With her nuanced performance and unceasing elegance in Virus, Darshana Rajendran has cemented her presence in the business. In a candid chat, the singer/theatre performer/storyteller opens up about her experience working among the star-cast of Virus, her one true calling and a peak into where we can see her next.
Let's begin with Virus and its brilliant team. Did you even, at once, feel intimidated?
Not at all. One of the best things about a team like that is that they create an extremely comfortable and respectful environment. Also, when you work with such a brilliant team, it feels like half your job is already done. You just need to take what is given to you and use it well…things just flow. I wasn't intimidated, I think I was mostly just excited about getting to work with all of them, that too all at once.
In a recent interview, Parvathy Thirovuthu desired an interest in casting you as a lead in her directorial venture. How does that make you feel?
(Laughs) I only a saw a small clipping of the interview but I think she was only answering a hypothetical question about who she would like to work with IF she were to direct a film. A day after that, there were write ups about Parvathy's new film and about me playing the lead. We fast forwarded a bit too much I think. I hope the film happens sometime though, I would love to work with her. She is someone I really respect as an artist. She is also a good friend who makes it a point to watch my work and tell me what she thought. It is always a great feeling to be acknowledged by people you like and respect.
Having worked in two films in the Tamil Film Industry—Irumbu Thirai and Kavan, tell us one striking difference you see between the two industries.
I have not really seen it as this industry or that, but I'm more comfortable in the Malayalam industry purely because I speak the language. I have really enjoyed the Tamil films I have done as well, but I spent most of my time getting comfortable with my lines. I've had it easier in Tamil films when it comes to things like payment. There seems to be more order in such aspects. But that could just be a very personal experience. In terms of content as well, I think both industries are in very different spaces right now and it is exciting that I get to explore both.
Did you always have a calling for theatre or was it a result of an experience you did not see coming?
I did not see it coming at all. I come from a culturally active family, my parents encouraged us to explore the arts as kids, so I have been on stage a lot. But theatre happened merely by chance. And I am so grateful that it did. I come from an academic background, I studied math in Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi and Financial Economics in City University, London before I moved to Chennai to work at IFMR. I was new to Chennai and a friend of mine dragged me along for a pantomime audition, because I could sing and because he thought I would get to meet more people and feel more at home in the new city. I remember feeling something I have never felt before when I first got on stage and after my first stage bow. I knew I wanted more of it. I found myself doing as many plays as I could along with my job. And slowly but surely I quit my job in the hope of spending more time doing what I loved so much.
In an interview, you said that the arena of theatre is a better place to make friends than the film fraternity. Why do you say that?
I think with theatre it is almost always a bunch of people who come together purely for the love of it. It is never the money or anything else. Which means most often, the whole team is fully invested in most aspects of the show and everyone spends time together trying to make the show happen and eventually end up being good friends. I think theatre by it's very nature, seems like a better avenue to allow this kind of camaraderie. Having said that I have made some wonderful friends in the films I have worked on.
We see that you enjoy storytelling as well. Give us a few takeaways.
I enjoy spending time with kids very much. I love hanging out with them and I love working with them. Storytelling came about as a means to find a more formal way to do just that. Kids these days have so much access to entertainment and a hundred things to do, but there is something that simply listening to stories gives them, that none of these other avenues probably offers. And I am happy to facilitate that. I also gain a lot from this experience. Kids are the most difficult to please. So it keeps me on my toes to keep them engaged. I have not once had an easy session, but it has always been fun.
Tell us a little about your experience working on the play A Very Normal Family and how it felt to be directed by your best friend—Roshan Matthew.
Roshan and I have known each other from around the time we both started exploring acting. So we have been keenly observing each other's journey and growth with each move. He is someone who knows my strengths and weaknesses as an actor. So it was the right mix of challenging and satisfying to be directed by him. Doing this play in Kochi is a dream he has had for a long time and it has been great working with him to make it come true.
'Bawra Mann' has become a go-to song for many, thanks to you. Does music hold a spiritual ground for you or is it just a hobby you enjoy?
Music has been my most dependable way to connect with myself, to process emotions, to meditate, to calm my nerves or to lift my spirts. I turn to music whenever I need to find my balance. So in that sense, yes, it does hold a spiritual ground for me. But sometimes it is just something I just enjoy as a hobby. It has always been something very personal for me though. So 'Bawra Mann' opened it out to the world for me. And as beautiful as it is, I am also quite scared by it. I don't think of myself as a singer, I just enjoy singing. So I find it extremely challenging to put my work out there for people.
Lastly, tell us a little about what the audience can expect out of you in the future.
Some theatre, some films, some storytelling. I am really excited about A Very Normal Family, the play we have been working on. We've done a few shows and hope to take it to more stages in the coming months. I am working on Thuramukham with Rajeev Ravi and it has an absolutely wonderful experience. These are things I am most excited about currently.