'Diya has changed my perception of cinema'
...says Sai Pallavi, who talks about what it’s like to play a mother so early in her career
For young Sai Pallavi, deciding to play a mother in her upcoming bilingual horror-drama Kanam/Diya was not an easy choice at all. “I was supposed to work with director Vijay for the remake of Charlie, but that didn't materialise. When he came to me again with the script of Kanam/Diya, I was like, ‘Why would I play a mother in my Tamil debut?' I was also apprehensive about working in a horror film. But once we read the script, my mother made me say yes.”
To support how seriously she took this role, she points out that she imagined herself as the real mother of child artiste Veronica. “I was emotionally attached to her. I wanted to adopt her. I think most women will feel similarly after watching the film,” she says. “This role has taught me many things and my very perception of cinema has changed. Being an actor in this film was such a process of self-discovery.”
I ask her about comments made by her co-star Naga Shaurya recently, when he expressed his unhappiness over her allegedly losing her cool on the sets. She says, “He’s an amazing co-star and I respect his feelings. During the breaks, I’d noticed him sitting quietly and figured he needed his space. Hence, I didn’t bother him. I didn’t realise that by doing that, I may have hurt him in some way.” She apparently tried reaching out to him after reading his quotes. “He doesn’t use a mobile phone though, and so, I asked director Vijay and cinematographer Nirav Shah about it. They told me they didn’t think I did anything wrong. If I get to meet Shaurya again, I will definitely speak with him and convey my apologies."
She’s kicked up a revolution of sorts by ensuring that she doesn’t wear make-up for her films. “Back when I was studying medicine in Georgia, I used to have acne. Despite being careful about my diet, I couldn’t stop it. In fact, I used to cover my face when going out,” she says. “I had pimples all over my face while working for Premam. I used to have inhibitions about the reception I would get. But once the film was released and became successful, it gave me a lot of courage. It made me understand that the audience doesn’t bother about the way you look and all they care for is how you pull off a role. I think it has helped young girls feel more confident about themselves, and I’m glad to be an example.”
She clarifies though that she did give make-up a shot. “During my look tests, a few directors asked me if I wanted to try it on, and I did. But they felt I looked better without it. If a role demands that I wear make-up, of course, I will consider it.”
She shuns usual misconceptions over how hard it is to work on a bilingual. “Probably because the film doesn’t have too many dialogues and the narrative is mounted on emotions. So, no, it wasn’t difficult at all.” Though she’s a Tamil girl, she found it easier to dub in Telugu. “I finished my Telugu dubbing in less than a day, but I had to work thrice as much on Tamil, my mother tongue. People around me tell me I speak Telugu more fluently than I do Tamil,” she says with a laugh.
She’s also excited about the other films she’s signed up for: Maari 2 and Selvaraghavan’s NGK. “I’m really happy with the way things are going. As the strike has been called off in Tamil Nadu, we've finally resumed the shooting of Maari 2 . By May, I will begin work on NGK. Dhanush and Suriya are wonderful actors and it feels great to share screen space with them.”
Incidentally, Maari 2 and NGK both also feature other heroines — Varalaxmi Sarathkumar and Rakul Preet respectively. "I have no issues about working with other heroines. The important thing is that we all do something valuable, and the director be convinced."
There are rumours that she’s signed up films with Siva Karthikeyan, Mysskin and Santhanam. She clarifies that apart from Maari 2, NGK and Padi Padi Leche Manasu, she hasn’t signed any other. “It saddens me when the media reports without crosschecking with us. I know Sivakarthikeyan, and both of us will be the first to clarify if we’re doing a film together.”