CHENNAI: After the success of Kanaa, which while being marketed with Sivakarthikeyan-related promos was still a project with Aishwarya Rajesh at its centre, I ask if the actor feels that she now commands a central presence at least when it comes to small films.
“Nothing like that. Neenga vera (laughs),” she says. “It is impossible to get to that place after just one film. Its a time when the films of many bigger stars aren’t doing as well as expected; I am still very much only a budding star.”
She’s a firm believer in the power of good content.
“It doesn’t matter if a film is big or small,” she says and adds that Mei, her recent film, is an example of the sort of content she likes to champion.
“The film is a medical crime thriller revolving around three characters (herself, Nicky Sundaram and Kishore) that provides an important message for the society. I have never done a film like this before. As a script, I found it to be new.”
Prior to the release of Mei, at the film’s press meet, she talked about how she could relate to this film, and how it will expose irregularities in the medical field.
“It is not that I cannot afford a lakh for medical expenses, but why should I give them so much? I couldn’t sleep for two days after parting with such a large amount of money. It’s close to two months of pay for me. Think of a middle-class person. It could be almost six months worth of salary for them. I wasn’t in any position to argue or fight; I just had to cough up the money.”
What change does she think this film will create?
“I am trying to create awareness about the importance of being wary. People should learn to self-medicate for small illnesses like, say, a fever. Take a blood test if necessary, without necessarily pushed into taking tests like ECG. Getting yourself admitted to a hospital for small things is not required. We should be able to identify our disease correctly without panicking, and refuse to take random tests.”
The film sees her having a lot of combination scenes with the hero, Nicky Sundaram.
“He doesn’t know the language and doesn’t have a great deal of experience in this industry. For him, shooting in India was itself a new experience.
But he put in so much effort into learning his lines. I have done multi-lingual films, so I understand how hard it must have been for him.”
Aishwarya sheds light on how she approaches dialogues in a film.
“I don’t take prompting. Only when I do not have time and have no other choice, do I opt for it. But even when that happens, I remember to take some minutes off and try to learn my lines. In cinema, you have to be independent. If you trust someone, kaala vaari vitruvaanga.”
Mei is her latest collaboration with a debut director.
“New teams and strong scripts excite me. I see these new collaborations as akin to travelling. You meet new people, learn new languages, try new food. You can enhance yourself through these experiences.”
Aishwarya empathises with new directors. “I am shooting a film with Dhana for Madras Talkies. Be it him or Baskaran, the director of Mei, they are all under pressure to deliver. The production houses would have invested `5-10 crores in a film, and if one day of shoot gets missed, it might accrue losses to the tune of several lakhs. Even if I am unwell, I make sure I never get out of the set.”
This is why she says she’s a stickler for punctuality. “If there is a 7 am shoot, I will typically leave to the location by 5.30 am. But those in other departments often begin their working day at 4 am.”
For an actor who takes the pains to express so much empathy, I point out that her choice of doing a Fair and Lovely commercial is odd, given that she has previously gone on record about facing discrimination for skin colour. She turns defensive.
“Let’s avoid this question. I don’t want it. Please don’t ask me this in an interview about Mei.”