Towards the end of Purusha Pretham’s teaser, Darshana Rajendran’s Susan Bobby gets an intriguing introduction – a pair of red-tinted coolers cover her eyes and therefore, their true emotions, but it’s not quite enough to cover the kohl that’s smeared down her eyes. Was she crying? Probably. But what we do know is that Susan carries Darshana’s characteristic freshness that she often brings to her roles (Hello Hridayam, Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey and C U Soon!). The trailer packs in an even bigger surprise — Susan is a grey-haired bespectacled middle-aged woman. “It was fun to see how these small changes suddenly made me look like another person,” says Darshana.
Purusha Pretham follows Sebastian, an adored bogus supercop. But when he happens to find an unidentified corpse, things go haywire. And Susan? She is someone who is looking for her missing husband, says Darshana. “That’s all I want to tell you now because there is some sort of joy in not knowing the whole thing. I watched the film recently and it was very fulfilling. She is one of those characters who didn’t require much time for me to say yes to.”
Keeping her characters an enigma until the release of her films seems to have become a new routine for the Jaya…Hey actress. “I am glad it’s like this. I love that I get to do these interesting characters where it is nothing like what the viewers are expecting. But gradually people are going to stop believing me in my promotional interviews,” she laughs.
Even though she didn’t fully understand Krishand’s (director of Purusha Pretham) plan, halfway through the script, Darshana had already decided that she wanted to do it. “When he narrated the story, it sounded like an experiment but he was fully convinced and excited to make it. And I like being in spaces where you are not really sure about the outcome because you chance upon things that you would possibly never find otherwise. So I fully trusted him and the team.”
Besides his outlandish ideas, what also intrigued Darshana was how he played around with several shots in the film. She says, “There was a language of his own. In the trailer, you can see a scene where the police and people sway side-to-side at once. There are many such choreographed sequences that don’t look real. Even my look with the sunglasses doesn’t appear real. But none of it is odd at all. These theatrical elements look so cool on screen.”
Like Jaya (the ass-kicking young homemaker in Jaya…Hey), Susan, too, is very different from Darshana. But she is someone who isn’t confined to society's expectations from women. And that’s where the actress thinks she saw eye-to-eye with the character. She says, “In a way, I don’t confine myself to the expectations in the industry. For instance, people expected me to do a commercial film after the success of Hridayam but I didn’t. So, there are things that I am able to connect with her. But for sure, Susan is a very different person.”
The actress is also clear about keeping her characters and personal life a little separate. So once a movie is over, the movie is over, she reiterates. “When my character Jaya was widely appreciated, I started getting a lot of ads that wanted extensions of Jaya in them. Of course, she is going to be with me forever but it is a chapter that is closed.” Instead, there is something else Darshana takes away from the different roles she essays. “What Susan or Jaya do is very different from how I would do something. But I also realise that they are from a very different world. So, I think I have become more understanding of people and their choices. By just being an actor, I feel like my emotional intelligence has increased.”
Talking about these diverse roles she gets to play, Darshana emphasises that as actors, everyone is capable of doing all kinds of things. “Theatre shaped me as an actor and a person and the casting is very different there. There are no questions of “do I fit in this role?” You are an actor and you find a way to make it happen.” And so, there are a few things she wants to try in films. “I have had a ball doing comedy on stage and that’s one of the things I like to try in films as well. I feel, as an actor, I should be equipped to do anything.”
She also agrees that with several unique roles coming her way, she has been able to lay hands on different projects that once felt like a dream. “I keep thinking about the roles that once felt really far away and now I am getting to actually do those roles. For instance, I have always dreamed of acting in a sports film. And in some way, Jaya…Hey was that. There was some aspect of physical training that I didn’t see coming at all. Similarly, I loved the fact that I got to play Susan; these are characters on every actor’s wish list.”
For someone who keeps learning new things, Jaya…Hey has also changed the kind of hobbies the actress has. “Most of my explorations used to be art-related like calligraphy, music and writing. But because of the physical training I had done for the film, I am in a space where I am very excited to explore such things.” So she has been trying out callisthenics and some rock climbing. “I am terrible at it. But when you are so bad, you feel like you have learnt something every day. Besides, it’s not something that affects me or my work. It is very separate and it is for fun.”
After a rollicking 2022, she tells us that this year looks exciting as well. But as usual, that’s all she can let us in on her projects because these films are not announced yet. However, there is some good news: “After Hridayam and Jaya…Hey, I have been getting a lot of work from other industries as well. I am most comfortable here because I feel like when I don’t know the language, I can be a bad actor. That’s something I will work on, but there are a few films I am considering. It’s really exciting that it’s difficult not to take it up. So slowly, I will do films outside Kerala as well.”
If you are wondering how different her future line-ups would be, she gleefully quips, “If there is something I think or people think I cannot do, I would like to try it. I would love to do things that people are not expecting me to do. So the more impossible it feels, the better it is for me to do it.”
Purusha Pretham, co-starring Alexander Prasanth and Pramod Velliyanad, is slated to be released on SonyLIV on March 24.