Miss India is the first script Keerthy Suresh chose after Mahanati, where she brought alive the life of legendary actress Savithri. While she has had a few releases after Mahanati, Miss India, directed by Narendra Nath, sees Keerthy play a 'massy' role, with low-angle shots and punch dialogues. Excerpts from an interview with Vishal Menon.
You started working full time when you were 20 years old. You finally got a break due to the pandemic. What is the good thing that came out of this?
We all work day and night and don't have weekends. Once you work, it's 20, 30 or 10 days in a row, so I get a break only when shoots get cancelled or something does not go according to plan. For me, the best thing was that I got to be with my family for four months. The last time I was with them for such a long time was when I was in Class 12. I made them happy, I was also happy.
Looking at your social media accounts, you've been doing a lot of yoga. You've also had two releases during the pandemic. So, it's been a busy phase for you, compared to the others, right?
Yoga was one good thing I got into during the Covid-19 lockdown. My mom has always been into yoga, so I'm learning from her. After two to three weeks, it became an addiction. I'm still at it and don't think I'll leave it. I used to play the violin in school. I brushed up my skills, so I could start playing again. Like you said, it's a very good thing I had two releases in spite of all the problems.
Coming to Miss India, isn't it the first time you're getting proper slow-motion entries and exits and punchlines? How did it feel?
Yeah, I think this is the first time I'm getting to do that. When director Naren [director Narendra Nath] used to tell me on the set that this is the dialogue where audiences are going to connect, I would think… 'Hmmm. Me and mass… okay'. I never expected to be in this place. Even before the trailer released, I was watching it and going. 'Oh okay', but the next day I got calls and saw the messages and comments, watched it on TV, and I was like 'not bad'. (laughs) I've not done these kinds of looks, I've not delivered these kinds of dialogues.
And that too against Jagapathi Babu…
Yeah (laughs). I feel good and confident while watching it. It's something I have not done before.
You've showcased a totally different set of emotions that you've not had to use before. For example, slowing down, being angry, walking around and walking back, low-angle shots… Are all those things completely new for you?
Yeah, they're all new for me. Like you said, the low-angle shots and even one in the trailer where I walk in in a green outfit. My DOP Sujith Vasudevan sir said 'You should walk like Prithviraj'. I'm like, 'Sir, Prithviraj and me…' (laughs). Now that I see it, what he said was correct. It looks good on screen. I'm feeling good, I'm doing something I've not done before, I think I can pull it off.
Is it fair to divide your career into two phases: before and after Mahanati? Have the scripts coming your way now completely changed? Or, has your thinking changed when choosing a film?
Yes, I agree. After Mahanati, I had a break of four to five months. I was at home, waiting for good scripts, and the first one I came across and chose was Miss India. I thought there was something different about this film. There is a lot of responsibility that comes after you deliver a film like Mahanati. From choosing a script and your performance to what you wear, the responsibility has increased after Mahanati.
Was that break conscious?
It was a break where I was waiting for good films. I did not get any offers three months after Mahanati's release. Like during the lockdown, I was relaxing then too. I was not afraid that I was not getting offers. It was a good time for me to rethink and plan what to do next. I said 'no' to a lot of films. I think I've chosen right.
Do you have to worry about a lot more things when the film basically rests on your shoulder? Not just in terms of box office, but when whatever good or bad happens, it becomes your responsibility. Does that get a little daunting?
Not for Mahanati, because the character drove the film. We had a whole lot of other actors as well. So, I can't say that it was a woman-centric film that I carried on my shoulders. But, once that became a blockbuster and you're part of another woman-centric film, people think you're driving the film. Miss India is an opportunity for me to prove myself after Mahanati.
It is daunting, at times, but what can you do about it? You've chosen to do something and have to go with the flow, hoping it works. After Mahanati, I didn't want to do a lot of women-centric films, because that's all that would then come my way. I want to do commercial films, I want to do everything. That said, I can only wait for a certain time for these films to come, because I need to work.
Miss India is made for the theatre; it has 'mass' moments. Given this stage of your career, is there any regret that this is a movie you should have watched 'first day, first show' in Hyderabad with the crowd?
A few friends called me and said, "There are so many mass moments, this film should have been in the theatre," but you just go with the flow. I'm happy that we're having a release during the pandemic on OTT. I think we should be happy with the fact that we have got something, and not crib about what did not happen. I believe everything happens for the good. So I'm happy about it, no regrets.
What are your favourite films of your mother, Menaka? Is there any film of hers that you discovered during the lockdown?
I've watched almost everything. I like Oppol, Poochakkoru Mookuthi.
Is there a favourite film of your dad, producer Suresh?
Aaram Thamburan, and Butterfly [produced by Menaka].