Soundarya is one of the few surviving South Indian actresses doing mainstream commercial cinema. She comes across as a rare classic beauty on the silver screen. The diva has seduced the audience with her powerful and versatile performances. Till recently this Kannadiga beauty from Bangalore was Telugu cinema’s ‘numero uno’ actress. Soundarya has played heroine to Indian cinema’s biggest demi-gods like Amitabh Bachchan, Rajnikanth, Chiranjeevi and Kamalhassan. Though she has largely been identified with her glamour roles, recently she changed tracks and started doing strong feminist roles in parallel cinema. She had produced and acted in Girish Kasaravalli’s classic Dweepa, which bagged the National Award for the Best Regional film. The film also bagged a major chunk of the Karnataka State Awards, including the Best Actress for 2001.
Excepts of an exclusive interview where
she speaks in detail about her attitude, marriage and career.
Q: Congratulations! For bagging the National Award for Dweepa, the Best Regional Film of 2001 and for completing 100 films with Sokkathangam.
A: Thanks! (Smiles) I am very happy to have survived so long in an industry where heroines fade out after a dozen films. I owe it all to my audience who made me popular. I am still starry eyed about the whole thing. And Dweepa was a dream come true for me.
Q: As a heroine your success ratio has been simply amazing.
A: I have done some great movies and some not-so-great ones. I can’t ask for more now.
Q: How did you become so popular in Telugu cinema?
A: I have represented the Indian woman in almost all my films. I refused to be typecast as a glamour girl. Unfortunately women are suppressed in our society and in a male-dominated industry, I have tried my best to portray the characters with conviction and that went down well with the lady audience in the state. I have a huge fan following among the lady audience.
Q: But you are no longer the ‘numero uno’ there?
A: Nobody can remain at the top forever. There will be ups and downs everywhere, but I am proud that the audience gave me my due and I am contended. But as an actress there is still a long way for me to go as I am still learning.
Q: After being a glamour girl for long, you have switched to serious roles like the one in Dweepa?
I am no feminist but I believe that men and women are equal. I have done only family entertainers in the commercial circuit that have created a large lady audience for me. I only do the kind of films that I believe in, and that is why I spent my hard earned money to produce a serious film like Dweepa.
Q: Dweepa is a piece of classical filmmaking. Why did you choose to produce such a film?
A: The film just happened after Girish Kasaravalli narrated the script to me. I have been highly impressed by the way classical Indian poetry and arts use the elements of nature as a metaphor for feminine principles. Dweepa is the story of Nagi, her husband Ganappa and his aged father Duggaya who are displaced when a big dam is built. They refuse government compensation and risk their lives for home and hearth, which is under a serious threat of submission. The character of the never-say-die Nagi influenced me to produce the film.
Q: Were you peeved that your author-backed role of Nagi in Dweepa did not fetch you a National Award for the Best Actress?
A: I have realized that even for a National Award a certain amount of pushing and lobbying is required. But now I have no regrets and I wish all the best to Tabu and Shobana.
Q: Tell us something about your last release Sokka Thangam which was your 100th film.
A: The film is set in a rural milieu and my character is that of a mature woman with a soft corner for Vijaykanth. It was a great experience to work with K.Bhagyaraj, the director of the film. It is a commercial film and my role had been well etched.
Q: Any other exciting roles?
A: I did a Malayalam film Yathrakkarude Sraddhakku with Jayaram directed by Satyan Anthikkad. I play a modern girl who is forced by certain circumstances to share a flat with the hero, which leads to a piquant situation. In Malayalam, they always make realistic films within the commercial format. I also did a film with Mohanlal, Kochu Kilichundan Mambazham directed by Priyadarshan.