In case you’ve been wondering what Tharangam girl Santhy Balachandran has been up to, we have some news for you. The actor is part of Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu, and has bagged a sports drama titled Aaha as well as Vedivazhipadu director Shambu Purushottaman’s second film, a satire titled Paapam Cheyathavar Kalleriyatte.
It was Santhy’s interest in human behaviour that led her to do her studies in anthropology and, subsequently, make the transition to acting. “There are definitely connections between the two,” she says. “Both anthropology and acting are about being in other people’s shoes—understanding them, their perspectives, their logic, and figuring out their inner voice. The subjects I’ve studied expanded my horizons.” When it came to her education, Santhy’s parents didn’t push her to take the conventional path. “They have always stood by me and given me the freedom to explore different things and find my own way.”
Though she had participated in plays since childhood, including a Mahesh Dattani play she did in Hyderabad University called 30 Days In September, it was the Harold Pinter play The Lover that made her seriously consider acting as a profession. It was her first professional play. For her, its script was the primary impetus.
“You can interpret this play in any way you want. It can either be intensely dramatic, or funny, or dark. It’s got just two actors, and there is scope to improvise. Since the content is already great, it makes things a bit easier.”
It was the play that fetched her the parts in her debut films Randu Per and Tharangam. She describes the experiences as two different extremes. As opposed to a star-studded film like Tharangam, Randu Per is a small-budget contemporary love story shot by a minimal crew.
Currently, she is part of Roshan Mathew’s play, A Very Normal Family, about a family trying to deal with a divorce. So far, the team has organised seven shows. “We started working together last year. There was a constant evolution in the material as we went forward. The feedback between the actors and writer led to some improvisations in the script. It was a beautiful, collaborative effort,” she adds.
Does she find plays more thrilling than films? “I find both thrilling in their own way. The thing with plays is that they gave me a sense of community and belonging which was very important for me after moving from abroad,” she says. “A certain amount of effort is required to orient yourself to either method. When you’re doing a play, it’s easier to stay focused. You respect the time and you get to be more consistent. Once you’re on, you’re on.
Unlike in films you’re not going back and forth and there are no multiple takes. One has to be really prepared beforehand. It’s a very enriching process. With a film, you have to tune out the chaos around you. You have to carve out your own space and that requires a different set of skills. Whatever you do is helpful because it keeps you sharp and focused.”
Santhy is very tight-lipped about Jallikattu, and understandably so. “All I can say is that I’m grateful to have been part of the film. I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with a brilliant team.”
She is looking forward to doing more interesting roles and doesn’t believe there is such a thing as a “small” role.
“There is always something you can get out of a role regardless of its duration,” she explains. “I consider various factors. Sometimes it’s the story or sometimes the crew. If the crew is brilliant, you want to be around them. Be it Tharangam where most of them were newcomers or Jallikattu where almost everyone is a veteran, you get to learn something from all of them.”