It’s precisely why the transient nature of the film world appeals to her.
She reveals – not without a little hint of distaste – that she had once ‘seriously’ considered a corporate job.
“When I finally came to my senses and said no to the offer, my parents thought I’d gone off the rails,” Janani laughs.
But it made her very happy, and that was all that mattered.
A half-sari in blue was what she wore to her first meeting with director Bala.
Blue, because it was her lucky colour. She desperately needed some magic that day, having been quite anxious about her auditions.
Director Vijay – with whom Janani had worked on many an advertorial – had pointed her to Bala’s office.
When she arrived for the auditions though, there was nothing she was asked to do.
“Speak in Tamil,” was the simple, and only request.
It stumped her momentarily, but she quickly said – ‘Naan unga Naan Kadavul padatha neraya dhadava paathirukken.’
A week later, Janani was called in for another meeting. Again, nothing was said. A sheaf of papers was handed to her, and she was asked to sign.
Only then, did the actress realize that she had been chosen.
A Bala product. That’s how Janani would like to be known. To be mentored by such a ‘phenomenally talented director’ was an ‘out of the body experience’ for the actress. “Bala sir would act out the scene to me. All I had to do was copy him. He taught me the basics of acting and gave me my break in the industry. Above all, he also became a well-wisher. Even now, I know that I can call him at any point and ask him for advice on the film choices I make.”
In many ways, the years following Avan Ivan changed Janani. “I didn’t take things seriously. Getting into movies was not a struggle for me…it all just fell in place. I didn’t realise how big an opportunity I’d been given. I was grateful for it, but didn’t really know that it was a huge thing to be introduced by Bala. I never grasped the enormity of it.”
But Janani was a quick learner.
Also, she is a few years older now – and wiser. “See, something comes our way because it’s meant to be ours. So, I always give it a hundred percent. I’ve become more serious about acting.”
She is also quite astute with decisions about her career. At the end of four years in the industry, she has done only three films in Tamil. And it is not for want of offers. Caution, she says, is a must have if one wants to have a lasting career in the industry. “Once you make it big, offers will come in from every direction. It is up to you to keep them at bay, and make your perfect choice!”
A sense of self-worth helps too, when it comes to making choices, Janani adds sagely. “When you know the kind of movies that you should be a part of, then the whole process becomes easier.”
So when the Malayalam industry beckoned, she was quick to shift states. The decision paid off big time, for she was signed on to be a part of the Prithviraj starrer 7th Day. “I was the only female character in the movie, and to be able to act opposite Prithviraj was a huge thing for me. He was a kind and considerate person, and always made it a point to appreciate me when I did something good. He’d also point out the places where I went wrong. As an established hero, he didn’t have to do that. I really admire him for it.”
Koothara – headlined by Mohanlal and Bharath – followed. “Ever since Avan Ivan, I’ve always worked with powerful actors. They’ve made life challenging for me in a good way. By pitting my skills against theirs, I feel that I’ve become better.”
It was after a year’s absence from Tamil screens that Janani returned with Thegidi. The detective film went on to become a surprise hit at the box office in 2014. The fact that it succeeded was not something Janani is surprised by, though. “When director P Ramesh met me, he said that the film will run for two hours and one minute. That kind of meticulous planning and superior organisational skills – of a producer like CV Kumar – can only lead to success. I knew what I was signing up for,” she smiles.
Janani also strongly believes in keeping matters – personal and professional – apart. It is key to a satisfying life, she insists “Actors, more than anybody else, are put in a situation where their professional lives takes over the personal. So many equations that we have outside of cinema are brought into the spotlight and made much of. So I consciously keep it separate.”
When not acting opposite ‘tall and handsome heroes’ – the likes of Arya and Vishal – Janani unwinds by travelling with a group of her closest friends. “Life gets claustrophobic sometimes. Being in the spotlight is not always agreeable to a person like me. I like to have a lot of space to myself. So when I desperately need time away, I travel with friends. If that’s somehow not possible, then my hard drive becomes my best friend.”
Watching romantic comedies is the best way to chill at home, she declares. “I don’t like action thrillers and all. I like to watch movies in my room by myself, and not let the outside world in. I forget my worries and frustrations that way. I cocoon myself and it helps.”
Janani has signed a Tamil film recently and will begin shooting for it in the next couple of months. Another film produced by CV Kumar is also on the cards.
The Janani Iyer interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.