When you think of actors auditioning for their roles, you imagine them reading their lines with their potential co-stars or doing a photoshoot in their character’s costumes, but National Award-winning Indian actress Keerthy Suresh’s look test for her new film ‘Dasara’ was drastically unconventional.
Keerthy, the daughter of legendary actress and Menaka and producer G Suresh Kumar, was on call to play Vennela, a villager from the southern Indian state of Telangana, in ‘Dasara’.
This mammoth country action-thriller, also starring Telugu actor Nani and poised as his biggest pan-India release, is set against the backdrop of Singareni coal mines and explores turf wars, power politics among local gangs with Nani and Keerthy’s character spearheading a Good Vs Evil battle.
“We got right into our scene... My first test shot was to mix the cow dung with water and spread it across the floor. Everyone was skeptical about giving that shot to me, but I was fine with it,” said Keerthy in an interview with Gulf News ahead of its release.
You could hear the pride in her voice over the telephone call done as she was about to board a flight. While the idea of gathering animal dung with your bare hands may be distasteful for many city-bred stars, metropolis-raised Keerthy credits her actress and mother Menaka for helping her inadvertently pull of this test scene like a thorough professional.
“She grew up in a village and was born in an Agraharam – and not a hospital. Agrahara is a home with a long, not-so-wide passage and long corridor with seven to eight doors leading up to an outdoor yard. We were familiar with this rural set up. There was no way that I would get irritated by the cow dung smell either because we knew that cow dung stood for positivity and had the power to take out the bacteria from an area,” said Keerthy. In India, the manure from a cow is used as fertiliser and when dried/caked, it’s used as fuel. So rather than being put-off by her director’s demands, she was thrilled to play this part.
And, during her childhood, the actress whose credits include ‘Vaashi’, ‘Mahanati’ and ‘Rajinimurugan’, remembers putting ‘kolam’ (floral design made in front of the house with rice powder) in her maternal home and all these tiny details helped her gain confidence to play the sari-clad Vennela.
“I remember they used to clean my mother’s childhood home with the water mixed with cow dung because it was supposed to be very good … I have seen them even put it on the wall … so, I wasn’t fazed at all,” said Keerthy. Her co-star Nani, who is described bombastically as the ‘Natural Superstar’ of Telugu cinema in the trailer of ‘Dasara’, also did exceedingly well in the same scene test.
This film is touted as Nani’s biggest release of his career.
As ‘Dasara’ gets ready to release in the UAE cinemas on March 30, here’s Keerthy’s take on the following …
On ‘Dasara’ exuding the Kannada blockbuster KGF vibes:
“Barring the fact that both these films are set in coal mines, this film has nothing to do with ‘KGF’. ‘Dasara’ is completely different and this genre has never been explored before. This movie is set in the interiors of Telangana, their culture, their tradition. Our director belongs to that region and he has done full justice to it. Trust me, this film is going to be a visual and artistic feast for everyone.”
On ‘Dasara’ being a showcase for her male star Nani alone and her role being reduced to a token female presence:
“Honestly, the story of this film revolves around my character and I am the central point in this film. In my career, I have always tried to do characters that are meaty even if it’s a commercial film. I still want my space and in ‘Dasara’ I have gotten enough space and time to make my presence felt. Vennela was a beautiful character to perform. After you watch this film, you wouldn’t ask this question and you will take back your words. I am 99.5 per cent sure. Plus, our director Srikanth Odhela, has a great way of portraying women and children in his films. He has done a great job in ‘Dasara’ too.”
On her first thoughts in hearing the script:
“Initially, my director and I had communication issues because he narrated the script for four hours in a dialect from Telangana. I found the Telugu from that region difficult to understand and I had to get a translator to get a grip on the story. If I hadn’t gotten it translated since I found their accent strong, I may not have caught up with the script and understood the brilliance of it. His vision is extraordinary.”
On Oscar triumph of ‘RRR’ and its success throwing a spotlight on South Indian films:
“It’s the most exciting time to be an actor in South India today because we are able to make these interesting films with remarkable characters. I am constantly happy to be a part of cinema and I am more thrilled to be a part of our [South Indian] cinema. It’s a great time to be an actor.”
On playing a rural woman Vennela:
“Vennela’s traditional and rustic background didn’t feel alien to me and that’s probably because I have heard so many stories from my mother. Even today when I go to my mom’s maternal home, I put the kolam with my own hands in their house. It wasn’t an alien background at all. It’s not like I grew up in Poland either. This set-up felt familiar and was not out of my comfort zone. The character wasn’t out-of-the-box either.”
On working with Nani:
“We are very comfortable working with each other. We have known each other for a long time and we have always been in touch since ‘Nenu Local’ (2017). I have always told him that we should unite for a new project after that film, but we waiting for many years for the right project to come along and ‘Dasara’ was that ideal film … We keep talking about themes and improvisations. I am so happy I got to improvise with Nani in this film.”