Ispade Rajavum Idhaya Raniyum (IRIR) ends with a dedication card to Kaatru Veliyidai and Tamasha among other films. The similarity between the Ranjit Jeyakodi directorial and those films has to do with the complicated romance at the heart of the story. However, this is not the first time actor Shilpa Manjunath, who plays the chic and sophisticated Tara in IRIR, finds herself in the middle of such a romance.
Her debut in Tamil cinema was as the feisty Parvathi in Kaali, a married woman, but in love with a dacoit played by Vijay Antony. “It wasn’t a plan to feature in only complicated romances,” she says with a laugh.
“In fact, I was initially hesitant to do IRIR because Arumbae’s (the song in Kaali) reach gave me a totally different image. I was afraid that doing this film may put my career in jeopardy because, no matter how good your performance is, it is the project that helps your longevity.”
The Bengaluru-born actor reveals that though she could relate more to her IRIR character though. “People who know me in real life know that Parvathi in Kaali was quite dfferent. I guess though that every girl, however modern, is traditional inside. I too loved to get dressed like a bride, with the long hair and elaborate sarees,” says Shilpa, whose chacter in IRIR has been the topic of much conversation about her choices, and for being part of an abusive relationship.
“There is no right or wrong. If you are in love, and something feels right, it is right. If at all you want to go away, then that too is right. This is the crux of this film. If you are happy to get love, you must also have the strength to receive the rejection,” feels the actor, who shares that her voice in the film that has fetched her a lot of appreciation.
“After listening to the narration, I wanted to give more than what I am capable of, for the role. I learned Tamil and dubbed for myself. I feel proud that I have started learning a classical language that’s more than 2,000 years old,” says Shilpa.
She compares learning Tamil to scaling a mountain. “Even during Kaali, when I tried to speak in Tamil, everybody would tease me. I knew my voice was my strength, but I know this wasn’t going to be easy,” she says. “I faced much criticism, from my own team. People said my voice was not good, and the responses left me confused, and forced me to take a social media sabbatical.
The only person who believed in me was my director Ranjit.” However, she is rejoicing ever since the film’s release due to all the compliments coming her way. “It feels great. I was waiting for the film to come out and speak for itself. My role could have so easily gone awry had the screenplay faltered. The audience needed to sympathise with Tara.”
Any romance story worth its salt requires impressive chemistry between the leads. Harish Kalyan’s performance as a brash, angry young man has received a lot of plaudits. “When I watched the film, I was astounded by his performance. Now that I have seen it, I feel I could have lifted my acting a notch or two higher,” she says.
Shilpa thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere in the theatre while IRIR played. “I watched people whistling, clapping, and totally enjoying the film. Towards the climax, they were at the edge of their seats. I could see their eyes glistening with tears, and that’s when I knew that we had done it!” says Shilpa. Though she’s started off with some unusual characters, Shilpa doesn’t rule out playing a regular heroine. “I am lucky to have got such well-written roles so early, but I don’t think I’d reject playing the heroine in a star-driven film or one by a prominent filmmaker. The plan is, I want to act for a long time.”