Keerthy Suresh: Fulfilling a director's vision is my National Award
The actor, whose new thriller Penguin, directed by Eashvar Karthic, is set for an OTT release this Friday, talks about the film
It has been two years since we saw Keerthy Suresh in a full-fledged role. If the coronavirus pandemic hadn't happened, the actor would have had as many as six releases (Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, Penguin, Miss India, Good Luck Sakhi, Rang De, and Annaatthe, across three languages). Penguin, her first release of the year, will be getting a direct OTT release this week on Amazon Prime. Though she confesses missing theatre applause, the optimistic Keerthy calls OTT releases a blessing. "I value whistles and claps but considering the present scenario, I am fortunate to even get a release this year." She points out that the my conversation with her was happening over a video chat and notes that adapting to technology is a part of survival. "Change is the only constant. As a fan, I made sure that I caught Amitabh-Ayushmann's Gulabo Sitabo the moment it premiered. My friends and wellwishers have promised to do the same for Penguin. OTT is a boon to cinema."
The promos of Penguin possessed multiple similarities to Jyotika's recent Ponmagal Vandhal (which also premiered in the same OTT platform). This story too seems to feature a mother's struggle to rescue her abducted kid. But Keerthy clarifies that her film is a thriller and not a social message film. "It would be a lie to deny the crimes being committed against children. They have become so common that we see them as a vital theme in our films now. But I assure you Penguin is neither a message film nor a gory thriller. Even kids can watch this film, with parental guidance."
The film features Keerthy as a young mother for the first time and she calls the role one of the closest to her heart. "Right after signing up Penguin, I began talking to Amma about pregnancy and how pregnant women carry themselves. That homework helped me a lot on the sets. Except for Mahanati, where I was expected to perform exactly like Savitri amma, I never watch films to take reference for my role. I fear it would take a toll on the novelty of my performance," she says.
Keerthy heaps praise on Penguin's director Eashvar Karthic and says he brought the best out of her. "The film's output will surprise everyone. Being a bank manager-turned-filmmaker, I guess this debutant director employed all his management skills during the shoot and completed the film within 35 days, without any compromise in quality."
Asked if she feels the pressure of being a National Award-winning actor, she replies that she never lets that affect her. "Yes, my responsibility as an actor has increased, but I don't feel pressurised by the recognition. If I work in every film aiming for a National Award, it would spoil my art. I believe giving life to a director's vision is my National Award."
Handling stardom is a tricky business. With the demise of Sushant Singh Rajput, during the prime phase of his career, leaving Indian cinema shaken, I ask Keerthy about the pressure of being in this field. "His passing away has left me shocked and I feel terribly sorry for him. I have never been able to fathom the pressure stars undergo, as I have never felt lonely. I am in a happy space now, thanks to my friends and family, who act as my support system."
She adds that the unfortunate situations actors find themselves in, lead them sometimes to take extreme decisions. "I strongly feel reaching out for help and emotional support must be normalised and I believe all of us have someone to rely on. Holding on to hope during tough situations is the only key to survival. The ray of positivity within us can help us drive away darkness."
Keerthy is currently in Kerala with her family and says the lockdown has been a blessing for her. "I was in my high school the last time I got to spend as much time with my family. I have been running nonstop for long and this feels like a well-deserved break. I am brushing my violin skills, actively practising yoga and experimenting with cooking new dishes."
The entertainment industry shutdown has changed a lot of norms. Her film Rang De is a romance set abroad. But given the circumstances, it would take at least a few months for the shooting to resume, she says. "Nothing much can be done about those films that are half way through production. It is indeed a big question mark when films like Rang De, which demand a certain location and production value, can go back on the floors. But I strongly believe all new scripts will be penned keeping in mind such restrictions."
She also goes on to address the other pressing issue of the industry: Star salaries. "Considering how badly the industry has been affected, we don't have any option now, but to take a pay cut. I have personally decided to take a 25-30% cut in my salary."