Smruthi Venkat: Reacting is as important as acting
The young actor, who played one of the pivotal roles in Mookuthi Amman co-directed by RJ Balaji, talks about working with Nayanthara and Urvashi
Last week's release Mookuthi Amman, apart from being celebrated as a family entertainer, was also lauded for its characterisation of women. While Nayanthara aced the titular role and Urvashi stole the show as the mother of Engels Ramasamy (RJ Balaji) and the Amirtham sisters, Smruthi Venkat managed to stand out as Deivamirtham, the one who sacrificed the most for the family. Fresh from playing one of the female leads in last year's Thadam, Smruthi says she owes her latest release to the success of that thriller. "Balaji saw Thadam and felt I would be a good fit for the role in Mookuthi Amman. The moment I learnt about my role, I felt a connection with it and knew I could do justice to the character. I was also excited to be a part of such a big team," adds the young actor.
Ask her what about Deivamirtham gave her that sense of connection, and she says, "She is a strong, loving and caring girl. Not just me, every woman can relate to the character."
Mookuthi Amman has brought back the 'saami padam' genre to Tamil cinema, which can be said to be the pioneer of women-fronted films in the industry. "That's true, the genre has always portrayed strong women characters. I think it's a very good thing that the trend is coming back and hope the audience will encourage it. All the female characters in this film are important," says Smruthi.
She learned a lot from working with experienced actors, Smruthi tells us. "How a beginner learns acting is important. Instead of doing multiple films, observing these veterans perform in front of the camera is a better experience. It's something not everyone gets and I am lucky to work with them," she says, adding, "Nayanthara ma'am is an inspiration. We can learn how to be a perfect actor from her. Right from the way she appears in front of the camera, her dressing, timing, body language, the way she carries herself — it's all impressive. Most importantly, she is very punctual and that discipline is awe-inspiring. Urvashi ma'am is very cheerful off-camera, but the minute the camera is turned on, she transforms into the character. That automatically makes you do the same and that's when I learnt that reacting is as important as acting."
Her character in Mookuthi Amman is an innocent one, rather similar to what she did in Thadam. While Smruthi is glad to have played these girl-next-door roles, she admits to some concern that she will get stereotyped. "As an actor, it's very important to play different roles, because you take a little from every character and they mould you, in a sense. So, I genuinely want to do something different." However, she doesn't want to rush things. "I want to take my steps one at a time. I believe that success will last only if we work hard for it." Instead of aiming only at lead roles, Smruthi remains open to playing supporting characters in bigger films as well. "The importance of the character matters. If it makes an impact, I am open to such roles. A film like Mookuthi Amman gives me a lot of exposure and introduces me to the masses, who will then watch my other films. Though my screen space in this film is less compared to other actors, my character still makes quite an impact."
Before the film's release, Smruthi wished she could see it in theatres but thanks to the reception it got post releasing in Disney+Hotstar, she's glad about the end result. "Mookuthi Amman is a family subject and we really cannot take elderly people to the theatres now. For Thadam, 27 of us went together and now if this film had released in theatres, I can't even think of taking more than 5 people. Now I am happy that my family can watch the film from the comfort of my house," says Smruthi who also feels that people have warmed up to the idea of OTT platforms. "In recent times, people who weren't aware of these platforms have gotten used to it. All my friends watch Bigg Boss via Disney+Hotstar. So I believe films like Mookuthi Amman are a precedent for other films to consider alternate platforms."
Smruthi will next be seen in the Sathyaraj-starrer Theerpugal Virkapadum. "I was actually awaiting its release after Thadam; Mookuthi Amman was a pleasant surprise out of nowhere. Sathyaraj sir is a brilliant actor and I am sure people can't wait to see him play the lead role after a long time," she says.