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Aparna Balamurali Interview: On Raayan, Dhanush as director, why she took up a small role in 2018, and more

Aparna Balamurali Interview: The National Film Award-winning actor opens up about her upcoming film Raayan, why the sets of Raayan radiated positivity, and more 

Aparna Balamurali Interview: On Raayan, Dhanush as director, why she took up a small role in 2018, and more
Aparna Balamurali

Last Updated: 08.19 AM, Jul 06, 2024

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Her first acting role was a supporting character in the 2015 Malayalam film Oru Second Class Yatra. Her second film was the 2016 Malayalam drama Maheshinte Prathikaaram, a critically acclaimed one that won so much love and of course, awards. Her third Tamil film was the 2020 drama Soorarai Pottru, which won her first National Film Award for the endearing portrayal of Bommi, a fiercely independent woman. Yes, we are talking about and to Aparna Balamurali, who is once again set to appear in a Tamil film, this time with the Dhanush-starrer Raayan.

For various actors, reasons may vary as to why they take up a project. It could be exploring a human psyche through their character, the experience of being on sets and reliving the magic on big screens, and even a way of life to be represented, but what is it for Aparna, I ask.

“It is a way of entertainment. Cinema is such a huge part of life. When COVID-19 pandemic came, many thought that theatres would be shut down and there will be transition from big screens to OTTs,” Aparna says noting that people never stopped going to theatres.

Aparna Balamurali Interview 

But much like any other person who would have second thoughts before taking up arts as profession, Aparna too had a similar conjuncture at her life. “More than becoming famous or having an actor’s life, it is just another career and profession which is in the entertainment industry. I have always been into arts and dancing. But I was also confused after my higher secondary, if I should go to Kalekshetra to pursue dancing, or do architecture. It was a huge conflict but I never thought of taking up dancing as full-time career. But eventually I did love the creative aspect of architecture and that was when I was called for Maheshinte Prathikaaram. Until then I didn’t think acting as a career choice, but that film made me enjoy what I was doing. I was not scared of facing camera and eventually my career took off,” Aparna says.

Aparna in Maheshinte Prathikaaram
Aparna in Maheshinte Prathikaaram

A lot has indeed changed for Aparna, as she marks a decade into the industry. Besides having her livelihood sorted and solidified, the actor also reminisces the times when could take life lightly perhaps. But the actor understands that life has changed for her. “Maybe I am missing out many things, but personally also I have changed as well. Craft wise, I have explored a lot, been more technically familiar with my relationship with camera. For the first couple of films, DoPs and directors used to instruct me. Now, I know those aspects myself. I think I have lot a learnt from the technical side over these years,” she adds.

‘Cinema is a team work’

Mentioning that cinema is always a team work, Aparna reiterates that when she does a film, there are more than just her character that she will be taking care of. “I have started to think about my co-stars, the reactions I have to do, the cumulative efforts, framing. It is always by experience that I understood them. I used to always adore actors, but I did not know how cinema worked. But after coming into this industry, it has definitely changed my approach.”

So, does that mean she is also conscious of how the film would be taken, beyond her character?

Aparna says that she never interferes into a writer’s work, who might have their own perception about a character. But, she continues, “As long as we don’t glorify those wrong characters, I am okay with it. I don’t expect all roles to be goody-two-shoes, but whatever is wrong cannot be glorified. Because cinema is very influential and large number of age groups watch it. So, we certainly do not want someone to watch and feel its okay to do a wrong thing. As long as we don’t glorify the wrong things in cinema, I am okay with it.” That being said, Aparna says that she does have interfered in certain things that she doesn’t stand by. “In a utopian world it would be fine, and imagination can rule, but as long as we are putting out a statement, is where I interfere. Those such things if under my control, I definitely take care of,” she adds.

A strong woman on and offscreen

Acknowledging how she has mostly portrayed strong women onscreen, when asked does she ever feel missing out portraying vulnerable and weaker characters, Aparna nods a yes. “I do miss that part. I want to portray characters beyond being bold. Even my character, Mekhala from Raayan, is very strong, self-made, and the milieu matters. In one of my films, Sundari Gardens, I have played a vulnerable woman who is divorced and going through hardships. I always feel that vulnerability is huge part of human lives and I love portraying them.”

An avid Marvel and action films, Aparna says that people are conditioned to see male actors do the main part of the film, which has to change. “People think twice when women actors have more importance in a script. That is also because society is conditioned to see a film as hero’s film. We can’t have overnight change. Forget action, there were older films where women characters had such solid roles despite a male superstar being present. Those writing were effortless and organic. Similar was in Soorarai Pottru, where there were no preaching moments for Bommi at any cost.” Advocating for not calling films that give importance for women as “female-centric”, Aparna hopes that this changes for better in future.

Aparna and Suriya in Soorarai Pottru
Aparna and Suriya in Soorarai Pottru

On Raayan, Dhanush, and the positivity radiating sets

With regards to Raayan, Aparna reveals that the first thing Dhanush told me after narrating the script, is that my character won’t be there the whole time. “But my character was more relevant, which is why I accepted it. I don’t want to have the full screen time, but my role to be seen, and not forgettable. Mekhala is so strong that whenever she is there, she will make a mark. Working with Dhanush sir, brought the best of the role too. Mekhala is fierce, not calculative, and very straightforward. I would love to be a person like that, because now we always are in a situation to think twice before what we say,” she adds.

Aparna in Raayan
Aparna in Raayan

Aparna also says that it is challenging and easy at the same time when an actor is directing her. Dhanush, who is also directing Raayan, shows what has to be done, adds the actor. But at the same time, Aparna says, it is also a challenge to replicate and reach that level. “I think I was very confident and happy, which is what I love about Raayan. My mother told how she saw me for the first time in ages to be peaceful and sane. I am so much happy and in peace that I worked in this film, which even having big stars, was also fun and light-hearted. Everything need not be under pressure. I have experienced under pressure and that does not work with me. But a set like Raayan gave me much ease and that is one thing I really loved. They were not judgemental and there have been times when I have been concerned about my weight. But Raayan was one set, which did not pay attention to it. They only cared what went onscreen, which felt very good,” Aparna says joyously.

Aparna also sheds light on her film 2018, in which played a minor role. “Anyone would be proud to watch that film. It was a fight we fought, and how we survived it. A lot of my friends why did I do the film when I was barely there, but I know that 2018 is going to be historic, something very special and highlighted the fight our people put. It was full of emotions, and I don’t complain of my screen time when it comes to films like these. I see 2018 as a proud film that I will look see even 10 years from now,” she concludes.

In conclusion, Aparna says that Raayan was an inspiring project she worked on, especially when the sets were filled with filmmakers like Dhanush, Selvaraghavan, SJ Suryah, and Prakash Raj. “Selva sir never interfered in direction, and Dhanush sir was telling him what to do. It was beautiful experience to just watch how they worked. Dhanush sir, on the other hand, worked so hard, that it makes be understand nothing comes easy for you. That taught me something.

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