Actress Darshana Rajendran, who recently had back-to-back OTT releases, opens up on her experiences as an actor and a singer, her love for the theatre, promising projects in Malayalam cinema, being grateful to work during times like this and more…
How does one even begin to introduce Darshana Rajendran? As the actress who flawlessly played a traumatised girl in Mahesh Narayanan’s C U Soon, one of the earliest films shot during the COVID-19 pandemic? As the actor who essayed the role of a spunky girl effortlessly in Rani, one of the segments of Aanum Pennum, the recently released anthology? As a theatre actor who started off with small roles in movies before blooming and finding her space? Or, as the talented singer who sang the cover version of ‘Bawra Mann’ which has clocked 5.2M views and counting on YouTube.
Darshana, who continues to prove that she deserves all the praises coming her way, asserts she didn’t anticipate such a rousing reception. “When Fahadh Faasil met me for C U Soon, he said they were making something that could be released on any platform. They were open for a release on OTT platforms or even on a YouTube channel,” she begins, adding, “But none of these things really mattered to me. All I was thinking about was the film’s story and my character in it. Even Aanum Pennum was supposed to be a theatrical release, but the pandemic demanded an OTT release.”
Irul, another film which had her share screen space with Fahadh, too, had a digital release a while ago. With back-to-back releases on OTT platforms, is she inclined towards movies which are eyeing an OTT release? She says, “It might seem that I am breaking the mould by constantly choosing projects that end up being OTT releases. But the fact is, a few of my films in recent times have coincided with the OTT boom.”
Darshana says that she always believed in constantly enhancing the craft of acting, and that it has been an ongoing process for her. She also adds that working with talented actors and directors help her showcase the best version of herself on screen. “I dislike being stereotyped. Luckily, films and characters that do not stereotype actors are getting made these days. I am grateful to be working during times like this. I think I have made the most of what I was offered. Somewhere along the way, I realised I started getting work which actually required my talent. I am now in a space where I only sign projects that excite me,” says Darshana.
The young actress is quite elated that she is part of two promising projects in Malayalam – Rajeev Ravi’s Thuramukham and Vineeth Sreenivasan’s Hridayam. “Both the films showcase me in different characters, and I did not feel slotted. I am very happy working in Malayalam [films], jumping between different genres. This has been an exciting year for me, which is why I’ve not ventured out to other languages,” she says.
Of late, Malayalam cinema has been looked upon with awe and creative collaboration seems to be the buzz word now in the industry. All praises for the work environment in the industry, Darshana says she is able to focus on her craft completely. “There is a space for everyone here and people value your opinion. I did work with some of the superstars of the industry – the good thing is they make you feel comfortable. I remember being nervous for around five minutes while working with Fahadh and Soubin Shahir in Irul, but they put you in a space where you feel equal to them. It’s all about the story and characters. I am now settling into this space and learning to use it better,” says Darshana.
She also reminisces about the experience working in Virus, Aashiq Abu’s multi-starrer flick which was inspired by Kerala's response to tackle the Nipah virus that hit in 2018. “Many talented artists came together for the film, and some of them had only about five minutes of screen time. It was so special to be a part of that project. That was so endearing,” she says.
Though she was seen in films like Kavan and Irumbu Thirai in Tamil, she was mostly seen playing the hero’s sister or friend. “I am okay playing such roles, but I wish such characters are written with a little more depth,” she notes.
Music has always been a part of Darshana’s life. She feels Bawra Mann follows her wherever she goes. “I feel guilty when people ask me about the music since I’ve not really worked on it. It has been my soul song for a long time. It’s one song I sang everywhere. It was quite unexpected that I was asked to sing it in Maayanadhi. I’ve probably sung it a thousand times, heard it a million times, but my heart still soars when I hear it,” she smiles.
Despite having interesting films in her kitty, theatre continues to be a fond love for Darshana. She played a pivotal role in Roshan Mathew’s (her co-actor in Rani) ensemble play, A Very Normal Family, and hopes to get back actively in the theatre scene post the pandemic. “My favourite stage experience was Adishakti which I performed in Auroville. I feel there’s something magical about that space which enhances your performance. I am lucky to choose different things now as an actor, and I am really happy about it. That’s the important thing,” she signs off.”
Subha J Rao is a freelance journalist based in Mangaluru