I never thought I fit the profile of a heroine: Dayana Erappa
The model-turned-actor makes her debut in the Mani Ratnam directed multi-starrer Chekka Chivantha Vaanam where she stars opposite Simbu
The last time Mani Ratnam launched a beauty queen in his film as a leading lady was in 1997. The film was Iruvar and the actor, Aishwarya Rai. Now, 21 years later, the ace director is launching Dayana Erappa in the multi-starrer Chekka Chivantha Vaanam.
"When I first got a call from Madras Talkies and they asked me if I knew either Tamil or Telugu, I thought it was a prank call," says Dayana. Eventually, she went through her first audition in Mumbai, and her second was in front of Mani Ratnam in Chennai.
Dayana hadn't asked the filmmaker about her role when she got selected for the film. She attributes it to the belief that it is a Mani Ratnam project and that every actor in it would get equal screen space.
The question does arise over how Dayana, a Coorg girl, is comfortable speaking Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi. "Growing up, I was surrounded by people who spoke in Tamil and Malayalam. My family and I used to watch a lot of Tamil cinema too, which made it was easy to pick up the language."
Though modelling was always a passion for her, the actor admits that acting wasn't something she was looking forward to this early in her career. Apart from being unprepared, there was another factor that kept Dayana away from the idea of working in cinema.
"I felt there was a fixation for fair skin in Indian cinema. I never thought I fit the profile of a heroine because I was too tall and dusky. However, now I feel that if an actor fits into the character, the height and complexion doesn't matter. There are very tall actors like Anushka Shetty and a number of Bollywood heroines too," says Dayana, who adds that though she wasn't prepared for an acting career, workshops with the Kaatru Veliyidai director helped her a lot.
Agreeing it was difficult at first, Dayana believes she will get better at it with experience and admits to still figuring out the ropes in her new profession.
"We did workshops in both Chennai and Mumbai before the film started. While I was personally unsure about acting as a career, the fact that Mani Ratnam selected me to be in his film gave me the confidence that there was indeed something in me and that I can truly become an actor," says Dayana who points out that her character, Chaaya, in Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, is quite similar to her real-life persona. "She's free-spirited, fun and adventurous."
Dayana is cast opposite Simbu in this multi-starrer and the debutant actor credits STR for calming her nerves during trying times on the sets of Chekka Chivantha Vaanam.
Praising her co-star, Dayana says, "Simbu is a great guy and a multi-talented artiste. I was very nervous to act opposite a guy who has been acting for three decades. However, he never behaved like a senior and had no airs about him. He helped me a lot on the sets, reassuring me and helping me focus on my work."
Though Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is a multi-starrer boasting of names like Arvind Swamy, Arun Vijay, Vijay Sethupathi, Jyotika, Aishwarya Rajesh, Prakash Raj, and Jayasudha among others, Dayana reveals that she doesn't have too many combination scenes with them. "I couldn't interact with everyone, but it is amazing to share the screen with such intellectual and talented actors," says the actor who is awaiting the release of the Mani Ratnam-directorial before deciding to finalise any other film.
Talking about her first director, Dayana feels he exudes a certain sense of calmness, and that he always ensured she was comfortable, especially since she has no background in the industry.
"He always used to say 'Kanna, you have to do this, you have to do that'. I was pampered on the sets and the entire team including the ADs and DOP Santosh Sivan were helpful," shares Dayana who also feels special that the much-appreciated romantic number Mazhai Kuruvi song was picturised on her.
"My first film is with Mani Ratnam. A song composed by AR Rahman with Vairamuthu's lyrics is picturised on me. STR is my co-star. A dream debut indeed, what more could one ask for?" she says.