‘I can never let KB down’

Viji on the set of Thinkal Mudhal Velli Vare  

When Aarohanam released to critical acclaim, everyone wondered why the lead actor’s face was so familiar. Then, the penny dropped. She was Viji Chandrasekhar, powerhouse performer Saritha’s sibling, who made her debut as Rajinikanth’s sister in K. Balachander’s superhit Thillu Mullu, before fading from the big screen. “Where were you all these years?” they asked Viji, who had moved on to the small screen. “Right here,” she replied. Viji is one of the many the industry sidelined and rediscovered years later.

After Lakshmy Ramakrishnan’s Aarohanam, where she played a mother with bipolar disorder, Viji impressed again in Vikram Sugumaran’s Madha Yaanai Koottam. In Lakshmy’s second film, Nerungi Vaa Muthamidathe, she excelled in the role of a mother with a torrid past, who has a fragile relationship with her daughter; she lent the role the required sass and subtlety.

She has now wrapped up work on two films in Malayalam, with Mammootty and Jayaram, and has signed up a handful of Tamil films, including two Madurai-based ones. And, there’s her work on television, in the serial Azhagi, which has completed 900 episodes.

For someone introduced by KB, Viji swapped filmdom for studies, marriage and motherhood, before she made a comeback with television and another KB movie, Paarthale Paravasam. The actor says she does not grudge the decade-long gap before Aarohanam.

“I have been very choosy always, because acting has always been a passion, never my profession. I simply refuse to do roles that have no meaning. I’d rather sit at home and water my plants,” she states. “I did take a break, because I wanted to be there for my children. Roles came in, but nothing that tempted me to face the arc lights again.”

“I never had big dreams; I know it is not easy to become a star. I’ve seen my sister; most of her films are masterpieces. I can never hope to reach her level.” And then, there was the comparison! “I could never measure up to her, in people’s eyes!” she laughs. And, Saritha wanted her to have a regular life.

It was the same Saritha who read the script of Aarohanam and insisted that Viji take it up. “I was scared; it was a multi-dimensional role. But, once I wore my costume, I became Nirmala,” says Viji. And for that role alone, says Viji, she’s indebted to Lakshmy for life. “If she had not had the courage to give me that role, I would not have got such a platform.” It helped that she backed her to the hilt in her second innings. “Without them, this would not have been possible.”

Even after Aarohanam, people think twice before casting her, because she was a TV actress. “I wonder why they fear the small-screen tag. Television has some fantastic actors; unless you cast them, how will you know if they will be accepted or not? And, they are not lesser actors.

In films, you carry a character only till the schedule lasts; in television, you live with the character for years together. And, TV stars enter homes every single day; they are hugely popular,” says Viji, who has acted in 38 teleserials over 20 years.

Viji plays Mammootty’s mother in National Award winner Salim Ahamed’s Pathemari, a period film. And, in Kannan Thamarakulam’s Thinkal Muthal Velli Vare, a film about television, she plays Jayaram’s mother. “Both roles are very different from each other and beautifully sketched. I wish actors in their 40s get to do more ‘real roles’. Yes, I am a mother in real life, but women like me have other facets to our personality too. Why is that never being tapped?” she wonders.

Viji admires fellow character actor Asha Sarath, who stunned all in Drishyam.

“This is the age when we are raring to go with the character and give it all it takes. Use us,” she says. Viji hopes she’ll someday get to play a cop on screen or a person with speech and hearing impairment. “That will be a real challenge. I’m waiting,” she says.

And finally, if there’s anything that helps Viji decide on her roles, it is that no character she does must bring disgrace to her sister or guru KB. “I was among the last actors he directed (in the serial Amudha Oru Aacharyakuri) and he wrote a letter to Lakshmy after Aarohanam: something on the lines of… ‘I’m proud I discovered Viji; you rediscovered her. Keep it up…’ How can I ever let him down?”

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 5:06:02 PM |

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