'Fans in the South have big hearts'
...says Vaibhavi Shandilya, who starred alongside Santhanam in last week's Sakka Podu Podu Raja, and will be seen with him again in Server Sundaram
Marathi girl Vaibhavi Shandilya, who had done only a handful of Marathi films last year, has now already done a film each in three of the South languages -- Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. "I met Sushma Kaul, a prominent casting director in the South, who's worked there for close to 25 years. She was the reason for my first TV commercial and then films happened," she says.
The actor says she's happy that her debut in Tamil is finally here after two years. Her first film was actually supposed to be Server Sundaram, but her other films, including Sakka Podu Podu Raja, have made it to the screens earlier.
She is glad to have shared the screen with Tamil cinema's top comedians in SPPR. "Though the film is pegged on comedy, it's really a pucca family entertainer," says Vaibhavi, who credits Santhanam for getting her the role in the film. "SPPR happened because of Server Sundaram. It was Santhanam sir who referred me to the director, who saw my audition video for Server Sundaram and felt I could do this role."
It's evident that she has immense respect for the comedian-turned-actor. "He might be a celebrity but first, he's a good human being. What he is now from where his journey began is no easy task. He's a very spontaneous and intuitive actor. Counters come in unexpectedly in the shot, so I had to be on my toes." When they shot for Server Sundaram, she wasn't well-versed with Tamil. "Santhanam sir patiently helped me learn my lines and at times, he even prompted for me," recalls the actor.
Vaibhavi apparently had a hard time understanding what was happening on the sets of SPPR, thanks to the language barrier. "But I coped," she says with a confident smile. The rest of the cast, made up of comedians primarily, would often team up and run their lines with each other and improvise. Vaibhavi, not knowing the language, would take help from the director and his assistants to ensure she was in the loop. "Before I went for my take, I would ask my director what exactly they've spoken, what it means and what I have to say in return, so I could react appropriately. The crew was patient too," she adds.
The makers of SPPR are the minds behind the cult classic spoof show, Lollu Sabha. The actor surprises me by saying she's watched the show. "I specifically love this particular episode where Swaminathan sir tells "Aluvu da, aluvu" to Santhanam sir. It's a hilarious scene! Though I haven't seen much, I know it's famous even today because of the content and comedic timing."
Ask her about her command over the language, and she quickly says the line countless actors from the North have: "Tamil ennaku konjam konjam theriyum". She adds, "I only have issues with sentence formation. Konjam confidence kammi-ah irruku."
Vaibhavi doesn't make much of the differences in work culture between the north and south industries. "What's common is that all of them are very disciplined. People in the South have bigger hearts, be it the crew members who help me or the audience for accepting those who aren't from their state," she adds.
The actor is eager to find out what the audience thinks of her performance, as "only then will I be able to judge what kind of films I can do." But that isn't going to stop her from having back-to-back releases. "I'm expecting Server Sundaram to get released in January and I'm almost done with my third film in Tamil, Iruttu Araiyil Murattu Kuthu (with Gautham Karthik). So, hopefully, I'll have a release a month till March."