Dubai: In 2014, GEMS Our Own Indian School student Sadhna Lakshmi Venkatesh brought India’s prestigious National Film Award for acting to Dubai.
She won the award for the Best Child Artiste for her debut movie Thanga Meengal (Gold Fish) which also bagged the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil.
Four years later, Sadhna, now a grade 10 student, is taking Dubai’s name to international level with her second movie ‘Peranbu’ a.k.a ‘Resurrection’.
The Tamil-Malayalam bilingual movie saw its world premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam which ended early this month.
Sadhna, 15, who has acted as the daughter of Malayalam megastar Mammootty, walked the red carpet in the Netherlands during the screening of the movie that also got ranked among the top 20 films that won the Audience Award from among 187 films.
Sadhna does not have any dialogue in the movie. But her role as a child with cerebral palsy having a strong bond with her father stole the hearts of the audience who received her with thunderous applause at the festival.
International film buffs praised her amazing acting skills so much that some even acknowledged their initial belief that she was actually a child with cerebral palsy until they saw her, videos of her interaction with the audience after the film’s premiere showed.
How you managed to keep your fingers bent, she was asked by one of them.
“I was training for the film for almost two months. It was really very difficult for me,” said Sadhna.
“I wonder how I did it actually. Watching the film, now it’s like ... heaven … I can’t even believe that I could even do all those things. It is such a blessing. I am really happy that I am blessed and fortunate to do this role,” the young actress said.
As for what she found the most difficult thing to do, she said: “Getting into the character.”
“I am a normal child. [For doing this role], not only physically, mentally also you have to go through a lot because the film talks about many problems [a child with special needs faces]. And it is very important to understand those problems to enact it. [In the] first place, I had to understand the whole film, understand the concept of loving and then enact it. That was a very different and difficult experience.”
Written and directed by Ram, who also made Sadhna’s first film, Peranbu is Mammootty’s Tamil movie after a long gap. It will hit the theatres after making rounds in some more international film festivals.
Sadhna, who thanked both Ram and Mammootty for giving her the chance and making her comfortable during the shoot, is all excited about the release of the movie which was in the works for two years.
I wonder how I did it actually. Watching the film, now it’s like ... heaven. I can’t believe that I could do all those things. I am really happy that I am blessed and fortunate.”
- Sadhna Lakshmi Venkatesh | Student and actress
Special mission and message
She is also excited that the movie will send a positive message to the masses about children with special needs.
However, she considers herself luckier to have helped children of determination while she trained herself for the movie.
During her summer vacation in 2015, her parents Venkatesh and Lakshmi took Sadhna to the National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPMD) in Tamil Nadu, from where the family hails.
The little actress spent her time interacting with the children there to learn the way the differently abled children sit, walk, move around and interact with others.
Her dedication and congeniality impressed the NIEPMD officials. They sought her help for launching a new app to assist with speech therapy for children of determination.
Venkatesh said Sadhna recorded some 650 words for the audio-visual used for teaching those children.
“She considers that mission as one of her biggest blessings,” said Venkatesh.
A winner of Shaikh Hamdan award in 2016, Sadhna, who helps her schoolmates with special education needs, is her school’s pride, said Lalitha Suresh, principal of GEMS Our Own Indian School.
“Sadhna is absolutely grounded even with all this fame and association with movies. She is into science project works and she represented the school in the Global Innovation Challenge,” she told Gulf News.