Malavika Mohanan who got nationwide recognition last year thanks to Majid Majidi’s Beyond the Clouds is ecstatic about having a great start to 2019 too. The Malayalam actor has made her Tamil debut with last week’s Petta alongside Rajinikanth and a whole host of other stars including Vijay Sethupathi and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. “This is the first time I’ve been involved in a film of such magnitude, in terms of reach. I’ve been getting so many messages.Since I wasn’t shown in the trailer, people seem to like that my role was a surprise element,” says Malavika.
Malavika’s inclusion in Petta wasn’t just because of the Majid Majidi directorial.
“Actually Karthik Subbaraj sir saw me two years ago on the sets of a Malayalam film opposite Fahadh Faasil which, for some reasons, never ended up releasing. Then he again saw me in the trailer of Beyond the Clouds and thought of me for the role of Poongodi,” says Malavika who was initially called by Karthik’s team for another project. “I didn’t get a call from them for a month, and when they finally called, I thought it was that project. Then they said it was for a film with Rajini sir and that was a twist I never imagined.”
The Pattam Pole actor then had to do a screen test for Petta. “It is a look I’ve never sported before, so Karthik sir wanted to see how the character would look like. There’s also an old age get-up; so he wanted to cast someone convincing for both get-ups even though the old age one is a small, even if crucial, one.”
Calling it an “absolute honour” to get to work with Rajini, Malavika says, “I liked him a lot even before working with him, and now, after Petta, I fell in love with the person he is. People say nice things about each other in interviews but it’s from the heart when I say he’s the most humble person one can hope to meet.” Comparing him with other big stars, Malavika says Rajini is the most approachable.
“He’s not just a superstar but more than that. Other stars usually have an entourage around them making it tough to approach them but in Rajini sir’s case, it’s quite the opposite. I remember the first day on the sets when he came up to me and struck a conversation just to make me comfortable. He broke the ice with me as he must have realised how nervous I was.” The actor says he learnt a lot from Rajini as well. “He’s very observant and that’s one of the most important characters an actor must have. That’s when an actor can react accordingly and a scene can happen with conviction.”
Malavika, who doesn’t get nervous easily, felt apprehensive about performing in front of such a cast.
“There were brilliant actors and directors, and I was the freshest one in that pool. So the thought of it was intimidating but on the sets, everyone was so sweet. It felt more like we were all school kids in a picnic. I got to talk a lot about films and industries with them too. It’s not every day that one can sit and talk with Rajinikanth sir, Trisha, Mahendran sir and Nawazuddin Siddiqui,” says the actor.
Ask her if she had any apprehensions of playing an older woman in the second half, she says, “Majority of my portions showed me in my actual age and the audience actually knows how old I’m as well (laughs). Anushka played Prabhas’ mother in Baahubali for a much larger chunk, so it doesn’t really matter.” The actor was keen to make the perfect first impression. “All the scenes are shot as groups, and I can’t even imagine how embarrassing it would be if I goofed it up. The last thing I wanted was to mess up my lines in front of Rajini sir (laughs).”
The actor’s filmography makes it apparent that she’s up for working in any language. “For me, it has always been about the content. There are a lot of artistes I admire in various languages, so working with them is all I can hope for. I don’t think the language matters, and as a South Indian, I can relate to Tamil. I’m a fan of Mani Ratnam sir’s films and AR Rahman sir’s music, so I can say that I’ve been influenced by the Tami film industry,” concludes the actor, who’s making her Telugu debut too this year.