The climax is the highlight of my film: director-actor Lakshmy Ramakrishnan
Ahead of Are You Okay Baby’s release, director-actor Lakshmy Ramakrishnan speaks about her film, her evolution as a filmmaker, life behind the camera and more.
Lakshmy Ramakrishnan juggles multiple roles in her everyday life – an actor, director, television personality and mother. From her first directorial Arohanam (2012) to her upcoming fifth film Are You Okay Baby, Lakshmy looks at her evolution as a filmmaker as a non-linear process. “I am in constant awe of the films that are released these days. But I also take time to look back at my own filmography and feel good about it. One can never say how much they have evolved. It is for the audience to make that decision depending on how deep a filmmaker has made a connection with them,” says Lakshmy.
Are you Okay Baby stars Samuthirakani and Abhirami in lead roles, and the film is slated for a September 22 release. Having had a long stint with the television industry through her talk show, Solvadhellaam Unmai, this film marks one of the first times she has taken inspiration of sorts from that facet of hers. “There is a life beyond what the audience see in front of the camera. It can be seen as snippets in this film where you can look at my experience and journey as an anchor. But that is not what the film is about. The film is about a child and I have a role where I’m an anchor of a reality show, but it is not centred around my show,” explains Lakshmy.
The actor-filmmaker believes that Are You Okay Baby doesn’t fit into the box of one genre. “When I started writing this film, I wanted the screenplay to be contemporary. I looked at the possibility of bringing in an emotional drama which has social elements and an investigative angle to it,” she shares. It has been almost two decades since Lakshmy turned actor, and she strongly believes that her acting was shaped by the acclaimed filmmakers who directed her. Over the years, Lakshmy has worked with directors like Mani Ratnam, Mysskin, Samuthirakani, Gautham Menon, and Vineeth Sreenivasan. “It is the filmmakers who shaped my performances. Otherwise, I don’t consider myself a good actor. I have a long way to learn and grow as an actor,” she says.
For Lakshmy, it is this learning that keeps her going, and it turns into a symbiotic relationship with her actors when she is directing a film. “To have talented artists occupy my frames is a beautiful experience. One of the highlights of Are You Okay Baby will undoubtedly be the 14-minute climax. Every actor on the screen, including Samuthirakani, Abhirami, Aadukalam Naren, Mullai Arasi, Kavithalaya Krishnan, Anupama Kumar and Uday Mahesh delivered their performances with such finesse. To witness them all in one frame, bringing to life my vision, was a dream come true,” says Lakshmy, adding, “When handling both acting and direction, we notice even the slightest of changes and nuances, and it is a huge advantage to delivering the right output for a film.”
Right from Aarohanam to Are You Okay Baby, Lakshmy’s directorials have been solid slice-of-life emotional stories. She strongly believes that writing is an endless process and all her stories are inspired by real characters. The primary aspect of Are You Okay Baby, which features Samuthirakani and Abhirami as a couple, is parenting. “Both of them make a beautiful pair on screen. I wish I could have shot more scenes with them. Although it is not the dialogue-heavy role Samuthirakani usually plays, his character is one of the strongest pillars of the film. We cannot underestimate the role of a father in parenting,” she explains. More often than not, such films tend to become preachy, giving the audience a lesson on life matters. While Lakshmy does believe cinema can initiate conversations, it cannot be the primary intent of a film. “We cannot give out a message through the film. I give my characters the highest importance. Are You Okay Baby will also be one such film. But when characters and their intentions are given the highest importance, it does have the potential to trigger the process of discussion among the audience,” she says.
Apart from parenting, another key aspect of Are You Okay Baby is the burden of gendered roles, especially on women in our society. In fact, even Lakshmy wasn’t above these bouts of self-doubts due to the structured social conditioning that has been prevalent for years together. “While making this film, I used to doubt myself many times if I was doing everything right. Was I making a mistake? Who will take care of things at home when I am shooting? I found it in myself to break free from this patriarchy to an extent. Although my husband was very supportive, I couldn’t always escape those gendered roles. That is why this is very hard for women.”
With her fifth directorial ready for release, being at the helm of a long-running show on television, and OTT literally being a household aspect now, how does the future look for the multi-faceted Lakshmy? “The medium doesn’t make a difference now, right? I am ready to break those lines and barriers given the modern technological advancements,” signs off a confident Lakshmy.