the original performer was brilliant. I’ve seen Tumhari Sulu only once, and had always wanted to do it in Tamil.

How satisfied are you with the second innings?

I’m extremely happy. This year has been the highest point in my career. Apart from Bala and Mani Ratnam, I’ve currently signed two films with two new directors.

How do you look back at your first innings, in which you were doing big films with big heroes? The leading lady couldn’t headline a film back then, like now.

If you look back to those times, Simran, Sneha and Meera Jasmine were my contemporaries. We did do big-hero films, but we also had strong roles in them. Think Dum Dum Dum, Kushi or Poovellam Un Vaasam. Barring a couple of films that I would have done for money, all my movies had me in strong roles. We were never just standing next to the hero for the sake. Today, the roles have become much stronger. A lot more is happening to women, which wasn’t the case back then, and I guess that is reflecting in films as well.

Nayanthara has been among the actresses leading this change in Kollywood. She has had two back-to-back hits in recent times.

It’s amazing to see her taking that extra effort. It is not easy at all to compile a project. It’s very difficult to go to set and perform as, unlike hero-centric films, we have to do three-four scenes in a single day and finish the project within schedule. Performing is an art, but we have to do that within so many constraints, including time and budget. It’s a very big achievement if a woman is achieving success and creating a market of her own.

Simran, who was supposed to do the role that you ended up doing in Rajinikanth’s Chandramukhi, is a part of the Superstar’s Pettai. Your thoughts on that.

I was the first one to congratulate her on the project. Simran and I are mothers today; we have topics to chat beyond cinema, and are very happy for each other. We’re all together trying to create a space for women in cinema.

So, there’s no competition amongst the leading ladies?

We are all together, especially Nayanthara, Simran and I. The heroes get it all, while we have to struggle to get even a music director! Women-oriented films face a lot of don’ts even before they kickstart. As leading ladies, we cannot do biryani scenes, wine shop scenes, not look fat despite having children and cannot romance younger people. There are many things that are a straight no from a commercial angle, though I’m glad it is that way. That leaves us with very less commercially viable things to do in a film, and so the only way out is to have a good script and deliver a great performance.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 7:55:58 PM |

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