Dushara: Sarpatta Parambarai changed me as a person
Dushara shares the experience of shooting for her first big-ticket release, Sarpatta Parambarai, and embodying a character that’s distant from her real-life personality
Thursday, July 22, is a big day for Dushara; this is when her “dream” Sarpatta Parambarai will begin streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The Pa Ranjith directorial is a sports drama tracing the boxing culture of North Chennai in the ‘70s. While the men in the film land fist punches in the boxing ring, they are not the only sources of strength, it seems. Mariamma, the character essayed by Dushara, is said to be the latest entrant to the league of Ranjith’s strong female characters, the actor says. “In Kaala, when Anjali Patil’s character is stripped of her trousers, instead of reaching out for her clothes, she picks up a lathi and charges towards the offenders. Mariamma, too, is similarly aggressive, unflinching, and not one to hold back her thoughts and punches. Oru getthaana ponnu,” describes Dushara.
On how she landed the role, Dushara says, “Ranjith sir saw a picture of mine on Twitter and I was contacted by his office, where he briefed the character during a 20-minute meeting. I feel my talkative nature allowed Ranjith sir to instantly visualise me as Mariamma. Following the look test and auditions, I got on board, and it has been a beautiful journey from start to end.”
Dushara, who debuted with the 2019 film, Bodha Yeri Budhi Mari, shares that it was a challenge to bring the character to life. From perfecting the North Chennai dialect to picking up specific patterns of behaviour, the process demanded “tremendous learning and unlearning”, she adds. “Hailing from Dindigul, the North Chennai dialect is new to me, and the writer, Tamil Prabha sir, gave many inputs to tweak my pronunciation. Moreover, the workshops helped a lot as the residents of North Chennai and Kasimedu were brought in to train us. We had to imbibe several minute traits—including trivial actions such as sitting and standing postures, or fixing hair,” says Dushara, who was initially apprehensive about sharing screen space with several established artists. “Ranjith sir had directed Rajinikanth sir in two films, and this was Arya sir’s thirtieth film. To draw an analogy, I felt like a tiny fish in an ocean, scared of being eaten by the big fish.”
Dushara’s worries, however, were put to rest by the warmth in the team’s welcome. “Everything was spoon-fed to me. Everybody was sweet and supportive, and never did anyone ever express vexation,” she says. In addition to Arya, Sarpatta Parambarai features many well-known names such as Pasupathi, Anupama Kumar, and Kalaiyarasan, and she found all of them equally encouraging and empathetic. “There was a sense of belonging and teamwork. None of them tried to prove individual dominance; they all knew that the playground belonged to everyone. Even when I made mistakes, the cast was willing to redo the take every time without any qualms. I don’t know if other actors are as understanding as them.”
Playing Mariamma in Sarpatta Parambarai also meant experiencing and reliving a life that bears no resemblance to Dushara’s real-life personality. Talking about a regular day on the film’s set, Dushara says, “To step into the shoes of Mariamma every day was a superb experience. I find it hard to verbalise how great it felt to embody Mariamma and live in a thinnai, run errands like cooking on a wooden stove, cleaning, and drawing kolam. This is a life distant from my reality. I lived a pampered upbringing and existed in my comfort zone; I had to leave behind these experiences and transform into Mariamma. I have changed as a person and become more adaptable to situations over the course of the film’s making.”
Having travelled with Ranjith, who is known for his ideologies and politically charged films, what is learning that she takes away from the filmmaker? “Be it the lead, a supporting actor, or a junior artist, everyone’s common interest on the set is making cinema. So, treating everyone equally matters the most. In Sarpatta, seniors didn’t get special treatment, and juniors weren’t made to feel less either. Everybody had to attend workshops, including Arya sir. I also learned how vital it is to stay grounded,” she adds.
Has working on a massive film like Sarpatta Parambarai changed the framework she had planned for her career ahead? “I’ve always wanted to be a part of films that have scope for performance. The number of films I act in is not a matter of concern; I’m fine with doing one film in three to four years, as long as I make my presence felt as an actor. I desire to play strong characters that inspire everyone,” signs off Dushara.