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‘Cannes is overwhelming, but beautiful’

KalieaswariSrinivasan (R) with the Dheepanteam.  

Kalieaswari Srinivasan is ecstatic. This Chennai-based theatre actor is currently at Cannes, where her film Dheepan bagged the prestigious Palme d’Or award, considered the top honour at the festival. Directed by French filmmaker Jacques Audiard, the movie tells the tale of a former fighter in the Sri Lankan civil war who joins two strangers to form a fake family and seek asylum in France.

Kalieaswari, who is a well-known face in the city’s theatre circuit, made heads turn both with her performance in the film and by sporting an elegant, bright blue silk sari on the red carpet. In a chat from France, where she’s currently promoting Dheepan, she explains how she landed this project and what Cannes taught her.

How did you become a part of Dheepan?

It was through an audition. The casting director had come to Chennai to find people for the roles — I got to know of it through two different people (Kumaran Valluvan and Seema). I went, and things fell in place.

Tell us about your character in the film…

I play a Sri Lankan refugee who flees the war and wishes to settle down and lead a normal life, and that happens in Europe.

When did you get to know about going to Cannes, and how has the experience been?

I knew about it when the official selection was out. It has been a beautiful experience; almost the entire film world is here. It’s kind of overwhelming, but it is beautiful. I bumped into a lot of celebrities who I’ve watched on the big screen. The importance here, obviously, is for movies. Though I came towards the end of the festival, I’m happy that I got to catch a lot of other interesting films.

Did the team expect top honours at the Festival, and how was the moment when Dheepan was announced for Palme d’Or?

To begin with, I had no expectations about how it would be to work with Audiard, and how the film would shape up and if it will do well in the festivals. We were just happy to have been part of the Cannes experience and take the film to a lot of people through it.

You decided to wear a sari for the red carpet, and we hear that it was much-talked-about…

Thanks! (Laughs) It was the first choice that came to my mind when they said that I had to decide to wear something on the red carpet. This particular sari is quite sentimental because it’s what I got for my wedding, but I ended up wearing another sari for that occasion. I’m most comfortable in it and people at Cannes loved it.

You’re an integral part of Chennai’s theatre scene. How did you get into acting for stage in the first place?

Theatre happened purely by accident; I had no idea that I would become an actor. I have done work not just in Chennai but also worked with groups in Madurai and Pondicherry. I just do theatre; I do not belong to the English or Tamil theatre community.

Have you worked on films before Dheepan?

This is my first feature film. I have done a couple of short films for a friend of mine. One of them later became the National Award-winning Kuttram Kadithal.

So, working on Dheepan, especially with big names, should have been a great learning experience…

Yes, it was. I consider myself to be lucky to work with people who are both professional and humane. The Dheepan team deserves this honour because right from the person who drove us to the sets to the people who cooked our meals, every single person worked with dedication and gave it their all to make the movie happen.

How does life change for Kalieaswari post the Cannes honour?

Well, nothing much... I wish to continue acting, be it in movies or theatre. To me, they’re cousins. It’s just acting in two different mediums. I look forward to a lot of exciting work.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 1:17:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/kalieaswari-srinivasan-cannes-is-overwhelming-but-beautiful/article7244417.ece

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