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Laila: I’m done playing the chirpy heroine- Cinema express

Laila: I’m done playing the chirpy heroine

The actor discusses her comeback film, Sardar, breaking stereotypes, and how she envisions her second innings

Published: 17th October 2022

The first image that pops up upon thinking of Laila is her dimple and that bright smile we have seen in so many films in the 2000s. Her characters—Manju of Pithamagan, Ramya of Kanda Naal Mudhal, or Pooja of Ullam Ketkumae—were all exuberant and adorable, with Laila always careful to ensure that charm never spilled over into caricature. So good was she playing these women that future attempts by other actors to replicate this only turned out to be a poor imitation. And now, the original chirpy girl returns, after a break of 16 long years, with Karthi's Sardar. I’d hoped to ask if she was, for real, that chirpy woman she played in films, but barely minutes into the conversation, peppered with her laughs, giggles, and high-fives, I got the answer.

Although kicked about how Sardar has shaped up, the chatty Laila is careful not to reveal much when asked about her role. "All I can say is that it is unlike anything I've done before. The quest in my career has always been for performance-oriented roles, and Sardar definitely ticked that box," says Laila, and goes on to talk about why director PS Mithran thought of her for this part. "I guess he wanted someone with grit to pull off this character. It demanded a familiar face and an actor who could create serious impact."

Laila is all praise for Mithran and his 'intelligent' script. "I'm extremely impressed with his writing. He is putting forward a lot of ideas in Sardar, which will make the viewer think. I'm a bit of an environmental activist in real life, and for me, this film was an enlightening experience." She is glad that a lot of directors today are writing compelling roles for women. "They know that the audience isn’t interested in watching heroines dance around trees anymore. There's more creativity today, and as a result, we get these diverse roles."

One can sense the passion and optimism in Laila's words as she speaks about variety being important for an actor. Laila, who’s keen to break free of her 'image', has had her fill of playing the ‘chirpy heroine’. “Going forward, I'm eager to play strong characters of different shades. I've attempted something along those lines in my upcoming Amazon series, Vadhanthi too." To be fair to her, even during her first stint in cinema, she never shied away from interesting roles (Nandha, Pithamagan, Mounam Pesiyadhe, Kanda Naal Mudhal, Ullam Ketkume), and brought a certain originality to even stereotypical roles. How is she zeroing in on her scripts in this second-coming? "It's simple. The story should be gripping, and my character should have ample space to perform. I'm just hoping that these roles make people appreciate my performing ability.”

After veering into 'serious' territory when talking about her comeback and how she plans to take her career forward, we course-correct almost immediately and take a walk down memory lane as she reminisces about the directors she worked with. "The first person to show trust in me was director Jeeva. He gave me full creative license and let me have a blast in Ullam Ketkumae. He would laugh at my crazy improvisations. I was thrilled to be working with someone who trusted me so much. Similarly, Bala sir also gave me a lot of freedom. While in Nandha, I performed as per his instructions, we developed a deeper working relationship by the time we started shooting for Pithamagan. I had gained his trust, and I could bring a lot of myself into the film. I was just fortunate to work under such guidance," signs off Laila, registering the hope that she can develop many such creative partnerships in her second innings as well.

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