Before the release of her recent film Achcham Madam Naanam Payirppu on Amazon Prime on March 25, Akshara Haasan talks about Chennai’s conservativeness, the freedom to switch between languages in the OTT space and staying true to the character and story.
Edited Excerpts Below:
From the trailer, the film seems to be centred around a very traditional and conservative society. Have you ever had to deal with the stereotype that Madras is very conservative, old-fashioned and dated, or do you kind of argue with the people who say that?
Fortunately, I come from a family where we have got a different mindset. People are very accepting of different kinds of mindsets and fields. Even though they have a different perspective, it helps them be rooted. It helps me — I was born in Chennai and I am now in Bombay — the mindset kind of helps me stay rooted.
So it is not backward or conservative, it is rooted. At the same time, you are being progressive, by being curious and constantly trying to be more intellectual in a very humble way. With regards to argument, I think it is very healthy. We are just trying to get our points across and understand other person’s perspectives.
They are very accepting — you can be whatever kind of actor you want to be and work in any field as you wish. They are acceptive because you are being honest about what you are doing. You are true to yourself and your craft. I think that is the first thing we look for at the end of the day.
Maybe five or six years ago, when you talk about something like the live-in situation, even the Tamil characters were set in Bombay or some foreign city. But because of OTT, there is no need to do that. When you talk about a movie, do you feel like you get more relatable content on OTT rather than in the theatre model?
I think situations like live-in are happening and it should come to the forefront. Coming to your question, for me, when I see a script, regardless of whether it is OTT or theatre, the art is the purest form. It doesn’t matter where you release it or in what form. You have to believe in it and do it with conviction, hard work and honesty. When you do that, you are there.
Nothing is more superior than the art form itself, we are just the tools to make that art form happen. If I get that space to do my work, give my 100% & go beyond, and go to sleep with immense contentment in my heart, then that is all I ask for.
When it comes to content, there are still mainstream films where heroines do play different characters, not the conventional ones. Some films have women playing a different kind of strong character. I think OTT helped in a way to boost that forward and make people see that because it reaches more audiences, but then it is just another tool to get our art forward.
I think the changes in the portrayal of content, also in a way, has to do with each generational thinking. With each generation, the mindset changes, the generations become more open-minded and along with that, how much you can show in your artform also changes.
That way, I think this film helps in getting that out there, in trying to show the other side as well, kudos to both the previous generations and the current one for accepting things for how it is. Everything else just helped get this mindset forward.
Even in the trailer, you are speaking both English and Tamil. When you talk about mainstream movies releasing in hundred or two hundred theatres, the director might be kind of tempted to tell you to stick to Tamil or Hindi.
But from the trailer, it looks like you are very free to kind of act. If you want to go tell the director that ‘I feel this point is conveyed better in English’, it looks like you had the freedom to do that. As a person who kind of think and speak in multiple languages, is that an option you would enjoy having in performances?
Yes, a 100%. I felt that this environment was creatively conducive where we all could collaborate and come together, and give out our opinions that some things might work another way. Kudos to director Raja sir for constantly seeking the opinions and thoughts of the women on set. Our project had 90% women and he made it a point to come and ask ‘Does this make sense to you as a woman?’
He was open to hearing our point of view. As actors, we have to try and make the dialogues our own and try to portray the character as truly as possible. Raja sir definitely helped in giving us the space to switch in the languages, but also staying true to what we are trying to say.
For some lines, we also felt that it would sound better in the language, but we didn’t give too much pressure in terms of speaking only in Tamil, because it is not kind of realistic.
You mentioned something very nice about how 90% of people on set were women. It is something you hardly hear in other sets. Tell me about how director Raja confirmed and double-checked things right on the sets, was there something that worked better because it was a bunch of women on the set?
It was a conscious decision from Raja sir to have more women in the project to encourage them and showcase their skills. There were multiple times he asked every woman on the set, ‘Does this make sense to you?’ Because he did not want to not stay true to what the whole concept is about, which is the women’s gaze, so who better to ask than women themselves.
There were many instances where he did come and ask me, Usha Uthup didi, DOP and many of the women. He was constantly open to hearing our opinions and understanding our thought process so we can just get the purest and truest form of this film — the emotion of women belonging to three different generations.
He did make that effort to understand the emotion that goes behind what and why women do things the way they do. So there was always the door open for people to ask questions to each other, regarding script or mindset. It was very beautiful and I am glad that there is this kind of mindset that is starting to increase day by day. It is great and we get to be more of who we are and express ourselves a lot more easily.