Nivetha Thomas on Darbar: The vibes that Rajinikanth sir and Kamal Haasan sir exhibit are completely different
The actor, who is returning to Tamil cinema after five years with the Rajinikanth-starrer, Darbar, talks about working with the Superstar, break from Tamil cinema, and more
Nivetha Thomas has the unique double of getting to play the daughter of both Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. After playing Kamal's daughter in the 2015 film, Papanasam —which was also her last Tamil film—Nivetha is now back to Tamil cinema playing a daughter again, of Rajinikanth this time, in Darbar. She begins by explaining her hiatus. "After Papanasam, I was caught up with public exams. Then, I got a call from director Mohan Krishna Indraganti. I thought it was for a Tamil film but realised it was Telugu. I got a lot of good projects there and yet, did not stop listening to Tamil scripts," says Nivetha. "I did not think that my break from Tamil cinema after playing Kamal sir's daughter, would end with me playing Rajini sir's daughter."
Nivetha rubbishes rumours that she is too picky about Tamil cinema. "I have even done some films for free. I only care about what the film is trying to say and what, as an actor, I find to be challenging. It's not like I wanted to stay away from Tamil cinema. It is a friendly industry and has given me a lot. In fact, I was scouting for scripts from here because I badly want to exercise my Tamil-speaking."
Nivetha says that the daughter she plays in Darbar is quite different from her character in Papanasam. "She's a girl who cares a lot about her father and would place him in front of everyone, including herself. The film is about Rajini sir's journey as a cop and the rest of the characters are catalysts who move his story ahead. The promotional material, including the trailers, has been cut in such a way that the suspense is left intact. It's all planned. Watch Darbar without expectations," says Nivetha.
"When Papanasam happened, I saw Kamal sir in the look he sports in the film, so I did not have inhibitions of working with someone of his stature. I saw him as a father. I saw Rajini sir for the first time during the poster shoot and I fixed in my head that he's a father character. In the sets, right after the first shot, we had an instant connect which was unexpected. We complemented each other. He said, 'Adade, nalla panraale indha ponnu'. The vibes that Rajini sir and Kamal sir exhibit are completely different," says Nivetha, who calls Rajini a silent observer of events around him. "We actually discussed a lot about food. His behaviour is more about spirituality and is not meant to have us think about religion. He's calm and whenever he speaks, it feels like it is coming from a positive place. Many say that he avoids answering a few questions but I think he answers whatever he feels is right. I was amazed by how he would go the extra mile to make sure his words don't hurt anyone," says Nivetha.
The actor continues to be effusive in her praise for the Superstar. "He is an energetic person and even his handshake is so firm. He worked out twice every day with a designated trainer and maintained a strict diet. It made me realise that we have to work hard on each of our films. We shot in Marine Drive, one of the most crowded places in Mumbai, but still, he co-operated and never worried about the crowd." Ask her what Darbar means to her and Nivetha instantly replies, "Darbar, for me, is a celebration of Rajinikanth in police uniform. When I asked everyone how the trailer was, they said it was great to see Rajini sir in khaki. I am unable to digest that I am a part of this film. Darbar is a well-written thriller which you can connect with emotionally."
Speaking about her co-star Nayanthara, Nivetha says, "Though I did not have many scenes with her, I made sure I told her that, as a woman in the industry, she is paving a path. She has made sure that she is not trapped under a particular image."
Ask her if the transition between different languages is an attempt to eventually find footing in one industry and she says, "I actually want to be a part of films across more languages. I was even thinking about doing a Bengali film. We are all culturally different, and when doing a Telugu film, I think like a person from there. Our mannerisms and behaviour changes from language to language and I like taking up such challenges."
When questioned about retaining a place in cinema despite an absence of about five years, Nivetha says, "After my first film, I took a break, but when I returned, no one asked about it. I did not know if it was a blessing. Even in Telugu, I took a break after Jai Lava Kusa for my architectural thesis. I am blessed to get scripts that make people forget that they have not seen me in some time."