Sriya Reddy has a penchant for antagonistic female characters. Her most known work is still the loud-mouthed and possessive Easwari from Thimiru (Pogaru in Telugu) and she also had shades of grey in her web series debut Suzhal: The Vortex (2022). Now, she is making headlines with her character Radha Rama, the puppetmaster of Khansaar in Prashanth Neel’s political action drama Salaar Part 1: Ceasefire.
Radha Rama is the daughter of the king of Khansaar, Raja Mannar (played by Jagapathi Babu), and is responsible for the titular Ceasefire in the fictional city when a coup is staged against Prithviraj’s Varadaraja Mannar, her step-brother. Sounds complex? Well, apparently Sriya too found it to be really complicated.
“I’ve been explaining the Rajamannar family tree to everyone,” says Sriya, laughing at the complexity of the Khansaar empire. “My friends have concluded that even I don’t know the exact relation between the characters. Even on set, I used to explain the story to all the other actors because nobody knew what was happening. I don’t think the script was told to everybody. I can’t even reveal what I had to explain to certain actors. I had to tell them, ‘You are my husband’, ‘You are my father’, etc. But if you look at it as a larger picture, this worldbuilding had to be done so that when part 2 is out, there is no confusion.”
For Sriya to come on board, the film and the role had to be super special. Starting her career as a VJ, Sriya transitioned to films with a supporting role in Vikram’s Samurai (2002) and eventually had a firm foothold in the Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam film industries. She starred alongside Mammootty in Black (2004) and made her Telugu debut with the rom-com Appudappudu (2003). The actress hit her peak with Thimuru (2006) and even starred in Priyadarshan’s National Award-winning film Kanchivaram (2008). She later took a break and Salaar marked her comeback after sixteen years in Telugu cinema.
Her character Radha Rama is not just the antagonist of Salaar but also serves as an “acting king” when Jagapathi Babu’s Rajamannar leaves the city of Khansaar prior to the coup staged by the rest of the Lords in the city. She treads the fine line between wanting to oppress her step-brother and being responsible enough to handle the massive empire in the emperor’s absence. However, Sriya reveals that when Neel initially told her that Radha Rama would be a strong character, she wasn’t convinced. She says, “I told him that if I am doing a film, I want it to be really good. I told him I wanted something as good as his male heroes. He started laughing and said he liked this attitude where I wanted to be the best because that’s the character he was looking for.”
Initially, Sreya was hesitant because it felt like a big risk. But Neel built the character over a period of time, says the actress. “Neel would constantly update me about how he was shaping the character and finally, he was so excited and he told me we have got it. It is mainly because Radha Rama was not there in the original script. The makers felt that having a female antagonist would be intriguing and I am glad they did because it turned out to be interesting.”