I do not believe in preparation says Varalaxmi Sarathkumar

She along with actor ‘Mime’ Gopi and producer Mahendra Nath Kondla discuss their latest film, 'Sabari', and more...
Varalaxmi Sarathkumar
Varalaxmi Sarathkumar (Photo | Instagram - varusarathkumar)

CHENNAI: Varalaxmi Sarathkumar’s latest film 'Sabari', releasing on May 3, stars her as an anxious single mother. It is a character that would otherwise require an actor to do some homework. However, Varalaxmi does not believe in elaborate preparations before essaying a role, which is surprising given that her over-a-decade-old career encompasses everything from regular commercial film leads to a menacing villain to supporting characters with emotional arcs. Instead of extensive homework, Varalaxmi says, “I observe a character, the emotion in that role, and a scene’s tone, and perform accordingly.”

Delving more into the film, she says, “'Sabari' operates both as an emotional story between a mother and her daughter who are pushed to the brink and as a mind-bending psychological thriller.”

Going by its trailer, what it also has is a set of intense chase and stunt sequences. Talking about her fitness journey and how helpful it is in pulling off Sabari’s stunts, Varalaxmi says, “My line of work is my primary motivation to take up the weight loss journey, but some health issues made it all the more necessary for 'Sabari'. My current body frame makes me feel at ease while performing stunts. Earlier, I might hurt my knee trying to do a stunt fall. In general, I believe one can be healthy in any shape; if you can walk up a flight of stairs without panting, you are healthy no matter how you look.”

However, Varalaxmi confirms that 'Sabari' has no quintessential fight scenes. “Though I am now open to doing stunts, their placement shouldn’t feel forced,” says the actor while adding, “The stunts in Sabari are designed in a way that the lead fights impulsively, like a cornered cat.”

When it comes to Varalaxmi and Mime Gopi’s approaches to film and character choices, the latter says that he will take on even a one-scene role as long as it leaves an impact. “It is necessary that I am told how my character interacts with others in scenes. More importantly, the roles should appeal to the actor in me and have novelty,” he says. In agreement with her co-star, Varalaxmi reveals, “It is necessary for me too; if something in the film or my role is attractive, I would readily sign up for it.” Of course, Varalaxmi has played negative roles in films such as 'Sarkar', 'Sandakozhi 2', 'Veera Simha Reddy', and 'Kondraal Paavam'. Talking about these roles, Varalaxmi says, “I am not gravitating towards them, but they choose me. Further, people like to see me in roles that challenge the leading men in my films. I felt honoured hearing from fans that, after Ramya Krishnan ma’am, they like seeing me give male heroes a run for their money on screen.”

On the other hand, Gopi regards the late actor Raghuvaran as his inspiration for mostly taking up bad-guy roles in films. Having his roots in mime, a purely visual form of art, Gopi says his transition to the audio-visual medium of cinema has been smooth. “Mime is the first way of communication among people, as sounds and languages only emerged later on. I have to convincingly convey a statement solely with expressions in a mime performance. Do you think I will find it hard to transfer a piece of information orally? Not really.”

‘Mime’ Gopi
‘Mime’ Gopi

CE asked both actors if verbal descriptions are important to imbibe certain traits of a character, as they, on different occasions, were candid about their aversion to reading books. Answering first, Gopi says, “According to me, written words are restrictive. It can state someone is blind, but if I have to understand a blind person’s orientation technique where they turn and shake their head, I have to observe a person rather than read a book.” Seconding Gopi, Varalaxmi adds to his statement, “Also, readers think differently, which is why Harry Potter book lovers found something amiss in its film adaptations. Observing people is of tantamount importance for me since I mostly find the quirks I am looking for in the sets.”

Coming back to 'Sabari', when asked what debutant director Anil Katz brings to the table from his ad-filmmaking experience, Varalaxmi says, “Anil knows how to run a set, divide and frame shots, and keep actors comfortable. We can’t call him a debutant in the traditional sense.” Debut producer Mahendra Nath Kondla attests to this, saying, “Anil was also an assistant director in a few feature films, so he knows what he is doing.”

The psychological thriller wrapped up filming as early as December 2022. When asked about the reason for the delay in its release, the producer says, “The hurdles it faced were on the technical front, not financial. Me being a debutant, I did not know how to present a film in multiple languages, so I did some reworks.” Addressing whether the film is relevant since it has been two years since the completion of its production, Varalaxmi responds, “The plot is not bound to a particular time period.”

“'Sabari' is a neat commercial thriller with entertainment value and without any messages. We have also tried two or three unexplored aspects of this genre,” says Varalaxmi as she signs off.

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The New Indian Express