As an actor and director, Revathi continues to spin captivating and compelling stories. In a conversation with Mallik Thatipalli, she looks back on the stories she's been part of so far.
Last Updated: 08.25 AM, Jun 04, 2023
“WHEN YOUNGER STARS SAY ‘I would have given a limb to be Divya from Mouna Ragam’, I tell them Divya was mine! The character was created for me and no one else!” laughs actress Revathi referring to one of her most iconic roles on screen, in Mani Ratnam’s tale of love and redemption, that released in 1986 and remains a cult classic.
In a career spanning four decades, the multi-dimensional actress often portrayed the strong independent woman in movies from the South (and a handful in Hindi) during the ‘80s and early ‘90s. Be it as a student who falls in love with her dance instructor in Punnagai Mannan; the mother of a disabled child in another Ratnam classic, Anjali; Ram Gopal Varma’s horror noir Ratri; the dutiful wife in Thevar Magan or Singeetam Srinivasa Rao’s satire Magalir Mattum, there is no role the actress hasn’t performed to perfection.
“I feel very happy when I look at these movies. The kind of characters I did, the way I looked at it is not as a job but as a passion. I never strategised; I just chose movies based on the story and I acted at a time when people wrote scripts for me;” she recalls, adding that whenever she watches her old movies with her family there is always a smile on her face.
Regarding the author-backed roles that she received, the National Award-winning actress says that it was a different era: “It was a time (in Southern cinema), when scripts were written exclusively for actresses, be it myself or Suhasini or Radhika. Writers and directors wrote female-centric roles so I think I came at the best time; Tamil and Malayalam movies then gave women some great roles.”
Decades into her career, the actor has lost none of her passion. The recent Netflix series, Tooth Pari, sees Revathi in a negative role for the first time. Though the show has received mixed reviews, the actress has been lauded for her turn as Luna Luka, the antagonist. Playing the villain was exciting, she says. “I have hardly played any negative characters in my career. It was a very well etched out story; Pratim Da (the writer) had done such a fabulous job of writing that I just went with what he had written and enjoyed doing it. As an actor I got to do certain things that normally as a protagonist you never get to do.”
So is this her second innings? Her web series comes just on the heels of her directorial venture, Salaam Venky. She laughs and responds: “I don’t know. I suddenly feel that I’ve lost so many years and want to make up for the years of inactivity. I’m in a very good space right now and would like to continue doing interesting work.”
Asked the accomplished actress if she would do anything differently and she ponders for a moment before she answers. “Looking back, I think I shouldn’t have moved into character roles so early. In the late ‘90s when I started taking them up, I was still in my early 30s. I think I should have waited for a bit.”
One wonders if she took up directing to actively pursue good roles for women. Her directorial, Mitr My Friend, with an all-women crew, fetched actress Shobhana her second National Award.
“I consciously took up directing because I felt that there was a gap in the stories that were coming out and the ones that needed to be told. I wanted to tell them,” says Revathi. “If you notice, Mitr, My Friend is a story from every home. It asks what happens when there is a generational gap between mothers and daughters. Salaam Venky and Phir Milenge are both about a cause. If there is something I believe in, I will continue to tell that story.”
“It is inborn in me to tell stories, be it as an actor or as a director,” she adds. “The other reason is definitely my daughter as I want to set an example of a working mother for her.”
Having straddled multiple industries, genres and roles for decades, Revathi has evolved along with the movies she has acted in. “All of us grow. I’ve grown the right way,” she muses. “I’m very happy with who I’ve become and where I am now. The only regret I have is that I got married very young. I wish I had waited a little more and enjoyed life a little more. I listened to my heart over my head.”