- Magalir Mattum: Women uninterrupted
There is something about Jyotika that stays with you, hours after you speak to her. In an age when being a star comes with its own set of baggage, namma Jo’s — yes, we Tamil makkal take ownership of her too — easy-breezy chatty self is admirable. It’s one of the reasons why her on-screen bubbliness and vivacity captured the hearts of Tamil moviegoers several years ago. Though she took a break from the film industry after marrying her on-screen (and off) heartthrob Suriya, Jo’s come back in 2015 with 36 Vayadhinile created quite a buzz. Though the film was an average fare in revenues, her fan base continued to rally for her. Which is why her second film, a multi-starrer like Magalir Mattum (releasing this Friday), is being identified as a ‘Jo film’! As an accomplished actress, Jo seems to be doing her best work as she nears 40. We ask her about that and more; here are excerpts...
Much like the original Magalir Mattum, this film too seems to be about women empowerment. What has changed during this period for women in cinema?
It’s still a hero-dominated industry. That hasn’t changed at all. During my first stint, actresses were extremely talented, and they knew what they wanted. But there were no strong scripts for women then. And even now, look at the roles that are being written for women...you can’t blame the actors. We needed better writers then, and we need them now!
You must discuss this a lot at home...
Absolutely! Suriya and I have healthy discussions at home about this. Most of his films, except a few, have good roles for women. Take, for instance, films like Pithamagan, Sillunu Oru Kaadhal or 7aum Arivu. Actors can’t control everything. There are also commercial films that show women in a dignified way like Baahubali. The women were terrific, and I really liked the romantic portions too. Women do not fall in love in real life like the way it’s shown in other films. In fact, women aren’t how they’re shown in cinema. You bring in women into theatres when you show how they actually are.
Over the years, you seem to have shed your original manner of acting.
You are talking about my expressions, no? (Laughs) When I started out, I was barely 17. I didn’t have a proper understanding of cinema. Eventually, when an actress matures, she’s forced to quit. I learned to look at things differently after marriage and motherhood. Having said that, I also wonder why I did a few films.
Does marriage have anything to do with your reluctance to be part of masala films?
I’ve no restrictions, but I won’t do films that make me and my kids — Dev and Diya — feel uncomfortable. I want to be in films that they can be proud of. My daughter especially wants me to do quality films. She does her own homework. She has learned already how to be independent.
Both your films since your return have been produced by your home banner, 2D.
It’s really a big advantage for me. All thanks to Suriya.
You talk about being independent. At the same time, you come across as being dependent on Suriya.
Am I feminist? I don’t know. I think there’s a thin line between being independent and being a feminist. I don’t understand when some women try to be like men. Why do we need to be like them? We are far superior. I am proud to be a woman.
For the first time, you’ve dubbed for yourself in Magalir Mattum.
It was easy for me, but tough for Bramma. (Laughs) Every time I speak Tamil at home, Suriya smiles...ippo kooda. When I was in the studio, I expected people to laugh. They didn’t.
What about Magalir Mattum attracted you the most?
The plot touched me. I had a good feeling about it. The story isn’t just about my character. Seven of us have equal space in the film.
You have a film each with Mani Ratnam and Bala. It looks like this is the best phase of your career...
Pretty much, yes. I never got to work with big directors even when I was at the peak of my career. Both SJ Suryah and Gautham Menon were relatively new then. But there’s something I still want: a full-fledged action film.
Will we get to see you, Suriya and Karthi in a film?
I’d love for that to happen and I hope there’s a script somewhere that can accommodate all of us. We keep discussing films at home. Appa (Sivakumar) encourages us.
IN COMPANY OF HER CO-STARS
Nobody can drape a sari like her. She’s the embodiment of a classy Indian housewife.
We have a lot of scenes together in the film. She’s a powerhouse performer.
I’ve known her for quite some time, as she has done films with Suriya. So, there’s a great spark of familiarity when we get together.