The Keerthy Suresh Interview: ''Mahanati' Has Changed My Life and Career'

The 'Mahanati' actress Keerthy Suresh is the toast of Tollywood after the success of the biopic on the legendary actress Savitri
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The Keerthy Suresh Interview: ''Mahanati' Has Changed My Life and Career'
Keerthy Suresh

Nothing had prepared Keerthy Suresh for the impact of her latest release. Mahanati directed by Nag Ashwin is a blockbuster.  The 25-year old Tamil-Telugu-Malayalam actress just can’t believe what is happening. “Audiences seem to have taken to the film in a very big way. Of course, when I agreed to do Mahanati, I knew we were on to something special. But nothing had prepared us in the Mahanati team for this kind of impact. We’re literally flooded with praise and compliments. It is something I’ve not experienced before. Not this extent.”

Of course, Keerthy is no stranger to  success and recognition.  She has been  doing Tamil, Telugu and  Malayalam  films for the last 18 years. “I started as a child artiste in a Malayalam film Pilots. When I started I knew nothing  about camera angles, plot points etc. I just knew I had to be acting in films. Since my father (producer Suresh  Kumar) was a producer,  it was easy to get my first few jobs as a  child artiste.”

The real struggle for Keerthy began thereafter. “After the first few films I was on my own. I built my own career, brick by brick. And now here I am.”

She finds it a little hard to believe that she initially had reservations about pulling off the  role of  the legendary actress Savitri in Mahanati. “Of course I  knew  about Savitri M’aam. Who in the Southern film industry doesn’t know about her? She is a legend. And of course, it  was  very flattering for  me  to  be  offered  the role.”

A still from Mahanati 

It was also frightening for Keerthy. “I was  not at all sure I could pull  off the  character’s darker periods  in her life, especially the parts where she takes to drinking. I was not sure I could pull this off. But the  director(Ashwin Nag) was  sure. He had seen my Tamil film Thodari with Danush. And the way I performed in one particular song, convinced him I could pull off the younger part of Savitri M’aam’s life, her innocence and sense  of fun and  mischief.”

Once Keerthy  agreed, then began the preparation. “The director sent me footage from  Savitri M’aam’s films. He had segregated the scenes  as ‘Happy’ ‘Dramatic’, ‘Comic’ etc. Watching these, and the whole of  Maya Bazaar since we had  to perform scenes from that film in Mahanati, I  learnt what  NOT do while playing Savitri M’aam. I  was  definitely not  going to imitate Savitri Maam. To  ensure that I played her my way I didn’t watch  any more of her  films.”

For all the hard work, nothing had prepared Keerthy  for the success of Mahanti.  “It  is  being seen an  epic. There is so much love and affection for Savitri M’aam. We were not sure how the audience would react to the fatal flaws in her character. But the audience has embraced the film and Savitri’s life story with all her weaknesses.”

Keerthy feels blessed. “I couldn’t have asked for more. A role of a real-life character and that too someone so iconic and complex would have come to me  after at least ten more years of experience. But I guess I was destined to play Savitri M’aam. Somewhere we  all felt her her presence  guiding  us  in making this  film.”

With success on this scale comes added responsibility. “I understand  audiences expect me to be  playing central  characters more often. But they must understand that roles and films like Mahanati don’t come along too often. I am equally  happy to do the massy commercial films where   the hero definitely has  more to do than   the heroine. My career  in  the future would be  a balanced  mix of  commercial cinema and heroine-oriented  projects.”

Keerthy warns that her forthcoming  films do not feature her in central parts,. “They were all signed  before Mahanati’s release. I must be honest in confessing that in  my next  three films, Saamy 2, Sandakozhi 2  and Thalapathy 62, my leading men  have a lot more to do than I  do. So yes, those who expect me in central roles after Mahanati would  be  disappointed. I can only  assure them that in future I  will make sure I’ve substantial  roles in all the  films I do.”

Mahanati and  the tragic story of  the icon actress Savitri’s downfall has  taught Keerthy plenty about life. “It wasn’t easy playing Savitri. Her life was so  eventful and so short. I learnt the value of  family and friends. The  entertainment industry can  isolate  you. I will never make the mistakes that Savitri M’aam  did in her  life and career.”