The actress will reprise her role as IG Roopa Chandrashekhar in the sequel, Drishya 2, which releases in theatres on December 10.
When Drishya, the Kannada remake of the Malayalam movie Drishyam came and introduced Asha Sharath to audiences here as IG Roopa Chandrashekhar back in 2014, the actress was hopeful of the film opening doors for her in Sandalwood. Asha was the only one from the Malayalam original to be cast in the Kannada remake and reprise her role, which she did for the Tamil version as well. Seven years later, Asha is only on her second film here, which, as it turns out is for the sequel to the 2014 film, Drishya 2, which hits theatres on December 10. In a quick chat with us from the set of Oru CBI Diary Kurippu 5 in Kochi, Asha, who shuttles between Dubai, where she is based, and India for work, spoke about how the pandemic was for her, returning to work with Drishyam 2 and later Drishya 2, among others.
I was stuck in India for about 11 months when lockdown was announced…
The pandemic really affected me badly, in the sense that I had come to Kerala in March 2020, to perform at the Gururvayur temple fest along with my daughter. Our performance was on the third day of the fest and almost 24 hours later, lockdown was announced in India. My husband, older daughter and I were stuck here, while my younger one was in Canada.
My cultural schools and home are in Dubai and I had a lot of issues on account of not being able to return to the UAE. I had to close all seven schools immediately, and anyway, managing it remotely would not have been a possibility. The only silver lining is that I was able to spend those months with my parents. Had I been stuck in Dubai instead, they would have been by themselves here in Kerala. We eventually returned to Dubai after almost a year.
On the set of Drishyam 2
About a year into the pandemic, when cases were on the decline and more lockdown relaxations came in force, I was called to the set of the Malayalam film Drishyam 2, which, as it turns out, was the first team to resume work. Lalettan (Mohanlal) wanted to be a role model and show the industry that you could keep the show going amid pandemic safety protocols. We had created a bio-bubble, wherein no one from the team was allowed to move outside of the shoot location or accommodation. Also, every third day everyone was tested for COVID, and no one tested positive in the 30-32 days that it took for us to finish the film.
Subsequently, I began shooting for some of my other earlier commitments that had been stuck midway owing to the pandemic. I also did a film with my daughter, Uthara, who studies in the UK, but was stuck in Kerala with us at the time. Directed by Manoj Kana, this was a female-oriented subjected that required two actresses. When he came home to narrate the story, he had said that since it was a relatively smaller film, he could shoot it in the vicinity of my place. During this meeting, he saw my daughter and asked her if she would also act in the film. Before I could respond, she jumped in and said she would and that’s how the two of us did Khedda, which should be ready for release soon.
What I am also excited about is a Tamil film called Anbarivu, produced by the makers of Kizhaku Vaasal – Satyajyothi Films, which will release soon. I got to act with Joju George in Peace and am doing a film with director Joshiy sir that has Suresh Gopi in the lead. In fact, Oru CBI Diary Kurippu 5 is also a film that was supposed to take off before the pandemic and has just started with the same team behind the four earlier installments.
From IG Geetha Prabhakaran to Roopa Chandrashekhar
Considering that Drishyam 2 got an OTT release, a large section of the audience, across languages, who were invested in the story and wanted to know its natural progression would have seen it. But having said that, there is a local audience for each version. For instance, for Malayalis, the connect that we have with Lalettan’s Georgekutty, will not be there for audiences elsewhere, and that is where the relevance of a Ravichandran as Rajendra Ponnappa comes in. You truly relate to the events in the story only when you have a local actor leading the narrative in your native tongue. In that sense, for Kannada audiences to understand the story better, they need a Drishya 2.
After I did Drishyam, one of the questions that I often faced from people is how I, as Geetha IPS could sleep in peace knowing that my son has been murdered. The sequel provides the answer to that.
Although I am reprising my role from the original, coming to the set of the Kannada version felt like working on a new film because every one else is different from Drishyam 2, like for instance Ravi sir, Pramod Shetty, Prabhu sir, etc. Only the base of the character remained the same. I did not try to reproduce Geetha as Roopa here, because I played the role based on the emotions I felt at the time. A lot of it, of course, depends on the vibe you get from the co-star you are facing. Ravi sir, supported me a lot.
I have great respect for Ravi sir, given how multi-faceted he is. On the set, he went to great lengths to ensure that the non-Kannadiga artistes were comfortable and able to deliver their lines properly. In fact, I have a scene in the film where I hit him and I was just as scared about doing that to Ravi sir as I was with Lalettan. But he told me to only think of the character and the emotions she is going through and do the scene. He hugged me and asked me not to worry while doing that scene. When you have supporting co-stars like that, it gives you the confidence to do your best.
Drishya 2 gave me the opportunity to work with Anant Nag sir. As a dancer, I often perform to Swathi Thirunal compositions and since Anant sir has played Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma, the erstwhile maharaja of Thiruvithamkoor, I always envision him while choreographing and dancing to those tunes. Swathi Thirunal was a romantic poet and in my mind, the face that comes up when I think of him is Anant sir. I have a lot of admiration for Anant sir; I did not expect that I would ever get to work with him and I am immensely grateful to the team for giving me this opportunity.
The journey from TV to cinema…
I had opportunities to get into films when I was in college, but back then, the family wanted me to get married and settled. My husband, Sharath, though, was quite encouraging and I had a good working relationship with the team at Asianet. I started my showbiz journey with a TV series called Kumkumapoovu, which I thought would run for about 40 episodes, which I planned to shoot during a holiday trip to Kerala. The show was a big hit, though and went on to about 90 episodes. It got me a lot of love from audiences.
Even then, not even in my wildest dreams did I think that I would end up doing films – not in Malayalam or any other language. Acting was really not on my agenda. I am a Bharathanatyam dancer and that takes precedence any day over my other pursuits. My biggest happiness, though, is that I got to be a part of a big film like Drishyam while I was shooting for Kumkumapoovu. As it turns out, director Jeethu Joseph’s wife used to watch the show. Today, if I have worked with legends like Mohanlal and Mammootty, it is because they have seen my work on TV and decided to give me that opportunity. I am lucky to have been able to share screen space with Ravi sir and Kamal (Haasan) sir, all of which is beyond my dreams.
Waiting for good roles in Kannada…
Although I thought that Drishya would give me a good opening in the Kannada film industry, what happened thereafter is that most of the offers that came my way were for very similar strong cop roles and that is not what I was looking for. I did not want to get stereotyped and it is unfortunate that I have not been able to explore this industry better.
What I have been able to achieve in Malayalam cinema is that audiences see me as an artiste who does a variety of roles, but can also carry off a cop character on account of having done almost 30, carefully-chosen films. Other than Drishyam, I do not want to do another cop role, because Geetha Prabhakaran is registered in people’s minds. In Kannada, and to a large extent in Tamil cinema, they think I can only do police roles. I want to do more films here, but am not sure if audiences are able to relate to me or not.