The coolest mother in town
With International Mother's Day being observed today, we talk to Kollywood's quintessential mother, Saranya Ponvannan, on how she remains ageless and spirited as ever
It was a big shock for Saranya Ponvannan when she was first approached to play a mother -- in the Simbu-starrer Alai (2003). "I felt I was too young. The director, Vikram Kumar, convinced me. I guess there's been no looking back since," she says.
Over the years, she has played mother to many top actors including Jiiva, Dhanush, Sivakarthikeyan, and Udhayanidhi Stalin. "Honestly, I don't know why people like me, but I feel proud. Very few actors are as loved by the audience. I'm glad they see me as family," she says.
It has been three decades since Saranya made her entry in Tamil cinema as a heroine -- opposite Kamal Haasan in Nayagan. She recalls how her mother wanted to see her reach great heights in Tamil cinema. "It was her dream to make me a top actor, but I wasn't particularly ambitious. I didn't set myself targets but kept getting offers after Nayagan. Mani Ratnam treated me like a princess, and so, I thought acting was an easy task. It turned out it was anything but," she says. "I didn't do many films as a heroine because I wasn't comfortable wearing tight clothes, or doing intimate scenes. Arjun and Prabhu used to tease me on the sets about this, in a good-natured way. To be honest, till this date, I've not worn sleeveless outfits. That's why I missed out on a lot of good opportunities. I don't regret that though," she quickly clarifies.
Saranya considers Thenmerku Paruvakatru as an important film in her career. She played a mother in the film, and won the National Award for Best Actress in 2011. "For someone playing mother roles, that came as a huge honour. I owe all my success to luck, and a little bit of hard work and sincerity," she says with a laugh.
I am a huge fan of Rajinikanth and Mohanlal. I have always wanted to act opposite them. I can act as their pair in the film. Enakku enna korachal?
I have always wanted to play characters with negative shades, like in Achchamindri. I hope something materialises soon again.
People don't call me madam on the sets. I am their 'amma'.
I envied Asha Sarath for landing that character in Drishyam/Papanasam. I congratulated her after seeing the film.
Saranya says she seeks variety in the mother roles she generally plays. "I don't tend to repeat my style, and yet, I stay true to my character. Adhigama ammakkal dhan pesuvaanga veetla, and that's what I do -- both on and off screen."
When many heroines shy away from playing mothers on screen, Saranya had no qualms about it. "I am a full-time mother -- that's my priority. But I want the roles to be worth my time because I am a busy person. I run a fashion institute, DSOFT (Designing School of Fashion Technology), and that is very demanding," she tells us.
She rues that married women "don't often get to play romantic leads in cinema". The scenario hasn't changed over the years, according to her. "Our industry folk think that marriage ruins our desirability. So heroines end up forced to commit to a lot of projects before their wedding," she points out.
The secret to looking as energetic and young as she does, she owes to being comfortable with aging. "Some think it's a nuisance, but I have come to terms with getting older. I don't fight it. I am not tempted to dye my hair," she says, laughing.