Urvashi: I have much to explore as an actor
The actor, who has been lauded for her roles in the Diwali releases, Soorarai Pottru and Mookuthi Amman, speaks about devotional films, being known for comedy, and much more
Among the festive releases during the Diwali weekend, one actor can be said to have captured everyone's imagination. Yet again. Despite limited presence, actor Urvashi played stellar roles in both Soorarai Pottru and Mookuthi Amman. This comes barely a month after another of her roles, in the Netflix anthology, Putham Pudhu Kaalai, was widely appreciated. With a grin, she admits that this was unexpected, but that it feels good considering how bleak this year has been for those in the movie industry, due to the pandemic.
She plays the hero's mother in both Soorarai Pottru and Mookuthi Amman, but her contrasting performances have been a topic of discussion on social media all weekend. In Mookuthi Amman, audiences saw the actor in a space she’s widely celebrated for: comedy. In her extensive film career that spans more than 500 films, the actor has done innumerable comedy roles. “I wasn’t a funny person in real life. I used to be an introvert who hung out with a small group of people. Only after I came into cinema did the humor within me came out. I love performing comedy because I don’t like to cry a lot. Life throws enough hurdles, so at least in my job, I wanted a change.”
Speaking about how she reacted when RJ Balaji, the writer, director, and lead of the film, approached her with an ‘Amman’ script, she said that she immediately thought of director Rama Narayanan, who’s known for making devotional films like Rajakali Amman (2000), Palayathu Amman (2000), Kottai Mariyamman (2001) and more. “After his demise, we have not seen those films. So, when RJ Balaji came up with this script, I had my initial doubts as I knew that he is known for his satirical comedy. But when I read the script, I loved it as it was a complete family entertainer, which was rooted in reality.”
Urvashi in a devotional film, brings to mind the title song from Ettupatti Raasa (1997), and speaking about her experience on working in devotional movies, she says, “There is usually a discipline on the sets of such films. As they are shot in and around temples, the cast and crew usually avoids non-vegetarian food, and they are even careful with the words they use. Moreover, I’m a religious person as well, and so, I pray more during such films.”
For someone who has seen many actors portray the role of the goddess, Urvashi says she was mesmerised when actor Nayanthara appeared as the titular character of Mookuthi Amman. “I forgot that I was a co-artist. Nayanthara’s preparation for the role was outstanding. She didn’t compromise even one bit. She researched a lot into the body language of a goddess and also avoided non-vegetarian food.”
2020 is special to Urvashi for yet another reason, as news has come out that a remake of her famous film, Munthanai Mudichu, is underway. The film which released 37 years ago marked her Tamil debut. “I was a zero during Munthanai Mudichu. Looking back, I can’t believe that I started there and I’m here now. I still believe that Bhagyaraj sir performed the role in my ‘roopam’. In fact, Bhagyaraj sir treated me just like how he treated the kids who were acting alongside me. So, the credit to all my films since then goes to Munthanai Mudichu.” On the remake, the actor, not aware of Aishwarya Rajessh’s casting in the film, picks Laila or Namitha to pull off her role from the original.
Since her days as a child artiste, cinema as changed a lot, and yet a few other things have stayed on: “Love, affection, and family,” she says. "Cinema has mirrored all the changes. Moreover, technology has evolved a lot as well. Those days, after a shoot, I remember standing in a queue at the hotel’s reception to make a call.”
Across the four South languages, the actor has shared the screen with many legendary actors, and feels privileged and glad for the opportunities. “Only after all these years could I fully understand the value of sharing screen with such great actors. For example, working with Kamal Haasan sir is like studying in a university. If a small Urvashi who hailed from a small village is here, it’s only because of the great people I have worked with and their positivity.”
Even after a career spanning four decades, she is confident she hasn’t done it all. “I have repeated a lot of characters though I’ve always strived not to do that. There are lots of characters out there to be explored.” For now, as we wait in anticipation of what is to come from this fantastic actor, let us savour the aftertaste of the Urvashi Diwali.