Kalieaswari Srinivasan is a sought after actress these days. Everyone who meets her wants to know about Cannes and her experience. After all, you don’t see a simple Tamilian in sari being clicked away on the Cannes red carpet every year.
Kali, as she is fondly called, is ecstatic that her first film Dheepan has received rave response in film festivals and won the Palme d’Or award in Cannes.
While the film is being talked about everywhere and praises are pouring in for her, Kali is in her happy place, working in plays with children and in her troupe. “In fact, right after coming back from Cannes, I worked in a play. That too as a substitute,” laughs Kali.
Kali does not want to describe her journey into films as ‘theatre to movies’. “It’s acting that took me there. It is because of theatre that I was chosen for a movie and just because a movie came my way I won’t forget theatre. Theatre is something that changed my life for good,” she says. Training artistes and getting trained has taught her a lot in life and she promises to continue doing theatre.
The Chennai-girl, who says she was always good in studies, quit her masters to join theatre and was spotted by Yog Japee of Theatre Y. “I had attended his voice modulation workshop where you are taught some basics of theatre too. Yog spotted me in one of the acting exercises and asked me to deliver a monologue and he liked it. So, I don’t know if I should call acting my destiny or an accident,” she said.
Ask her about her love for the stage and she says it is too personal a question. “When I am on stage, I surrender myself. Something takes over me and I become the character; I am a tool and the stage takes care of me like a mother. I live for moments like that and the stage teaches you to be grounded,” she says. Her first feature film Dheepan came her way, when her friends asked her to audition.
Incidentally, many who had auditioned for the role of Yalini, the Sri Lankan woman, did not fit the bill. “The casting director was not just looking for an actor who could act, he wanted something beyond that. When I went in, he told me that you know the techniques, but here I want you to bare your soul,” she says.
Dheepan is a film about a Sri Lankan refugee who flees to Paris and shares an apartment with two strangers and they pose as a family. “It is a very simple story and in it’s simplicity lies the complexity,” she contended.
For her role, Kali took the help of a woman from the Puzhal refugee camp. “The hero of the film is a Sri Lankan and the the little girl is also a Sri Lankan who is settled in Paris but speaks impeccable Tamil. When I spoke to her in the Tamil I knew, she straight away told me that it isn’t the right Tamil. But in a few days I was able to talk the Sri Lankan Tamil,” she shared.
Talking about her Cannes experience, she said that she saw two sides of the city. “There is one side where people are dressed gorgeously and are getting clicked, and then there is the other side where people, without water or food, just stand in lines to catch a few movies.” The film is yet to release in India, but, Kali and her team have garnered great response from film lovers across the world. After this stint, Kali is in talks for Tamil films as well.