Shraddha Srinath: I took inspiration from Nirbhaya
The actor, who reprises Taapsee’s role in Nerkonda Paarvai, the Tamil remake of Pink that is set for release this Thursday
I call Shraddha Srinath the star of Nerkonda Paarvai, and she replies, "No, please. Namma padathula, ore oru star. That is Thala." Perhaps Ajith might share my opinion given that her character forms the core of Nerkonda Paarvai. "He is humble, so yes, he could very well say that. Okay, I accept your premise. (laughs)." She adds that she’s glad Ajith is doing this film and calls him a dynamic actor who never loses sight of the big picture. "He understands that it is not about individuals. He is always thinking about how to make the film better. During the court scenes, when I looked into his eyes, I got this feeling that he was really fighting for me, for us. It felt like he was our lawyer, trying to save us. The entire shoot is full of such surreal moments." She says she was blown away by Ajith’s conduct on the sets. “Not once did it feel like I was working with a super-duper megastar."
Shraddha Srinath hasn’t watched Pink, the film Nerkonda Paarvai is a remake of. “It is a conscious choice. I didn't want to be influenced by Taapsee's performance. The direction team wanted me to, but I wanted a fresh take on the performance.” While on performance, I ask if the sexual assault scene was hard to shoot. "Acting can be on the surface or internalised or a mix of both. For this particular scene, I asked myself what Nirbhaya's last thoughts must have been, when she was alone in that bus, knowing that she had been cornered by these men,” says Shraddha. “I was trying to go into that mindset and trying to feel that fear. It became real when one of the actors grabbed my foot quite hard. Sujith and Aswin were sorry about it and asked me if I was okay. I asked them to go ahead and be rough. You will see that my hands flail about wildly in that scene; I’ll be screaming. After we shot that scene, there were marks on my hands and legs and my throat was gone but it was all worth it. It was so physically draining that I just slept off."
She plays a character called Meera Krishnan in the film, and she remembers how it felt when she first auditioned. "I really wanted to be a part of this film. For this role, they were looking for a mix of performing ability and a certain physical appearance. I think I matched that." After reading the script in January, she realised she was nothing like the character. "Meera reacts easily while I take my time. She is emotional and says things in the spur of the moment. I am diplomatic and know the power of words. If something unfair is happening to her, she will fight for it. I want to adapt that part for myself."
I point out that she does fight for a lot of issues, especially with her messages on social media handles. For instance, she campaigned for the go-green movement last month. "True, but even there, I would give some excuse. I could say I am an actress and cannot take public transport for a cause. But Meera will give you no excuses. She will do it if she really believes in it."
Shraddha is a self-confessed feminist and a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement. I tell her that some female actors in the industry seem to want to distance themselves from the feminism label. "The sheer ignorance,” she says, shaking her head. “The meaning of the word, feminism, has been skewed so much that some think it represents only women who go in protest marches or those who take their tops off and say they will do as men do. Feminism is simple. It is equality. Treat me like you would treat a man. There are men who I know are feminists and women who I know who shame others for wearing a short skirt.” She is irked that there are women who don’t want to be called a feminist. “I am not one of them. For millenia, men have had the upper hand; the gender imbalance is clear now. Patriarchy will come down only when we talk about equal salary, and demand for women the rights every husband/father/male boss enjoys. Everyone should be feminists. In fact, I think feminism should be taught in school."
This equality is at the heart of Nerkonda Paarvai. "When Arjun says in the film that these things (molestation, rape) happen to a certain kind of women, Ajith sir replies, "Apdilaam nadakaaadhu, nadakka koodadhu." That is what we want to tell through this film. Everyone is an adult. You can’t categorise women who smoke/drink/have casual sex as loose characters. A girl can be as she wants to be." She recalls watching a video on social media where some men said they would slap their wife if they refused to have sex. "A wife has every right to refuse sex. Consent is consent, regardless of whether you are married or unmarried. Through this film, I hope that such topics aren't talked about in a hushed manner anymore. These topics need to stop being thought of as taboo.”