French philosopher and existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre said, “We are our choices.” Regina Cassandra, who has managed to avoid being boxed into a certain type of role despite her 16-year-old career, swears by this. “I didn’t plan my career to be this way. However, it was completely up to me to say a yes or a no to a role. In fact, after Kanda Naal Mudhal, I said an emphatic no to sister roles. It was always my choice,” says the actor, who was recently seen as the antagonist in Vishal-starrer Chakra.
There is a quiet confidence in the way Regina brushes off the possibility of Leela, her character in Chakra, determining the path of her future career. “Others can typecast us, but it is imperative that an actor be able to break the shackles constantly.” In both her previous Tamil release, Seven, and her last Telugu release, Evaru, Regina essayed roles with a lot of layers. The complexity of these characters is more than what many of her contemporaries get to essay.
“I think it has got a lot to do with my evolution as a person and an actor. I remember saying in interviews at the start of my career that I wanted to be part of nice love stories. Now, I like thriller films,” says Regina, adding that it is the process of getting into the skins of these characters that keep her ticking. “I love the fact that I can live these different characters. Understanding what that person would do, her thoughts, her likes, dislikes... I like that process.
I think of every little detail about my role. Be it make-up, hairstyling, mannerisms, I take everything very seriously. That is why I am not worried about being typecast. As an actor, I know what I’m doing to ensure each role stands out.” This effort is plainly visible in films like Awe and Evaru. “In Awe, I played a drug addict, and apart from director Prashanth Varma’s suggestion that she sport tattoos, I thought of giving her an undercut. Similarly, with Evaru, I wanted Sam to have short hair despite director Ramji thinking of long hair for the character.
When I picture a character, I develop the required mannerisms, and when the whole picture clicks in my head, I can deliver that role.” What about her roles in template masala films? “There might not be too many things that I bring to the table in those cases. So, it all boils down to my performance. Am I believable in that role? Does the audience find me convincing in that space? Take, for instance, my role in Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga.
I was complimented for looking like the typical next-door-girl who works in a xerox shop. In real life, I am in no way close to that girl. In commercial films, it is all about the entire package and how effectively it is presented.” Regina clearly has a grasp of how commercial entertainers work, and also the importance of her work in less conventional films. However, there is still one ‘missing’ aspect in her career. An actor’s worth is still judged by the number of ‘big hero’ films they are part of, and Regina is often asked why she hasn’t been part of such projects.
“I’ve been asked this by friends, family, industry insiders, fans… everybody,” sighs Regina. “The funny thing is, I’m not the one who should be answering this. I’ve never been able to pinpoint why I am not part of such films. However, with the advent of OTT, the landscape of cinema has changed. And I do hope this question eventually fades away.” Regina is, in fact, soon making her OTT debut with a SonyLIV series. And in 2019, she made her Bollywood debut with the Sonam Kapoor-starrer Ek Ladki ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. How does she see herself juggling successful turns in Tamil and Telugu cinema with these newer ventures? “To be honest, it is difficult.
You must be mindful of the career you chart. My last Telugu film was in 2019. I haven’t done a Telugu film since then. This wasn’t a break that I expected. But, it is a conscious decision to do films in both languages. Whenever I choose a film, I look at three important things — my role, the story, and how that film is going to affect my career,” says Regina, who feels it is also imperative for cinema, as a whole, to be constantly evolving.
She played a member of the LGBTQ community in her Hindi debut. LGBTQ representation in South cinema still has a long way to go, and Regina strongly believes the reach of medium has to be utilised well. “Cinema reaches the masses across various economic strata. If it fails to evolve with the times, then it is a huge problem.” Regina, who has an impressive line-up of films including Soorpanagai (a Tamil-Telugu bilingual), Flashback, and Arun Vijay’s next with Arivazhagan, recently stepped out of the safe confines of her home to resume filming in the post-Covid world.
“It was scary initially,” admits the actor, who signs off with a note of caution. “Although the availability of vaccines make the situation better, there is no reason for us to stop wearing masks, using sanitisers, and following simple safety protocols. Being safe is not a bad thing at all, now, is it?”