Sriranjani, the mother of all films
The actor talks about her character Radha in House Owner, working with Lakshmy Ramakrishnan, debuting under K Balachander, auditioning for Maniratnam and more
When I first asked Sriranjani for an interview, she told me she is a tad nervous of media interactions. So when we settled down for an interaction, I was pleasantly surprised by her uninhibited vibrance. The actor, known for playing the mother in so many films, recently made heads turn with her stellar performance in House Owner. But she is quick to credit director Lakshmy Ramakrishnan. "The role and the story demanded that I be natural, just like we are at home. That was tough for me. There is a notion that 'acting' means being expressive. But none of that applied here," she says. Her goal, she adds, was to understand what the director wanted and deliver it. "Lakshmy is brutally honest about what she feels — it is something that I love and hate about her because I can never be like that."
You can see what she means. Sriranjani describes the 'not-so-great' things in her career with such good cheer, that it tends to rub off on you as well. For example, when I ask if she gets any details on the kind of a character she plays, she says, "Onnume solamatanga" with a good-natured laugh. "Only for films that have the mother as a central character, do they discuss the story or character. In general, I have to ask questions like, 'Is she poor, or from a middle-class family?' so that I can prepare myself a bit."
She agrees that the roles she play are not particularly challenging, but it doesn't come across as a complaint. "Everyone connects to the family. I can safely say I am in everyone's heart," she says as we talk about her being restricted to 'amma' roles. Most of Sriranjani's answers are punctuated with spirited smiles and a tendency to look at the silver lining, which is infectious. Like when I ask how she picks scripts, and she animatedly tells me she doesn't! "I don't think I am there yet and I don't have that choice as well. I have always gone with the flow. I have two sons and when they were younger, I used to avoid outdoor shoots. That's it." She doesn't have regrets though. "I have seen several people who struggle to land even the smallest of roles in films. So I consider it a blessing that I am part of this industry."
However, this doesn't mean she isn't ready to try newer things, more challenging roles like House Owner. "House Owner felt like my first film as this is the first time I have done a complete movie. I have never acted as the heroine, so this was like a gift." And she would like to do more such films, even it means again playing the mother." Directors tend to approach artistes who have played the heroine and are now doing character roles, for more meaty roles. There could be several reasons behind that — familiarity and such. But I do hope directors experiment. If they do, it would be lovely," she signs off, with that trademark childlike laugh.