The Nandita Sweta interview where she talks about sacrificial lambs, why innocence is difficult to portray and her lady fans
When Nandita talks about Kalaivani, in a tone suffused with warmth, we are much inclined to think that she’s a close friend. She is currently filming Idam Porul Eval in Kodaikanal; and as her voice crackles to life on the phone and drops yet again, thanks to a poor connection, we are pretty sure that Kalaivani is someone she knows intimately. Someone who has played an important role in her life. Nandita laughs at Kalaivani’s naivete, exclaims in delight about her wiggly school-girl braids and the pavadai-thavani she wears; comments on her silence and even gets quite defensive while fielding questions about her. “She is just a normal school girl,” begins the actress, “Kalaivani lives in the 1980s, so she is very innocent. Her world is limited to her family, her house and the town she lives in.”
Kalaivani is her character in Mundasupatti; Nandita’s upcoming movie with Vishu Vishal. Touted to be a comedy, the movie is set in a fictitious village. “I don’t know why I end up with all the innocent roles,” she declares with mock exasperation, “They are very difficult to portray.” Kalaivani had to chase down an “aattukutti” in Mundasuppatti, christen it; and was even required to weep when it was made a meal of (“I can’t tell you more, you can watch her tomorrow”). “Kalaivani is that innocent, you know?” she explains, “we all know that an aattukutti will be made into a curry sooner or later. But she doesn’t.” Laughing, she adds, “I’ve never chased down lambs before. Not even once.”
Nandita also uses the word ‘homely’ to describe a lot of things. Kalaivani of Mundasupatti is ‘homely’; P Ranjith was looking for a ‘homely’ girl for Attakkathi; and she is comfortable essaying only ‘homely roles’. Not that she wouldn’t say no to a dash of glamour, Nandita adds quickly, but it has to be a “family entertainer” all the same. [quote align=’right’]Kumudha in Idharkuthaane Aasaipattai is well-known for her angry stare, I do that too; and Kalaivani in Mundasupatti is very silent. I was like her when I was young.”[/quote]
She’s anything but the naïve little girl at home, though – no matter the many parellels she draws between Kalaivani and herself. She’s, in fact, quite the rebel. Hailing from an orthodox family in Bangalore, she had a tough time convincing her folks about entering cinema. When she landed the titular role in the Kannada film Nanda Loves Nandita in 2008, her parents went ballistic. “They didn’t agree. I usually take up only the ‘homely’ roles. There were several other offers that called for glamour. I didn’t even tell them about it,” she giggles conspiratorially. Eventually – “I refused to talk to them for a week” – the parents had to give in. “They told me, ‘finish this and get back to your education’. I was bright in school and that didn’t help things either,” she grins. “I obeyed them. I went back and finished college.” Now, five movies later (she has four others coming up), they are slowly getting used to the idea. “They know what happens in cinema now; and at the shooting spot. So they are alright.”
[quote align=’left’]”I don’t know why I end up with all the innocent roles,” she declares with mock exasperation, “They are very difficult to portray.”[/quote]Acting, Nandita would like to say, is something that happened by chance. Not that she didn’t see it coming either. “My dance performances at school would be much appreciated. Walking back home, I would receive a dozen pats on the back. I enjoyed all that. I would still be talked about a month later.” I was silent as a child though, she adds thoughtfully. Like Kalaivani. I learnt how to interact with people only after I entered cinema. Post Nanda Loves Nandita, the young actress was deluged with offers from the Tamil film industry. “I rejected many because there were a lot of actors in the cast. I was looking for a good introductory shot as well. It makes an impression, you know?” And finally, after a dozen calls from P Ranjith, she agreed to screen-test for Attakkathi. “I wore half sari for the first time then. I liked what I saw in the mirror. It was a whole new Nandita.” But she was more elated when the reviews poured in. “I was told that I looked like a Chennai girl,” laughs Nandita, “the best part is, I didn’t even know Tamil then!”
She is wiser now, can distinguish between Coimbatore and Madurai dialects, and speaks flawless, chaste Tamil save for a few mishaps. “I wanted to learn the language; overcome that barrier. I used to speak Tamil to everyone, watch a lot of movies and never cared even when people used to laugh at me. Imagine how I must have sounded in the interviews that happened after Attakkathi!” She wants to dub for herself soon, she says. “I have a little difficulty with the different dialects. Ainthaam Thalaimurai.. calls for Madurai baashai, but I’m getting there.”
Nandita chooses her scripts carefully these days. She’s quite alright with glamour, “but doesn’t want to expose too much skin”, wants a prominent role “even if it’s a small one” and would think twice about essaying something that is closer to her original self. Ivlo kashtapattu indha role pannirukkangale nu sollanum. “I can’t help it sometimes though. Kumudha in Idharkuthaane Aasaipattai is well-known for her angry stare, I do that too; and Kalaivani in Mundasupatti is very silent. I was like her when I was young.”
But it was Ethir Neechal, in which she played the role of Valli, a disgraced athlete that won her many “lady fans”. Yes, lady fans. “There was no glamour in it. Nothing. Funnily, I was quite conscious about that role. I was never into sports. I used to play badminton, but have never participated in a race. My director was confident though,” she says. “I didn’t have the physique that athletes do. But my director said that’s what he was looking for. Valli had quit the circuit, so I had to look unfit. I did run and swim everyday though.”
Nandita is also quite confident that she would fit any kind of profile. Of course, she’s had her fair share of unsolicited advice – “some tell me I am best-suited only for village dramas; that I cannot be glamorous. I am not Kalaivani or Poorni (Attakkathi), you know. I was raised in Bangalore.” But she prefers steering clear of “item numbers” all the same. “I won’t be accepted. I know my weakness.” And her strengths too, we think.
Nandita is currently wrapping up shoot for Aindhaam Thalaimurai Sidha Vaidya Sigamani – “a light-hearted comedy” with Bharath – “I sync well with comedy and I’m getting many such roles after Idharkuthaane…I had to put on weight for this one. I’m playing a Madurai woman. When you watch Mundasupatti and then Aindhaam, you will notice a drastic difference in my physique.” She is also dancing for the first time in this flick – “I have already filmed two songs, there’s one left. It would probably take another month or so for the movie to hit theatres.”
In Idam Porul Eval, directed by Seenu Ramasamy, Nandita plays Venmani, a farm girl. “It is one of my toughest roles yet. The director said I should behave like a boy. Venmani is a wildling. She is not scared of anything. And, my make-up is pretty dark in this movie.” Also, Nandita adds after a thought, you definitely won’t be seeing the Vijay Sethupathi and Nandita of Idharkuthaane Aasaipattai Balakumara.
There’s also Anjala, the flick with actor Vimal, produced by Dhilip Subbarayan. “The movie is done, we just have to film a song,” she says before the line dies again.
Mundasupatti, starring Vishu Vishal and Nandita, releases tomorrow.