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Exclusive! Madhuram actor Shruti Ramachandran: I thrive on the energy that the director gives off on set

The Kaanekkaane and Anveshanam actor talks about the Joju George-starrer, scripting with her husband Francis Thomas and her upcoming projects that include a Tamil film and a Telugu web series

  • Sanjith Sidhardhan

  • OTTplay

Last Updated: 07.30 AM, Dec 27, 2021

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Shruti Ramachandran

Despite the length of her role sometimes, it’s hard to miss the impact that Shruti Ramachandran creates in her films. Her latest release Madhuram, which is currently streaming on SonyLIV, begs the question why the actor is not seen playing full-length roles in movies. “I think the directors should give me more such roles,” pat comes the reply, from the actor, who also played a pivotal role in Manu Ashokan’s Kaanekkaane.

In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, Shruti tells us about her experience on working in Ahammed Kabeer’s Madhuram, how her writing has complemented her acting, and her upcoming projects.

Madhuram is a feel-good movie, different from the films that you have done lately. How varied was the experience of working on such a project?

I absolutely loved it. It’s different from my usual working experiences. My part in Kaanekkaane was breezy but its subject was heavy. In the other projects that I have worked in, my character either dies or kills a child. On the other hand, the whole set of Madhuram had the same vibe as you see on screen. I feel Madhuram has spoilt me to an extent that I am worried about getting to my next set. It’s a huge standard that Ahammed and his team has set. Everyone was so invested in the story as it’s a relatable tale.

I am an actor who thrives on the energy that the director gives off on set and it’s important for me to work with such filmmakers. Even during a narration, more often than not, I say yes to a project if I can connect with the director. Madhuram was one of those few projects, where as soon as I heard the subject, I said yes; simply because of the characters – Chithra and Sabu. The way Ahammed narrated the thread to me, I held onto their story.

I also really wanted to work with Joju chettan. I feel he’s an impeccable artiste. Having seen Joseph and Porinju Mariyam Jose, I was curious as to how he would pull off a role like this.

It’s those scenes between Chithra and Sabu that were pure magic, especially when both of you talk about food.

We are both huge foodies and I think that helped our characters.

How did an architect like yourself end up in films?

My first film was Njaan that was directed by Ranjith sir and had Dulquer Salmaan. I also dance and I got cast because Ranjith sir saw me in a dance class and asked if I would like to act. I went in as a superbly ignorant person on the set and I think because of that I didn’t completely appreciate the process or looked at it with the type of gratitude I should have at that point. It’s not something that happens to every person; where you go to a dance class and then get offered a movie. That’s how little space cinema had in my life.

After that I did my masters and was teaching in a college and had a job set in Mumbai. Post my wedding, we were supposed to move to Mumbai. And then Pretham happened. Jayasurya, who was its lead actor and producer, saw me at the gym and asked me if I can act as a ghost? My instinct was to say no because I didn’t enjoy it. Then the film’s director (Ranjith Sankar) called me and again, he was very easy to talk to. For a newcomer like me, I thought that was very important. That movie changed my perspective on cinema.

At that point, I was in two minds – whether to do architecture or try my hand at movies. (Husband) Francis (Thomas) was instrumental in making that decision for me. He said he would move to Kochi for a year, and now it’s been five years.

For someone who didn’t have an interest in acting five years ago, you now also have a State Award for Best Dubbing Artiste and a screenplay credit along with Francis for Sudha Kongara’s segment Ilamai Idho Idho from the Amazon Prime Video anthology Putham Pudhu Kaalai. How did the passion for writing evolve?

I like reading. I fell for Francis’ writing, back in school. He’s in advertising and is a copywriter. So, we have been together for 14 years and have practically grown up together. I have seen his writing and how it has evolved, and I am guessing that part of that has rubbed off on me.

Francis had written a play named A Very Normal Family and also the Malayalam movie Anveshanam, which I was also part of. Post the play, he got calls from Bejoy Nambiar and Sudha to work on their feature films. Sudha and Francis were in talks for a movie but that didn’t take off due to the pandemic. That’s when Amazon Prime Video approached her and asked if she had anything on the lines of hope for their anthology. At that point, because she was already in discussions with Francis, she asked him.

It’s a subject, I felt, was extremely easy for us as a couple to develop. Almost all the scenes from Ilamai Idho Idho are from our lives. Francis is the one who makes good tea and I am the one who leaves the wet towel on the bed. So, the process was seamless but it was also important because it’s due to that ease, we are still working on projects together.

As someone with an understanding of scripting, do you also look at how the characters are written while selecting roles now?

Maybe subconsciously, but it’s not like when I listen to a script, I gauge it as a writer. But most certainly, anything and everything you do in life influences the other actions. That way acting has bettered my writing and vice versa. If you ask me to pinpoint how, when I am playing a role, the fact that I have also worked on characters’ backstories during writing, has helped. Similarly, when I am writing, because I have acted, I am also able to see the bigger picture and I don’t get stuck with the nitty-gritties of a script. That way, it’s mutually complementing.

What are your upcoming projects?

In January, I will begin acting in Enthaada Saji, which has Jayasurya and Kunchacko Boban. In terms of writing, Francis and I are writing a Tamil feature and a Telugu webseries.

Kaanekkaane, Madhuram and Ilamai Idho Idho have all released on OTTs. In terms of the feedback, how different is it for an OTT release compared to theatrical?

It’s overwhelming, to say the least. It’s with Madhuram that I faced it head first. It’s for the first time in the past four or five years, since I started acting that I have gotten such responses. It’s because the movie was an OTT release. I was up till 4am on the day of Madhuram’s release and I was telling Francis, I don’t know where this is coming from. It’s so surreal and so new. I feel like OTT as a platform is great.

There’s a lot of conversations that are happening because of the platform. Take Madhuram for instance. It’s such a small movie and if we had released it in theatres now, it would have gotten lost. OTT is great for experimental content and new talent, I feel.

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