‘Never expected the award, on cloud nine’, says national award winner Keerthy Suresh
Phones keep ringing and a stream of visitors, many stalwarts of Malayalam cinema, come calling with flowers and sweets to congratulate 26-year-old Keerthy Suresh, winner of the National Film Award for Best Actress for her sterling act in Mahanati, a Telugu biopic on yesteryear star Savitri.
Her apartment in Thiruvananthapuram is buzzing with relatives, friends and mediapersons. “Never expected the award. It is overwhelming. I am on cloud nine,” says Keerthy, looking a little dazed with all the hype. Brushing aside the curls framing her face, she expresses the mandatory thanksgiving to the producers Swapna Dutt, Priyanka Dutt and C. Ashwini Dutt, director Nag Ashwin, choreographer, costumer, co-stars et al for trusting her with such a plum role and helping her excel in it.
Recalling how she had almost said no to the role, she says that it was the nervousness about doing justice to the character that gave her second thoughts about playing Savitri, considered the first female superstar in Indian cinema.
“As soon as I agreed to do the role, I began working hard to learn as much I could about her. I watched her films and many clippings because I had to recreate her on screen. I also read a couple of articles about her and a few excerpts from a book on her although I am not a good reader.
“I must thank Savitri amma’s daughter Vijaya Chamundeswari amma for helping me perfect her mother’s mannerisms and behaviour. Her support was immense and crucial. It was team work and I am grateful to each member of the cast and crew,” she says.
Dedicating the award to her mother, yesteryear star Menaka, she says that her mother often used to tell her family about how she had missed the national award for the best actress for her maiden film in Malayalam, Oppol. “Although the film won several awards, my mother, who played the protagonist, did not get it. She used to talk about it when I was a kid. I was determined to win it for her and I am glad I have been able to do it,” asserts Keerthy.
Keerthy admits it was difficult to step into the shoes of the legendary actor and also tough to get out of it. “I had been shooting for a long time and you don’t realise that you have got into another character until your friends and family remind you that you have to come out of the character. It was not deliberate, but the character was such an intense role, you tend to lose yourself in the character.”
Keerthy’s picture-perfect picturisation earned her a lot appreciation. Her demand for a choreographer on the sets did work, and she is all praise for the way Annie Master helped her ace the scenes. “I wanted someone to tell me if I was right or wrong. She is a choreographer and dancer and so she was able to help me a great deal.”
Talking about Dulquer Salman’s character of Gemini Ganesan in Mahanati, she says that since Dulquer also had a big job to do and that too in his first Telugu film, both of them did not disturb each other. “Both of us had a big responsibility. But we did help each other with dialogues,” she adds. Keerthy had also dubbed for her role in Telugu and Tamil.
Keerthy is now doing two woman-centric films, all untitled till now. Next up is Boney Kapoor’s film with Ajay Devgn and it is a biopic on footballer Syed Abdul Rahim. In Malayalam, she will be seen next in Priyadarsan’s biopic on Kunjali Marakkar, the Mohanlal-starrer Arabikadalinte Simham.
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