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Keerthy Suresh on finding rhythm to her character in ‘Penguin’

Keerthy Suresh in a scene from ‘Penguin’

Keerthy Suresh in a scene from ‘Penguin’  

The actor talks about the Karthik Subbaraj-backed ‘Penguin’ and why she took a six-month break post ‘Mahanati’

Keerthy Suresh would have looked forward to watching the 8 am show with fans on the day of Penguin’s release, under normal circumstances. However, given what the world is currently grappling with, she says the digital space is comforting for the audience, although she admits that the direct-to-OTT release is something she is not quite familiar with yet.

“We all watch movies on OTT platforms. But this [online release] is entirely new to all of us. Some of my friends, in fact, said that they would like to watch the first day, first show of Penguin, when it premières online,” says Keerthy Suresh, in a Zoom interaction with a handful of journalists. She quotes the example of Gulabo Sitabo’s release on Amazon Prime, saying that she wanted to stay up all night to watch the movie, when it landed on the platform at 12 am on Friday.

The actor, however, issues a word of caution. “That feeling inside the theatre is something else and can never be reproduced. What can be done within this format is all that matters. The direct-to-OTT is a great option at this point of time.”

In pursuit of excellence

In Penguin, Keerthy plays Rhythm, an ordinary mother who confronts an extraordinary situation — one that would take her into the forest of secrets in search of her missing son, Ajay. “I’ve become so attached to him [the kid who plays Ajay] that I’ve saved his number as ‘Ajay, Son’,” she laughs. But the role of a mother was not what attracted Keerthy to the material, nor was it a chance to flex her acting prowess. She did not have any inhibitions playing an older woman in Mahanati, a biopic on the legendary actor Savitri. She says there was no reason to think twice playing a mother in Penguin, directed by debutant Eashvar Karthic. “I really liked Eashvar’s narration. There was a heartwarming story of a young mother and I immediately said ‘yes’ post narration,” she says, adding, “Penguin is new to me in terms of the genre and character. I would say it is an emotional thriller.”

The trailer, which seems to suggest a serial killer premise at large, has amassed over 15 million views in Tamil alone. Keerthy clarifies that there is “strong emotional content” behind the blood and gore. Though finding the rhythm to her character wasn’t all emotionally draining, the actor says that there was one scene that resonated with her. “It is my favourite. It has to do with my son, which you’ll know when you watch. All mothers would relate to that scene.”

It has been close to two years since Keerthy had a release, barring her cameo appearance in the Telugu film Manmadhudu 2. Her last Tamil film was Sandakozhi 2. Following her National Award-winning performance in Mahanati, Keerthy was bombarded with scripts or what the industry fondly calls ‘women-centric’ cinema — projects that are headlined by women. There was a lot of contemplation before she took a break, just to unwind and choose from a buffet of options given to her. “I thought I had to balance performance-oriented roles and commercial cinema. The films I received were mostly female-centric. Which is why I took a break, perhaps after a long time,” she adds.

What’s in store?
  • Keerthy says she does not carry the weight of her characters to other sets, and finds it easy to switch on and off. “Whenever I have a hangover, I try to get out of that zone. In such cases, I make sure that I go to a funny set like a Sandakozhi 2 or an Annaatthe,” she says.
  • She has a slew of movies slated in the lineup starting with the Rajinikanth-starrer Annaatthe, directed by Siva. In Telugu, she will be seen in Good Luck Sakhi and Miss India.

We speak to Keerthy a day after the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, who was reported to have been found dead by suicide at his apartment in Mumbai. When the conversation veered towards mental illness and the lack of external support for stars going through an internal fight, Keerthy had the last word: “Personally, I don’t know and cannot comment about their situation. I’m in a happy space. But when such a situation arises, we need to be mentally prepared to deal with the pressure.”

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2020 3:18:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/keerthy-suresh-interview-on-penguin/article31833071.ece

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