Tamannaah: Women don't need validation from anyone
The actor discusses the Devi franchise, Seenu Ramasamy characters, and her thoughts on remakes
It's been 13 years since Tamannaah debuted in Tamil as an antagonist in Kedi. She stops me midway with a smile and says that it reminds her of the famous Titanic scene in which a 90-year-old woman reminisces. "I am really not that old. Please," she says with a laugh. "But yes, I can't believe time has flown so fast."
Excerpts from the interview:
Your very first role was that of an antagonist in Kedi. How did you even accept that?
Jyothikrishna sir narrated both characters and asked me to choose. I chose Priyanka because the character was new and not in keeping with the mainstream. Even today, I keep looking for such interesting characters that will help me transform into another person altogether. When people meet me, like you do now, they are surprised that I am wildly different to my characters in films like Kanne Kalaimaane and Devi. I take that as a compliment of my ability to become someone else.
You could say that Ruby, your character in Devi, is a quasi-antagonist.
She is an antagonist, I think, but in a fun way. You can call her a naughty ghost. (laughs)
The double role in the film affords you scope for acting in a commercial setup too (unlike in films like Kalloori and Dharmadurai). Was that an attraction?
To tell you the truth, I got on board for Devi because Prabhudheva sir was going to choreograph a song. This man has choreographed and danced to Urvasi Urvasi, Key Sera Sera and Muqabla. When Vijay sir narrated the story, it was about the first 15 minutes: Prabhu sir's entry, how I get possessed, and dance in front of him. The moment I heard this, I told him he could keep the rest of the story to himself, and that I would definitely do this film (laughs). I really enjoyed the 15 days of rehearsals.
Devi 2 explores the Devi-Krishna relationship more.
There wasn't a lot of interaction between the two in Devi. Her personality wasn't explored as much as Ruby's. Devi 2 is about the beautiful relationship of a wife trying to protect husband from the two ghosts that possess him. Devi is also a funny person without knowing it. Take the Ready Ready song, for instance. Here is a naive, scared and shy housewife who has to seduce her husband. It is not her comfort zone but she has to be sexy. That dance itself is awkward and not straight-up sexy. It is very much in character.
Any dance that Prabhudheva is choreographing or supervising, he makes sure that the emotion and the reason for the song is made aware to you. The actual steps aren’t as important as the reason behind them. Devi probably has seen the floss dance on social media and perhaps, that’s why she uses that.
What plans for Devi 3?
We have been contemplating what Devi 3 should be like. Considering that the ghosts have pissed us off and made our lives hard, we probably should be ghosthunters a la Ed and Lorraine Wilson (The Conjuring).
You are also doing a thriller with Prabhudheva called Khamoshi, a far cry from the Devi franchise.
I play a deaf and mute girl in the film, who’s hunted by Prabhudheva's character. Surbhi, my character, is a lot like me in real life. I have not worn makeup for the role. It is a raw character. It was physically challenging too, and sometimes, we shot at 2 degree temperatures in Skipton (close to London).
Your character in the recently released Kanne Kalaimaane, your second film with Seenu Ramasamy, was widely appreciated — much like your previous collaboration with him, Dharmadurai (2016).
He has a very strong image of a woman in his mind. I am humbled that whenever he wants to project a strong woman, he thinks of me. It’s important that we convey that women are everything they need to be and need validation from nobody. His women may not be in empowered situations but they are empowered and react as such. Everybody wants such empowerment and that is probably why audiences connect so much with Seenu sir and me.
You are working on multiple remakes. How much do remakes excite you?
I have done a lot of remakes in my career; it is difficult to shoot them. When I get films like That Is Mahalakshmi, where the essence of the journey of Mahalakshmi is about her slow realisation that she doesn't need a man to feel good about herself, I take them because such messages need to be spread.
I’m told you like and write poetry. Is that a release from the hustle and bustle of film life?
In the past two years, I haven't watched a lot of films, and no, I am not proud of it. But I do find work exhausting, and then to go, see a film feels like more work. So I indulged the romantic in me and penned down some poems about life. I guess it is the Mirza Ghalib in me that comes out at night. (laughs)