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Akshara Haasan: My parents have never put pressure on me- Cinema express

Akshara Haasan: My parents have never put pressure on me

Akshara Haasan discusses her latest film, Achcham Madam Naanam Payirppu, which premiered on Amazon Prime Video recently

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Published: 03rd April 2022

The excitement in Akshara Haasan's voice while she’s speaking about Achcham Madam Naanam Payirppu, betrays that this is a film she is quite attached to. This is, after all, her first feature as the ‘lead'. She plays Pavithra, a late teen who grapples with the burden of social constraints. Akshara says she wasn’t just an actor in the coming-of-age dramedy. In a “creatively conducive” working environment, she shares, the door for creative inputs was open for everyone. “Be it the costume designer, the DoP, or the make-up artist, it was a collaborative experience. All of us discussed every scene to make it the best possible iteration,” she says.

In this conversation with Cinema Express, Akshara opens up about the film, her approach towards acting, and more.

It has been seven years since the release of Shamitabh, which marked your acting debut. How has the journey been?

It has been incredible! In retrospect, I can see how much I have grown as a person, not just as an actor. Acting has helped me shape myself as a person. I have learned tons and I would like to believe that I have grown wiser and improved with each film and the experiences that came along. Before the premiere of Acham… I was as nervous and excited as when Shamitab got released. That’s probably because I treat every film as my first. I also make sure that the characters I do are fresh, and different from my previous roles. 

What challenges do you look for?

I want to showcase my versatility as an actor and connect with the script and character, because if that doesn’t happen, I will end up being a liability. If I feel I cannot do 100 percent justice to a film, I won't do it. To me, the script and character go hand-in-hand, and it’s important that I empathise with both facets. There have been instances when I came across great scripts with beautiful characters, but as an individual, I felt I wouldn’t fit the character. I think you should always know whether you can pull off a character with complete sincerity or not, regardless of how much you are attracted to it.

Do you have a method for how you approach a script? What attracted you to Acham…?

When I read a script, I see it from a director’s perspective, thanks to my experience as an assistant director. Before stepping in front of the camera, I try to see from an actor’s and audience's perspective to gauge how convincingly I can pull off a scene.

I found the boldness of Acham… to be beautiful, especially in how it explores the subject matter (pre-marital sex) with a layer of innocence. It deals with a topic that’s labelled taboo, although it’s not. It’s filled with humour and executed with simplicity and sensitivity. Moreover, Raja (Ramamurthy) sir, who wrote and directed the film, takes extra effort to understand the mindset of the characters, how they would handle a particular situation, and makes sure that it reflects in the script. Also, much of our cast and crew were women, and all of them got to showcase their talent. It was empowering because we got to utilise diverse perspectives while filming. Also, this is the first time I have headlined a film. That responsibility was amazing.

You had stated in an interview that your character, Pavithra, and you are polar opposites. Was it a challenge to portray her?

The challenge was to make sure that the real Akshara doesn’t seep into Pavithra. I had a great team to alert me when that happened, especially Raja sir, who would say, ‘I see a bit of Akshara here. We have to fix it.’ Thankfully, they helped me overcome it.

You have ventured into comedy for the first time, which is often cited as the hardest genre for actors to crack…

Yes. Comedy is the hardest genre. The timing and how you deliver the joke are crucial as it’s a very thin line to trudge. We would discuss between takes whether it is working or not and jam ideas to improve the scene on both performance and writing levels. I was constantly focussed on finding the right ‘meter’ of performance.

The most memorable scene in the film is Pavithra confiding in her grandmother (played by Usha Uthup) about her fear of not matching up to the singing prowess of her mother and grandmother. Do you, in real life, ever feel the pressure of living up to the name and fame of your family?

Thankfully, never. My parents and family have never put pressure on us. They have always encouraged us to believe that we are capable of our own thoughts and decisions. They have infused the best values in us and allowed us to be who we are.

Can we expect you to foray into direction soon?

Not so soon, but yes. It might be a psychological thriller, but it’s in early stages of development. It’s a work in progress.

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