Veteran actresses Urvashi, Saranya and Bhanu Priya open up about their roles in tomorrow's release, Magalir Mattum
What does the film mean to you?
Urvashi: Just because it's a female-oriented script doesn't mean it's only about women. It's a family film. Though I've been a part of the 1994 film of the same name, the story this time is completely different. What's common is that the problems faced by women are the same now as they were before.
Saranya: It is quite different from what I've been doing in recent times. Usually, I play a hero's mom and I'll be the only character artiste in the film. It's different here.
Bhanupriya: I wouldn't say the storyline hasn't been explored before in Tamil cinema but it's a subject we're talking about after a long time. I like the story a lot.
What's your part in the film?
Urvashi: I play a middle-class woman in her 40s. She handles her family single-handedly and is a pleasant lady. She also has her share of problems.
Saranya: I play Subhalakshmi, one of the main characters in the film. It's an unusual character.
Bhanupriya: I play a woman who is committed to her family and its needs.
Will there be some preachiness?
Urvashi: It's an entertainer but there will be messages throughout the film. For example, a lot of people believe bonsai trees to be an amazing concept. But not many realise that you're shunning the growth of a huge banyan tree to aid a miniature. We call it art but it's immoral. The film is about a similar issue.
Saranya: I only know my portion. From what I know, I can say it'll be a very entertaining film.
Bhanupriya: There are some messages when you see characters transforming after realising mistakes. Messages like the hazards of drinking alcohol have been delivered interestingly.
What are your thoughts about women's rights today?
Urvashi: Women are facing troubles today that didn't exist 25 years back. A girl gets stabbed in a railway station. A popular actress gets molested in a car. But we are saying things have become better for women. The more women try to step out of their houses, the more their problems seem. I think we are further away from Gandhiji's vision of a woman roaming the streets at midnight wearing jewellery.
In cinema too, men dominate. Only about twenty per cent are women with most of them being actors. The numbers are better in the North though.
Saranya: Fortunately, I was brought up as a cherished daughter at my home. I got the best food. My husband too respects liberty. I've been blessed. I'm a staunch believer that with a man's support, a woman will shine even brighter. That's why even in films I love playing the role of a mother. Men are dependent on women. After a man's dependence on his mother, he moves on to his wife.
In South Indian cinema, roles for women aren't great. Mothers are shown only as housewives. But in other industries, women don't just exist to serve coffee. In real life, mothers take charge every time there's a problem. In cinema, only the men do.
Bhanupriya: The change is amazing. More women get themselves jobs today. The way they maintain their work-life balance is commendable. When I got into the industry, there were many women-oriented films. But very few actresses like Jyothika and Sri Devi are getting such roles today.
What was it like to work with each other?
Urvashi: It was a lovely experience. This is the first time I've worked with Jyothika and Bhanupriya. I remember doing a Malayalam film with Saranya some years back.
Saranya: I wouldn't call the experience fun nor was I in a comfort zone. We were all trying to out-perform each other. The competition was obviously healthy but the tension was real. People expect a lot from me and I had to make sure I lived up to it.
Bhanupriya: We had a great time working together. That has come out in the film well.
Tell us about the man behind this film: director Bramma.
Urvashi: I like Bramma the writer more than the director. At his age, to think of writing about the lives of women over 40... it's a commendable idea. Bramma understands the world of women, and has written a sensitive story.
Saranya: As a director, he has his own style. Like Bharathiraaja, Bramma too has a certain modulation he expects from his artistes. Until he gets that, there'll be retakes (laughs). After winning the National Award for his debut film (Kuttram Kadithal), he could've gone on to direct a famous hero for his next film. But he hasn't.
Bhanupriya: Bramma is the real hero. I loved his first film. There were no second thoughts when I was offered this film.
Anything you'd like to tell youngsters?
Urvashi: The current generation is more mature than the previous one. Even when I panic at times, it's my daughter who cools me down. But the courage of the young isn't reciprocated by the society. As a mother, it's disheartening.
Saranya: It's usually said that parents should educate their sons to treat women better but I think women should treat themselves to expect respect in the first place.
Bhanupriya: Youngsters should learn to balance their commitments at home in addition to their careers.