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Measure for measure

Actors Saranya Photo: S_S_Kumar

Actors Saranya Photo: S_S_Kumar

She breezed into our collective hearts in 1987 playing Neela, the teen sex worker with a heartbreaking smile in “Nayagan”. Twenty-four years and a hundred films later, Saranya Ponvannan is content in her space as an actor and woman.

She followed her critically-acclaimed blockbuster debut with a couple of films that celebrated her dignified self before settling down in a happy marriage. “Movies were an accident. And, I had so many conditions before I signed up for ‘Nayagan' — I would not miss a single day of college (she studied in WCC) and I would shoot outdoors only during the holidays. And, I got away with it! I had no clue what a big movie I was working in.”

The conditions translated into a body of work she is proud of. “Some thought I was being fussy. That hurt. But, today, I can happily let my two daughters watch all my movies,” says Saranya.

Shaking her out of domestic bliss was the television series ‘Veetukku Veedu Looty', which showed audiences she could make them laugh, and how! In her second stint in films, Saranya grew adept playing mom and sister. But, you couldn't miss the utterly natural touches she lent. Remember the frantic “paal kudam” act in “Em Magan”, the selfless mother of “Thavamai Thavamirundhu”, or the rollicking all-forgiving mother and grandmother of “Kalavani”?

And then, she had the audience sitting up again, fittingly for her 100th film, Thenmerku Paruvakaatru , where she played a doting single mom torn between love and possessiveness. So, when did she realise she was an artiste capable of nuanced acting? “Am I one?” she laughs. “I still wonder if I can do justice to a role. I never look at the camera, and I zoom out everything else except the character I play. I forget my age. I forget who I am,” she elaborates. But, work is forgotten once she hits home. “I'm a home bird. I love being a wife and mom. That gives me the greatest joy.”

Though being an actor is incidental to her being, she ensures she gets her way in certain things. “I can never look at the camera and deliver monologues. I ask to be allowed to do something around the scene of action as I talk. I need my props — the wall, a sinkful of vessels… something.”

And, she lives her roles, even if they go against the very grain of her character. For instance, the cleanliness freak was sweating in every shot for Kalavani , and so uncomfortable. “But, the director insisted he was okay with the way I looked.” She continues: “Shooting for Thenmerku… was a breeze, despite the Sun, for director Seenu Ramasamy had everything planned.”

Does she feel lucky working at a time when non-stereotypical roles are being written? “Totally. But for it, I would not have got to play the kind of roles I do,” agrees the actor, who is peeved by the male domination in the industry. “Tell me, if a movie is all about the hero, why do you need other actors?” she asks. “Today, even a person playing a tea-seller gets the claps. Only performance counts.”

And, how difficult was it for a city girl to not just take up, but revel in rustic roles? “Fascinating, actually, but not very difficult. Added to it, I have a love for languages and cultures. So, it is easy to pick up mannerisms and nuances,” says Saranya, who'll next be seen in Muthukku Muthaga, Vaanam and Kadhalar Kudiyiripu .

Her greatest joy? That recognition which eluded her as a heroine has come calling now!


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Printable version | Aug 12, 2022 4:15:34 am | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Measure-for-measure/article15455861.ece