ORU VADAKKAN VEERA GAATHA - MALAYALAM
Unni Aarcha was a fascinating role to play. When director Hariharan and producer Gangadharan signed me for this movie, they did not tell me the significance of this character. That she was a historical and a famous personality and was brilliantly played by actress Ragini in the earlier version. But as soon as the press came to know that I was playing Unni Archa, the comparison started. Will I be able to do justice to this role, could I measure up to Ragini's performance.
As I am not a Malayali and do not know the traditions of their culture, I became curious and was eager to know everything about Unni Aarcha and her story. Director Hariharan suggested that I see the original version. But I was reluctant as I did not want to be influenced by Ragini. I was more keen on portraying her as per my directors’ imagination and my own understanding and capacity. I wanted a clean slate.
It became a personal challenge. I asked a million questions to writer M.T. Vasudevan Nyar and director Hariharan in order to understanding her personality and mind set. I also paid a lot of attention to her looks and dressing. My co-star Mammoty was very helpful and it was a sheer pleasure working with such an extremely talented actor. The unit was like one big family.
As for Kalari Payattu, I would wakeup at 5 AM and practice this traditional martial art. As I already knew karate, it was easier to learn the moves. When the movie was released the press and the audiences said that I totally did full justice to the role of Unni Aarcha. I was happy to know that my hard work payed off. Oru Vadakkan Veera Gaatha was an immensely satisfying and unforgettable journey!
AAKASHA DOOTHU - MALAYALAM
I thought Annie was an easy role to play until I became a mother in real life! When director Sibi Malayil came to me with the script, I was intrigued by the role: a dying mother wanting the best for her four children. I found the role interesting and challenging as I had to portray a mother and wife, both of which I was not at the time!
It was an intense role. While working on this film, I was immensely affected by all the emotions. As an actress, I had to rely a lot on my imagination. How would a wife feel and how would a mother react to the situations in the movie? The last scene was the most difficult. I was totally depressed and sad for Annie, for all that she had to endure.
The movie was a such a big hit! At the theaters, people were breaking down after watching the movie! And I had received at least a thousand fan letters from men who had given up alcohol after watching this movie! This movie shakes you up to the core. It makes you realize how precious life is and that one cannot take anything for granted.
It was a dream role for any actress. I was appreciated a lot for my acting and won the state award for this role. But if I had to do this role now, I would portray it totally differently. Now that I am a wife and a mother in real life, I know and understand the emotions.
RAJA PARVAI - TAMIL
This movie set a standard for all aspects of movie making. Acting, direction, art direction, camera department, and music! I was in the midst of geniuses!
There was so much to learn. It was a love story and my role, Nancy, was one of the most memorable roles for me. Working with an actor of Kamal Hasan's calibre keeps you on your toes. You are constantly challenged to do better than your best! Music director Illayaraja's music is evergreen, and the songs of this movie are a rage even today. Working with Mr. L.V. Prasad was an honor. He was in his eighties, but was so energetic. Director Singeetham Srinivasan Rao did such an excellent job. Vani Ganapathy did my costumes for this film and made me look glamorous. Art Director Tharani did full justice to the film. Raja Parvai remains one of my personal favorite films of my career.
THAMBIKKI ENDA OORU - TAMIL
This film was a huge success. I was paired opposite Rajini Kanth, and we both made a good screen pair. My character goes through a lot of shades. She is very arrogant in the beginning and changes to a kind a considerate person in the end. Rajini Kanth and I shared a very comfortable working rapport. He was one of my favorite co-stars! We would have endless discussions about spirituality and exchange philosophical books. Working for this movie was like having a holiday as most of the film was shot in Ooty. The songs of this movie are especially melodious, and my favorite is “Kaadalin Deepam Onru.”
AGNI PATH - HINDI
This was my third movie Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. The first being Andha Kanoon and second being Gireftaar. It was a memorable experience working in this movie and a pleasure working with Dharma productions. Mr. Yash Johar was a kind and a gentle soul. Director Mukul Anand was an amazing director and Praveen Bhatt was an extremely talented cameraman!
It was an honor working with Amitabh Bachchan. I learned a lot just by observing him; we were like one big family! I am glad I had been a part of this great classic!
EK DUJE KE LIYE - HINDI
This was my first Hindi film. I had previously acted in the original Telugu version with Kamal Hassan. My role is a very powerful and tragic one. Director K. Balachander was a task master as far as getting the best out of his actors. People still come up to me and tell me that they loved me in this movie although it was made almost three decades back! They remember every scene and dialogue and feel a sense of pity for my character. I was lucky to have been given this role and to have a director who guided me to portray it well.
HAALU JENU - KANNADA
This was my first Kannada movie with Dr. Raj Kumar. I was a newcomer cast opposite a living legend! It is a beautiful love story of a married couple madly in love with each other, but fate plays a cruel joke on them and my character dies of cancer in the end. It was a dream role for any actress!
I was so nervous as I did not know the language, but Dr. Raj Kumar was such a good teacher and helped me with the language. I had not come across a human being like him in my life before! He was such a soft spoken, mild mannered, kind hearted and a simple soul. I consider it a blessing and an honor working with him. We made a successful screen pair and went on to act in more than a dozen movies together. This movie was a huge hit. The best compliment I got for my portrayal was that Dr. Raj Kumar's wife Parvatamma cried all through the film when she saw it for the first time! It was a memorable role and movie for me personally.
MALAYA MARUTHA - KANNADA
This is one of my favorite movies as I had a classical dance oriented role. All the songs of this film are very melodious and filmed well on temple locations of southern India and Katmandu in Nepal. I truly enjoyed working with Mr. Vishnu Vardhan, who I found to be quite charming and humorous. He made everyone on the set laugh with his famous antics! His wife Bharathi assisted Director Radha Ravi, and it was a pleasure knowing her and working with her. The producer of this film, Mr. C.V.K. Shastry did not spare any expense and spent a lot for this movie which shows on the screen. This was one of the few films which took advantage of my classical dance background and I loved dancing my way into the hearts of the Kannada audiences.
KHAIDI - TELUGU
This movie was such a huge success, that even we did not anticipate it! Telugu audience loved the ”Chiranjeevi and Maadhavi" screen pair. We did a lot of movies together, most of which were successful. Mr. Chiranjeevi was a wonderful co-star, a fact which all the leading ladies of Telugu cinema will agree with. We shot for this film mostly in the Talakona forest near Thirupathy. The whole unit was like family and the making of this film was a breeze! I like all the songs of this movie, but the unforgettable one is "Raguluthondhi Mogalipodha."
MAATHRU DEVO BHAVA - TELUGU
This was my swan song movie for the Telugu Industry, since I got married right after this film was released. This was a remake of the Malayalam movie Aakasha Dhootu.
As I had already done the Malayalam version, working on this movie was a piece of cake! It is a total tear jerker and I won a lot of accolades for my role. Producer K.S. Rama Rao made sure that I was happy and comfortable while making this movie. And I had a lovely time working in this movie. It was well received by the Telugu audience.