Though only two films old, Aishwarya Lekshmi has managed to create, with her second film Mayanadhi, the impact of an A-lister who has already completed more than ten films. The Aashiq Abu film, which released on home video recently, is still a major topic of discussion among film buffs from Kerala as well as other states. Aishwarya's third film Varathan, which sees her paired opposite Fahadh Faasil, is all set to release by August end. There is something relatable in it for every Malayali, she says.
"I play Priya, who is a strong and intense character. Priya and Abin (played by Fahadh Faasil) are the two central characters. It's a colourful movie made in a distinct way. Once you see the first half itself you'll see that it's the sort of movie that gives a bang for your buck. It's definitely something worth watching in the theatre."
Being an Amal Neerad film, Aishwarya says audiences can expect in Varathan all the director's usual trademarks, and more.
"It's an edge-of-the-seat experience. I'm not saying this as an actor in the movie; I'm saying this as an audience member. It's made for the audience. It's a proper thriller that incorporates various other stories which are in the film. It's got a substantial, message-driven story with beautiful visuals.I'm absolutely proud to be a part of this movie."
When asked whether she expected Mayanadhi to get a stupendous response, she says, "When I join a film, I do everything as per the instructions of my director and hope that everything works out well. And the rest of the time, I pray. I'll be in all the temples and churches till the movie comes out (laughs). Obviously, like every other actor, I want my movie to be loved and discussed. I always do my best. Everything else, I leave to God."
Aishwarya's complex character in Mayanadhi spawned a lot of thought-provoking debates, especially among a section of men who viewed the character in a negative light. "Appu did what she did because she felt it was better for her", says Aishwarya. "Another similar example is Anusree's character in Maheshinte Prathikaram. She chose to abandon the man who loved her. When a man does the same thing, it doesn't become a discussion point. Why is it only wrong when a woman does it? Cinema is a reflection of society and sometimes vice versa too. All these discussions mean that it struck a chord somewhere."
The success of Mayanadhi hasn't particularly changed the way she selects her movies, says Aishwarya. "As I'm a newcomer, I'd like to mention the saying, 'Beggars can't be choosers' -- by which I don't mean going to people and begging them for roles (laughs). I look for the best script out of the lot and put my whole heart into it. I'm always praying for the best roles, best scripts and best team. I hope to work with all the directors and co-stars I've worked with again because they are all brilliant and the best in the industry. So, I haven't made any conscious choices; I'm still doing what I did before, with the hope that the next best thing will surely come. Thankfully, I'm getting good roles."
On the shortage of strong, well-written female characters in South Indian cinema, she says, "The thing is, aside from the art, we also have to see it from a commercial standpoint. If there is a strong hero to complement a strong heroine, then that would work hugely in the film's favour. I think if all us decided to groom ourselves better and work towards becoming better actors, maybe we'll get to see more well-written female characters. But the scriptwriters also need to be serious about this (laughs). "
Though she has received offers from outside Kerala, she believes that the level of satisfaction and perfection achieved in Malayalam cinema cannot be replicated outside. "We are from here, we know the language and all the stories. And we are aware of all the subtleties and underlying thought processes which are local. I don't see the point in doing a role without learning that language first. When someone is dubbing, that perfection is not there."
Aishwarya's next film is Vijay Superum Pournamiyum with Asif Ali. The film, she clarifies, is not a remake of the Telugu hit Pelli Choopulu (starring Vijay Devarakonda and Ritu Varma). "It's a beautiful movie. The Pournami in the title is my character's name. It's not a serious film; it has a fun and jolly vibe to it. It's a family drama with a little bit of romance."