Samuthirakani: Similar roles can't restrict the range of a good actor
Samuthirakani along with Abhirami, speak about Lakshmy Ramakrishnan's Are You Okay Baby, playing roles with similar shades, the importance of taking a break and exploring new languages
When Samuthirakani and Abhirami sit together for an interview, one can’t help but notice the years of experience the duo carry along, having worked in multiple languages. Even though they have donned a wide range of roles, for Lakshmy Ramakrishnan’s latest directorial Are You Okay Baby they had to do their share of unlearning as the film features them as a parent of a newborn baby.
Samuthirakani makes a light-hearted confession that he isn't after doting father roles. "I don't consciously shortlist such characters, but whenever I sign up for one, I try my best to be true to that role and exercise the good values of the character in my everyday life.”
Abhirami, much like Samuthirakani, refuses to agree that she is being typecast as the mother in her second innings, despite her recent releases Baba Black Sheep, Oru Kodai Murder Mystery, Maara and Sulthan featuring her as a parent. "I played a mother to a 40-year-old when I was just 17 in Akshaya Pathram. I was given that responsibility at such a young age by director Sreekumaran Thampi as he had immense faith in my talent. I don’t see anything wrong in playing a mother. Every role has a story to tell and is integral for the larger vision of a creator.”
Samuthirakani believes a good actor can always bring something new to the table, even though they have played similar shades in the past. “I play a villain in the morning and a character close to my persona in the evening. Similar roles can't restrict the range of a talented actor. Regardless of the character, I always aim to improvise and give my best to the film."
For Abhirami, who returned to acting after a ten-year hiatus following Virumaandi in 2004, a sea of change had transpired in the world of cinema. “Back then we were recording on films, but now everything is digital. The story narration style has changed and many younger talents have come on board. The audiences a film reaches have also changed because of OTT platforms,” she says, going on to add that the break was nurturing in a lot of ways, “It helped me go through a lot of other life experiences. If I had only lived inside that bubble, I would have perceived every character in the same way. But these experiences helped me approach my characters from different perspectives.”
Samuthirakani, who has proved his mettle as an actor, always recognises himself as a filmmaker. But whenever he dons the makeup to act, he prefers to give the director in him the back seat. “When I am an actor, I do what the director tells me to do and I would suggest the same to my director brothers who are into acting. If you have suggestions, incorporate that in your film and don’t confuse the director, because we need to give them the space to deliver their vision,” he says.
Despite having worked with quite a few women filmmakers in his journey, the actor-director notes that he finds every experience unique. “I don’t look at the gender of any director. Every filmmaker has a dream and I only see how I can amplify it. Both Lakshmy and Rajamouli are equal to me,” he says.
The Aelay actor explains that he enjoys working in multiple languages and is now looking forward to taking up projects in Bollywood after learning the language. “After signing RRR, I hired a tutor to learn Telugu. I know Malayalam as well. I had several offers in Hindi, but I’m planning to wait till I gain command over the language, before setting my foot in the language,” says Samuthirakani.
Abhirami, on the other hand, is equally busy working in films across languages including Washing Machine in Telugu, Sakthi Chidambaram’s Jolly O Gymkhana in Tamil, Garudan in Malayalam and an untitled Disney+Hotstar web series.
Coming back to Are You Okay Baby, which is set to carry a myriad of emotions within itself, the duo assure that the film will leave the audience with heavy hearts, question their views on society and probably alter their views.