Vani Bhojan: I have never been one to overact
...says Vani Bhojan, whose latest film Malaysia to Amnesia, premiered on ZEE5 recently
Staying positive can be a challenge during these times, but Vani Bhojan has quite a few reasons to be so. An important name in television for almost a decade, she has stepped into feature films recently and has already been associated with big names in the industry like Radha Mohan, Karthik Subbaraj, and Vikram. “News about me usually points out that I work with debut actors and directors,” she says, laughing. “I guess I have finally broken that streak with Malaysia to Amnesia and now, Karthik Subbaraj’s Chiyaan 60 (working title)."
This self-confessed fan of both directors speaks of shooting for her films with pandemic-enforced restrictions. “I am a huge admirer of Radha Mohan sir’s work. When he called me, I said yes even without listening to the narration. In fact, I heard the complete story only later—when we were choosing costumes.” An enthusiastic Vani shares that Radha Mohan’s narration is a fantastic experience by itself. "He enacted every single dialogue in the script. My character—the naive, expressive Sujatha—from Malaysia to Amnesia is in stark contrast to the confident, subtle Meera from Oh My Kadavule. I loved this variation and the challenge that came along.”
Excerpts from the conversation:
Radha Mohan has mentioned that he was keeping tabs on the film’s progress through his phone and laptop. Did this process alter your acting in any way?
No, it felt pretty much the same. He didn't ask me to do anything out of the ordinary. There were no unnecessary close-ups. Also, from my television days, I have never been one to overact, even if it is for a tight shot. Some people have said, "Indha ponnukku nadikkave varala." But the audience likes my performance. This assured me that only a character should determine the level of performance, not the shots.
During your television days, you got to live in the skin of a character for years on end. However, it’s different when you are shooting for multiple films at once…
I have been blessed with the talent to be able to switch to new characters, as soon as I enter a new set. Though I was shooting for three films in a single week, I didn't find it hard to switch between my roles. I choose my films carefully. Even if I don’t necessarily prepare in advance for a role, I make sure I never take up a role I can't do justice to.
In this age of social media, do you encounter greater pressure to be active on it, in order to stay relevant?
Yes! It has become a necessity. People tend to forget or even dislike actors who are off their social media radar. When the pandemic broke out and the death count started to increase, I chose not to post anything on my Instagram account as I felt it might serve to desensitise. But I had people telling me that they were unfollowing me as they found the page to be "boring". And now, when I recently posted a picture to promote a small business, a guy attacked me for doing it during a pandemic. It is confusing to second-guess what people want on social media. Few people care to understand us; they only see us as 'content-vending machines'. It doesn't feel right.
While we are discussing social media attention, all eyes are on your upcoming film with Karthik Subbaraj and Vikram.
Chiyaan 60 is close to completion, with only a couple of sequences left to be shot. It is a beautifully written and shot film; I love it. Working with Karthik Subbaraj was a breeze. He always remembers to congratulate actors when he likes their work. I admit though that sharing screen with Vikram sir gave me the chills during the initial days. But he made me feel at ease and would seek my inputs as well, to make our combination scenes work better.
Could you talk about your upcoming line-up of projects?
My film, co-starring Ramya Pandian and produced by Suriya's 2D Entertainment, has an interesting social message. But it won't bore the audience with done-to-death topics like the importance of farming. Another film, Pagaivanukku Arulvai, with Sasikumar sir is a prison drama and we have shot it in real prisons, with real prisoners.
There’s also Paayum Oli Nee Enaku that should turn out to be a special film for Vikram Prabhu. His performance will stand out. I also have a thriller with Bharath that has an unusual screenplay, designed to keep the audience guessing. I have two more exciting films that I can’t wait for the makers to announce shortly.
With women-centric films on the rise, do you observe any changes in the trend?
The existence of women-centric entertainers is a success by itself. Finally, the industry has started believing in these films and they are also turning out to be profitable ventures. Also, women protagonists are becoming more relatable with each film. This is a positive sign. I believe that the empowerment angle invariably presented in most of these films is important in stage one. Slowly, we will see the industry embracing a variety of topics featuring women, but right now, we are not there yet.