The actress shares her excitement about associating with Prasanth Varma for the mythological fantasy
A sleep-deprived Varalaxmi Sarathkumar has just taken a break from the shoot of Sudeep’s Kannada film Max, landing in Hyderabad to give a final push to HanuMan’s promotions before it releases on January 12. She plays Anjanamma, the elder sister to Teja Sajja in the mythological fantasy, directed by Prasanth Varma. It was one of the earliest scripts the actress signed in Telugu.
“Prasanth Varma was unsure if I would say yes to the role or play a sister to a lead actor in a film. He asked me to give my verdict after listening to the full narration. I trusted my instinct and said yes. The film was only planned as a Telugu release back then. I and Vinay Rai were the only popular faces in the project, which however grew bigger with time,” Varalaxmi shares.
The actress says she is always keen on breaking stereotypes and saw HanuMan as an opportunity to try her hand at situational comedy. “It won’t be right to label it a small film because the sets were huge, there were so many junior artistes on sets. I realised the scale was getting massive because they kept asking for more dates and didn’t compromise until the last minute.”
She had great fun working on the ‘gatta kusthi’ sequence in HanuMan and allocated over 20-25 days for the film spread over two years. “The popularity of multilingual films recently proves that language isn’t a barrier for audiences. All they want is a well-told story and I am thrilled that a story like HanuMan is set to conquer many frontiers.”
HanuMan is incidentally her third Sankranthi release after Krack and Veera Simha Reddy. “The success of the films has put more pressure on me. The release dates are definitely not under my control and it’s a happy coincidence. My team keeps teasing me that I am the Sankranthi queen and I’ll take care of the box office this time too.”
While hopping from one set to the other across languages and cities, how does she ensure that the fatigue doesn’t affect her performance? “I approach every project as if it’s my debut. I put in the same amount of hard work for every film/show. I am definitely not good with rehearsals and prefer spontaneous performances. I blend with the role once they say action on sets.”
“However, one can’t avoid the influence of one character over the other because there are only a limited set of emotions you can portray on screen.” Varalaxmi was quite happy that she broke the negative role/action stereotype with her Telugu show Mansion 24, which went onto be one of the most viewed shows on Disney+ Hotstar in 2023.
Although she anticipated praise for films like Veera Simha Reddy, Naandhi or a Krack, the actress was thrilled about the feedback for Razia Ali in Kotabommali PS. “I have played a cop many times in my career and I didn’t know how it would come across on the screen. Even my father (Sarath Kumar), who generally finds a few loopholes in my performances, felt I was brilliant in it.”
She feels blessed to be growing in stature in Telugu cinema with every step. “It’s the only industry in my career, where I have never received any negative feedback. People remember me through characters like Bhanumathi, Jayamma and Razia. Some said I need to work on my diction and I’m trying to make progress, but a few feel that my current dialogue delivery suits my body language.”
The actress came to films with a lot of plans and hopes when her debut Podaa Podi released, but the film’s box office fortunes gave her a reality check. Since then, she realised that an action plan isn’t the best way to deal with a career in this industry. At an age where most of her actress counterparts seek the quintessential heroine roles, she has gone against the wind and tasted success.
“Proving myself as a performer gives a great kick. Be it negative, positive or character roles, I only see how crucial is my role in the story and don’t worry about screen time. I don’t believe in being another heroine who dances in two songs and just look glamorous. I ventured into OTT early, did a social talk show Unnai Arinthaal right in 2018. Breaking rules has always helped me.”
A few Hindi offers too are coming her way, but she doesn’t want to be a piece of furniture when she’s getting a better deal in South Indian films. She wants to try her hand at comedy soon and even asked Prasanth Varma to include her in it whenever the latter writes one. Meanwhile, the actress, who’s also part of Dhanush’s D50, can’t wait to watch HanuMan on the big screen tomorrow.