Aishwarya Rajesh: Women actors should be approached with diverse subjects
The actor talks about her latest release, Ka Pae Ranasingam, women-centric cinema, and more
Aishwarya Rajesh is bemused about interacting with the press through a Zoom call. “All of this is new to me,” she says, taking in all our faces peering through the little boxes on screen. This actor, whose Ka Pae Ranasingam has begun streaming on Zee Plex, admits to being a fan of the big screen. “I prefer watching films on the big screen. My mom and I used to catch the early morning shows.” She adds that Ka Pae Ranasingam was made for the theatres. “The film has been ready for release since April, but as we had no idea about when theatres would be allowed to open, we had to opt for a digital release. We believe that if a film is good, it will be acknowledged no matter which platform it releases in.”
Aishwarya strongly believes that Ka Pae Ranasingam is a good film and a hard-hitting story that hasn’t been told before. She plays a woman named Ariyanachi, whose journey is documented in this film. “When I first heard the one-line narration, I was surprised to know that the things written in the film actually happened.” The film talks about the politics around water—to be specific, the lack of it. “I learnt a lot from my shoot in Ramanathapuram. The wedding trousseau in marriages there includes a trolley with five plastic pots. The hotel we stayed at only got hard water. I developed skin rashes over the 50 days we stayed there.” The experience, she says, has sensitised her about the issue. “My perception about water changed completely.”
Though the film revolves around Ariyanachi, the title is named after Vijay Sethupathi’s character, Ranasingam. “Though the subject is female-centric, the soul of the film is Sethu's character.” She is confident that this question won’t arise once you watch the film. “Just like I added my father's name to my name to feel that he is with me, the shirt you see the character wear in this film is Ranasingam's. I loved that emotional touch.” It was apparently Aishwarya Rajesh who suggested Vijay Sethupathi’s name to the team. “I could see him in that role,” she says. The team though was skeptical as his character was not the protagonist. “I was sure that Sethu would accept if he liked the story. The film became bigger even budget-wise, once he came on board. He even suggested some changes that worked for the story.” And so, what was originally a ten-minute role became a part with more than forty minutes of screen time.
Aishwarya’s association with Vijay Sethupathi goes way back to Rummy (2014), noted for the song, ‘Koodamela Kooda Vechu’. She remembers how a villager had walked up to them remembering her for dancing in the TV show, Maanada Mayilada. “He is now in a different league and is extremely busy. Virumandi sir somehow convinced him to give us 25 days.”
Aishwarya is quite the star herself too, having delivered diverse performances from films like Kaaka Muttai to Kanaa. “I love to do challenging roles. In Ka Pae, for example, I had to overcome my phobia to enact a tough scene in the climax.” She likes picking stories that haven’t been told before. “Ka Pae Ranasingam is one such, Thittam Irandu is another,” she says. However, Aishwarya notes a stereotype that’s increasingly being associated with female-centric films. “Such projects seem mainly about subjects like child abuse, harassment, or rape.” She adds that while these are stories that need to be told, women should be allowed to experiment and perform in diverse characters. “I want my films to be unique, while of course, earning the producer loads of money!”
Aishwarya has made her mark with strong performances so far, but she surprises by disclosing that she has never been truly satisfied with herself. “I only see the flaws in my performances when I see them. I go for several takes till I am satisfied. At the same time, if I am truly convinced, I won't go for more takes even if asked for another.” Nevertheless, some moments cannot be planned, like Ka Pae’s climax. “I couldn't recreate my performance for the dub. I don’t know why but I couldn’t. In fact, I requested Virumandi sir to use live sound,” she recalls.
So far, Aishwarya’s career has majorly been punctuated with characters that are serious and strong. Vaanam Kottatum’s Mangai saw her break that mould. “I enjoyed playing such a loud and lively character. I love comedy, but unfortunately, I haven't been approached with roles in that genre.” She believes that the upcoming Mundhanai Mudichu remake will change that and take her closer to the dream of playing Manorama aachi in her biopic. Speaking of the Mundhanai Mudichu remake, she says, “I reprise the role played by Urvashi ma’am in the original. Bayangara kashta pada poren, but I am sure I will love it.”