It is often said that a mother can go to extreme lengths when it comes to the safety of her child. Upcoming film ‘Penguin’ is one such story that follows a mother and her efforts to rescue her child.
Indian National Award winning actress Keerthy Suresh stars in this emotional bilingual thriller directed by debutant Eashvar Karthic, which premieres on Amazon Prime Video on June 19 in Tamil and Telugu.
Suresh, who began her career in Malayalam films such as ‘Geethanjali’ and ‘Ring Master’, also witnessed a meteoric rise in Tamil and Telugu cinema subsequently. Matching steps opposite stars such as Surya, Sivakarthikeyan, Vishal and Nani, it was her spontaneity and versatility that made her a darling of viewers.
Suresh won the Indian National Award for Best Actress in 2018 for her portrayal of the life of yesteryear South Indian star Savitri in the Telugu bio-pic ‘Mahanati’ (‘Nadigar Thilakam’ in Tamil), which depicted the tragic story of her rise to prominence, marriage to Tamil superstar Gemini Ganesan and her subsequent fall from grace, dying at the age of 45 after being in coma for 19 months and an alcoholic for many years.
After winning accolades for that role, Suresh was last seen in the Tamil film ‘Sarkar’ (2018) opposite Vijay.
‘Penguin’ brings her back to screen after nearly two years. In the film, Suresh plays Rhythm, a young mother whose son Ajay goes missing. Rhythm is also carrying her second child and the trauma she endures subsequently is explored at length in the thriller.
The story has been largely kept under wraps, with the trailer showing a man wearing a Charlie Chaplin mask who is terrorising Suresh. The supporting cast includes Linga, Madhampattu Rangaraj, Master Advaith, Nithya Kirubha, Harini, among others.
Ahead of the film’s world premiere on the streaming platform, Suresh spoke to Gulf News about the thriller. Excerpts from the interview...
What drew you to take on a mother’s role quite early in your career?
This is an emotional journey of a young mother who fights to protect her child. It’s a strong role. I was impressed with director Eashvar’s narration. It was so engrossing that four hours just whizzed by.
The National Award entrusted me with the responsibility of picking good roles. Post ‘Mahanati’ I listened to many scripts but had to decline around twenty.
Like ‘Mahanati’ in Telugu, I wanted to do a story in Tamil that people will remember. ‘Penguin’ is that. And, I have not worked on a thriller before. ‘Penguin’ is more a story on motherhood and women will connect with this.
For ‘Mahanati’ you had a point of reference, but for this mother what reference did you get?
Since Rhythm is pregnant with her second child, I spoke to my mother on basic things for this situation. For ‘Mahanati,’ the challenge lay in bringing out a personality — real and much loved. For Rhythm I did not refer any films. I wanted to explore her myself. I always place my trust on my director since he is the writer. My innumerable questions fielded by Eashvar helped me bring out the character he envisioned.
What were the challenges of playing Rhythm?
The costume and the belly of a pregnant woman going through a trauma — I had to crack it. Shooting in the cold late in the night in Kodaikanal was not easy. I fell sick. An unforgettable incident was the attack of bees in the forest where we were filming. All of us ran for cover. I had few stings but the rest of the crew members suffered seriously. Then on return to Chennai while doing patchwork, it was exasperating wearing winter clothes (in Chennai’s warm weather) for shooting scenes.
How was it working with a first-time director?
Eashvar’s clarity and his narration are his biggest strengths. He did not seem like a debutant on the sets. Despite many hurdles on location he completed ‘Penguin’ within 35 days and without compromising on its quality. I wish to work on another film with the same team.
Are you missing a theatrical release?
[Having an] OTT [Over-the-top or streaming] release is the best thing under the existing circumstances, though a theatrical release is completely different. We need to adapt with situations. With a digital release, the reach of the audience is wider. People world over will be watching ‘Penguin’ unlike a theatre outing.
How have you been spending the lockdown?
The last time I spent time with my family was during school days. Lockdown brought me home on a long break. It’s a joy being with my parents, sister and my grandmother. I have been doing workouts and yoga. I also picked up my violin, which I used to play in school. And, playing with my pup.
Don’t miss it!
‘Penguin’ premieres on June 19 on Amazon Prime Video.