Call her the Shakalaka Baby, The Monsoon Wedding girl, or the Pookari, Vasundhara is all excited. She comes across as a very confident person, full of life with her cute 'n' mischievous smile. A multilingual person, she can talk in Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu and Spanish. She wanted to pursue a career in singing but movies actually happened to her by chance. Recently in an exclusive interview, she spoke to Sify.com. Excerpts:
Q: You don’t look like a typical Tamil Iyengar ?
A: Yeah! It may be partly because of my hair, which I changed colour for Monsoon wedding. Very soon it will be going back to the normal colour. Then my eyes, though I’m a Tamil Hebbar girl I often make a dig at my parents telling them that our forefathers must have had some French connections! (smiles)
Q: We know that you took a sabbatical from studies and came to Chennai after your graduation scouting for chances to sing playback in films? Then how did you decide to act?
A: It is still a mystery to me. You can call it destiny. When I was in Chennai seeing a lot of people in the music industry, I started getting offers to do heroine roles, which shocked me. I told them, "How could you think that I can act? I haven’t done any acting in school or college." I tried to dissuade them but they wouldn’t leave me. Then the Hey Ram offer came, which was very tempting. How could I refuse Kamalji? Looking back it was a great learning experience and I rate him as one of India’s top actor-director.
Q: Did your family support your decision to join films?
A: My parents were not too happy about the idea initially, but they had tremendous confidence in me.
Q: You decided to do a Malayalam film Ravana Prabhu after Hey Ram? Why?
A: I was impressed by the way Ranjith, the script writer narrated the story. I liked the character of modern Janaki (Sita) who had the option of choosing a Rama or the Ravana in the film. My Ravana was a rowdy with a heart of gold willing to accept me with all my shortcomings and a Rama, who suspects me of staying in Ravana’s place and having two minds of accepting me. I thoroughly enjoyed doing the film. Initially I was worried about the language. But soon I found that Malayalam is very close to Sanskrit and Tamil. Mohanlal was very helpful and encouraging too.
Q: Then came Citizen. What drew you to accept the film?
A: After Hey Ram and Ravana Prabhu, I wanted to do a mainstream commercial film in Tamil, and I was approached for Citizen. I found the subject to be offbeat and accepted it. Though I thought that it was very easy to do running around trees and singing songs, I found it to be very challenging. It was again a great experience for me. Even now while doing stage shows in Kochi, Sri Lanka or Europe people want me to sing Pookkari.... Citizen has given me mass appeal.
Q: But the film had its own share of controversies. You were linked with the hero of the film. Please comment.
A: As I am settled in Bangalore, me, my friends or relatives hardly get to read and know the gossips making the rounds. I have no time to waste on such baseless rumours, as I am busy with my work.
Q: Are you being choosy about playback singing too, as music directors complain that you are very fussy?
A: When I was asked to do a guest role in Kushi, I rejected. But, I promised them to sing a song and thus the Kattipudi song happened. Later I realised that the song was vulgar in lyrics and picturisation. So now I insist on reading the lyrics of the song before deciding to sing. Moreover, I feel that my voice should not be overexposed.
Q: Tell us about your album - Meri Jaan?
A: The album is the outcome of a lot of hard work and encouragement of the people who believed in my work and me. The music was composed by Pravin Mani, directed by Shaad Ali and produced by Magna Sound. The video was shot in Agra at the Taj Mahal. I feel that it was critically acclaimed but not commercially a big hit.
Q: Coming to Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding. It recently made waves at Venice when it won the Golden Lion Award. Comment.
A: Mira Nair’s style of filmmaking called Dogma, which was going back to the basics without too many expensive sets. She was working in super 16 film and then enlarged it into 32 mm. We shot with a small hand held camera and scenes were played out from start to finish. Monsoon Wedding has won global appreciation and the movie was accepted because of its universal approach, even though the marriage traditions around the world are different, the crux of the movie is the concept of a wedding which appeals to all.
Q: So which is your priority right now? Doing meaningful cinema or being a successful singer?
A: I am an entertainer first. Be it cinema, singing playback or stage performance. For me acting career is right now in the back seat, as I’m little choosy about the whole lot of offers coming in. I want to play roles that have substance and strength of character. Language is not a barrier for me. I believe that doing 5 films and staying in people’s mind is better than doing 50 films and being forgotten. I am indeed lucky that all the 4 films that I’ve done are critically acclaimed. I feel that there is a time and place for everybody and slow and steady always win the race!
Q: Being such a brave and confident girl do you have any fears?
A: (Smiles) Of Course I’m very scared of darkness.
Q: All the best Vasundhara in future.
A: Thank you very much.