Darshana Rajendran Interview: I have not followed industry expectations

The actor speaks about her latest release Purusha Pretham, working with Krishand, film choices, acting process and more
Darshana Rajendran Interview: I have not followed industry expectations

2022 began with composer Hesham Abdul Wahab soulfully embossing 'Darshana' in our playlists through the song from Hridayam. After the release, Darshana's performance won her a place in our minds too. Soon after, Darshana effortlessly convinced us that she could be both a demure psychiatrist yearning for a friend in Dear Friend, and a martial arts-loving housewife in Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey. The actor continues to add up inventive films to her list, and now, she starts 2023 with Krishand's Purusha Pretham. "My filmography is not planned. After Hridayam, I was expected to be part of more commercially hit films. Even the makers of Purusha Pretham came to me expecting I will deny the project. I was shocked to know their preconceptions. It is such an exciting film and character. Why would I not do it?," asks Darshana, as she speaks about working in Krishand's directorial, her acting process, and more.  

Purusha Pretham looks like a genre-blender that has multiple layers... 

Purusha Pretham is a crime noir dark comedy. There's also a police procedural and some gore elements. But, the best part is all of this is conveyed through humour. I think this film can be consumed in two ways. For people who want to notice layers, politics are running throughout, and for others, it will be an entertaining film. I feel like this film got to offer a little something for all of us. I love Krishand's idea of addressing various concerns in his film in an approachable way. For him, the film should not look like an art-house film. You will have fun watching Purusha Pretham, and at the same time, it will make you think about many aspects.

How was it for you to enter the world of Purusha Pretham and understand Krishand's language of cinema?

Krishand's ideas are very wacky and fresh. His stories and narratives are unfamiliar. I love when people push the boundaries, break the rules and explore new horizons. In the teaser, you can see some slightly choreographed movements--like the cops moving right to left as they look at the corpses. I did not understand the ideas until I watched the film. I had complete trust in the director and his team and just submitted myself as an actor to execute his ideas. Also, I like to work with a team that thrives to deliver the best with limited resources. In Purusha Pretham, all the ADs were also actors in the film. I was so amazed to see them do the scene with me and give a cue to another character simultaneously. 

The film follows Sebastian, a super cop, played by Prashanth ettan. Everyone is in awe of him until an unidentified body goes missing in his jurisdiction. I play Susan, who is on the lookout for her husband's body, and that's how their worlds collide. This film explores some interesting themes like morality, especially through the two female characters--Susan and Sujatha (Devaki). I hope people watch the film multiple times. From reading the script for the first time to watching the film, I got to understand many layers that I was not aware of initially. Those are films I enjoy watching and being part of. 

You were showered with abundant love for your terrific performance in Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey. How do you perceive this love

Honestly, all of that affection is for Jaya, the character. The minute I play a "questionable character, or a wrong woman" which I want to, the love will go off. I am not going to get the same love. They would be like 'Oh what is this girl doing?' (giggles). So it is ok. As an actor, I would like to do all kinds of characters. For me, Jaya was such a lovely experience. All the lovely interactions that I have had with women and men during theatre and college visits during promotions are something I will cherish forever. These are things that I have never done for other films. But I know this love is fleeting. I won't tie myself to that. I am going to keep doing the work that I like, and hopefully, it connects to different kinds of people.

The moment we see Darshana from Hridayam or a Jannat (Dear Friend) or a Jaya, we see them as different people. How do you glide into the skin of these characters and portray each of them differently?  

Hearing such compliments is like the validation I get for taking up different roles. All the characters that I have played, including Susan in Purusha Pretham, don't follow a pattern. If I can make them feel like different people that's a success for the entire team. For me, the finer details like my make-up, hair, and mannerisms like the speed of walking aid in building the characters. But above all, it is all in my thought process. I know how each character thinks. Unlike theatre, where we spend so many days playing the character, in films, the first time we play the character is usually on the day of shooting.  So it is challenging, and we have seen how some of our greatest actors ensure their characters don't feel like the same person. I would love to do more of that...

Having played all these varied characters, what was it about Susan that drew you to Purusha Pretham? 

Susan is different from me, but there are a few aspects that I could connect with her. When I played Jaya, I used to wonder why she is not saying or doing anything because I come from a world where I have the agency to do that. Eventually, I had to understand and find her way of reacting. Likewise, the choices I would make are different from that of Susan. And I think that is the fun part of being an actor. 

Rajeev Ravi's Thuramukham, an ambitious film in which you played Khadeeja, finally hit the theatres after a long delay. How important was it for you to be part of such a film?

It was a journey that started in April 2019. After that, so much changed in the world and in cinema. From making the film to sitting in the theatres and watching it... I am getting goosebumps even thinking about that experience. I feel Thuramukham is bigger than ratings as it has documented the forgotten history of Kerala. 

You have been part of experimental films like C U Soon to commercial successes like Hridayam, and JJJH. Do you consciously plan to do this balancing act of sorts? 

I don't design my filmography as such. It is very simple. The reason I choose to work on a film would be because I connect with the script or I want to work with that group of people. Sometimes, I have to make tough choices of saying No too. Even if I may get a great character and a team, if there is something that does not connect, I would say no. I don't regret these decisions. For me, it is all about having an enriching experience. My choices are purely from my heart.

You have done brief roles in Tamil films and a Hindi web series. Do you see yourself establishing a space for yourself in other industries as well? 

I am happiest here, doing Malayalam films. As an actor with the ability to speak multiple languages, I am open to taking up roles in other languages and I know it will require a different side of me as an actor. Now that Hridayam and JJJJH are watched by audiences across languages, I see there is a scope for that. Usually, I have not followed industry expectations. I don't know if it is a good thing or not, but for now, I am happy. I am looking at cinema as one part of my whole life...I found it by chance and I will do it as happily as I can.

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