Rukmini’s character in ‘Oru Thekkan Thallu Case’ is well-rounded: Padmapriya

Actor Padmapriya who returns to Malayalam cinema after a hiatus speaks about what drew her to Rukmini’s character in ‘Oru Thekkan Thallu Case’

September 10, 2022 02:54 pm | Updated 05:01 pm IST

Padmapriya in the film

Padmapriya in the film | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

One of the factors that drew actor Padmapriya to Oru Thekkan Thallu Casewas her character in the film, Rukmini. A well-rounded female character is a rarity, especially when the character’s arc is explored outside the context of their relationship with the hero and there is a nuanced exploration of the relationship between the two women characters - Rukmini and Vasanthi (Nimisha Sajayan) - in the backdrop of anger and fighting. 

Oru Thekkan…, directed by Sreejith N , is her first Malayalam film in a while. Iyyobinte Pusthakam (2014) was one of the last Malayalam films she did, which had a prominent role. Most of the characters she has essayed so far, like most female characters in Malayalam commercial films, have seldom reached their potential, the development petering out at some point in the plot development. 

“Rukmini is an interesting character, she is Ammini Pillai’s (Biju Menon) wife but, as a character, she has her individuality. She is strong and bold, but there is a vulnerability in the female friendship space where she is protecting her younger friend Vasanthi. There are certain lines [to other female characters] that I have not said [in other films] before,” says the actor, praising the writing. 

This is the kind of film she would like to watch in a theatre; “The sound, art, the characters… all would make for a theatrical experience, the film is a genuine entertainer.” She confesses to initially not understanding the story because the narrative was “without the peaks and troughs of a regular film.” Seeing the 1980s - culturally, socially and politically - from the context of 2022 added to the experience.   

Being part of the film was interesting as she watched a first-time filmmaker create on a vast, visual canvas without compromises and cost-cutting. “Both director and producer were taking a chance - economically and creatively - in telling this story.” 

Returning to the visible space of films after some years of being in the ‘invisible space’ of doing work not related to films is making her nervous.

The years she has been away had kept her busy with her work first with the Centre for Policy Research and then with Sahapedia, both engaging different aspects of her interest. 

She calls her decision to take a break from her film career when it was at its peak, ‘bravado’. Counting directors Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Anjali Menon and Ram among the few who have pulled it off in India, she says, “It [bravado] is the kind that comes from wanting to be true to something one does.” 

Non-traditional vocations afford such breaks, she emphasises. It [the break] was ‘interesting’, especially with the “shelf life of an actor” question. But for her, acting has been more than about making money. “I was not finding myself relevant in what I was doing [in films]; it made little sense to continue and there were other spaces for me — the two non-profits.”  She has been active with her work for Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) as well.

In  2019-2020, however, she revisited her decision to take a break from films, and Oru Thekkan… was one of the projects that materialised. A factor that worked in its favour was that it aligned with the kind of work she was looking for.  

The pandemic may have changed what entertainment is in terms of business and aesthetic/taste, “There are diverse stories in Malayalam, which revolve around male characters of a specific age group. Marathi, Bengali, and Tamil content, for example, is extraordinary. I don’t see too many interesting female characters in Malayalam.”   

Jeo Baby’s name comes up in this context, and The Great Indian Kitchen, with its nuanced portrayal of a female character. Padmapriya admits to not having watched the film but has read about it and is familiar with Jeo’s work; her favourite is Kunju Deivam

Nimisha Sajayan, who impressed in Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum. and incidentally acted in The Great Indian Kitchen, was an actor she wanted to act with. She looked forward to working with her as Vasanthi. “It was fun to do the female friend role and explore her as an actor!”       

She has a few other projects lined up in Malayalam and Tamil, but cannot talk about them yet. 

So, how is she picking projects? Is it a let’s wait-and-see approach?  “There is no wait and see. You grab when you get a good project, especially with good female characters!” she says. 

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