Edited excerpts below:
Can you tell us about your character in Saani Kaayidham?
Ponni is a very raw and rugged character. It's a revenge story. Due to an incident that happens in her life, she is traumatised and goes on an act of revenge with her brother. This is the line. How they are planning to do this, what happens in between and how do they finish it — this is the gist of the story. Ponni is a very violent person. She isn't like that from the beginning, due to trauma she turns into someone with rage. Ponni is extremely restless. On the other hand, Selvaraghavan's character is the opposite, he's very calm and composed. So, they're like two extremes.
How was it working with the two tough taskmasters, co-actor Selvaraghavan and director Arun Matheswaran? Did you have constant pressure to satisfy both of them?
Arun is amazing and I love his vision. His forte is how beautifully he can make a film. He'll start with a very small thing, but it'll end up as a big thing. So, when he first narrated the script to me, I was blown away. I really liked the script. Why me, was my first question. He replied saying ''The same reason why you are questioning "why me" is the answer why I want you''. He said he's not seen me in a role like this before, so that is why he wanted me to do it.
There were two risks for me, one, if the audience will accept me and second, if I will be able to perform and pull off the character. I had the same questions for Mahanati (2018). Arun thinks in a very different and quirky way. His approach to work is very different. He doesn't simply come and give us our dialogues. His pictures and film speak more, we don't have to speak much also.
So, whenever we're talking also, it's not like dialogue is given to me. It's something you'll understand if you simply go through it once. During our look test, I thought it'll only be the photo that you've seen in the poster but there's a six-minute single shot at the beginning of the film, he wanted to test that also. I think it was the first time I acted a scene for a look test. So, we did it and it came out beautifully.
We shot an interrogation scene. Then I understood Arun's style. He loves black and white and he has a particular style. After the look test, Dhanush sir called me and said he'd seen the look test and it was good. He told me to put my full heart into this project and vouched for Arun and told me to watch Rocky (2021).
I understood the mood from where Arun was coming. I feel very comfortable working with him because I really like directors who leave it to us. Arun likes what I show him and what I improvise. I asked if we could have a tattoo and he said okay, and we discuss a lot. When I signed off, I said I definitely want to do another film with him, not just him, his whole team; Yamini Yagnamurthy, the DOP and everybody.
What was it like working with a woman DOP?
I think it's a different level of comfort. I can tell her anything. In this film, she was running. There are no trolleys and fancy shots in Arun's film. So, she had to carry a Steadicam every time on her shoulder. So, when I would take extra takes, I'd feel terrible, but she handles it. She's very tough and smart. I loved working with her.
Tell me more about working with Selvaraghavan and the first day you met him.
He's very quiet. From day one to the end, he was very quiet. He's very sweet and innocent as a person. On the first day when he was talking to me, he spoke about acting in Mahanati and all and asked me to teach him a bit. I was like, "Sir, you shouldn't be saying all of this, we look up to you". I feel very happy about being a part of his debut. I'm happy I could share screen space with Selvaraghavan, the actor.
Did director Selvaraghavan ever come in, to maybe help you out or was it all Arun's job?
He didn't say anything. Even when he's listening to Arun, he did not say we can do it like that or like this. He will do whatever Arun says. Any smart ideas or advice, I'm sure he would've given but apart from that he'd never interfered. We had a nice journey. In the film we have a matador van, that's also a nice character. So, I had to drive with him. Those sequences also came out very nice. It's a van right, so whenever I'm driving, he'd jokingly say his life was in my hands.
Just like Saani Kaayidham, your lineup is completely distinct across languages. What is your goal for the next two years? You've done a variety of roles, acted with big heroes, and won a national award. So, what is your checklist?
I always say "I go in a flow". After a point, we start aspiring and wishing for more, but my only goal is to keep driving, I feel I just started even though it's been over 9 years. So, I feel there's a lot more to do.
Do you have a dream character?
I have not looked into such characters, because even the characters I get in my films are something I never expected for myself. I haven't done a character like the one I'm doing in my current Mahesh Babu's film. Even in my Malayalam film, I have not done that. So, I'm very happy with whatever I'm getting.
We know we are going to see a Keerthy Suresh we haven't seen before, what do we keep in mind before watching Saani Kaayidham?
Don't keep anything in your mind. Watch the film with a blank mind and don't expect anything from the film. Whenever I watch a film, I watch it with a blank mind regardless of the reviews, so I can have my own judgement. Similarly, don't think too much, watch the film. Honestly, I can't say it's a family film, but it will connect with everyone, every woman because something like this can happen to anyone.