Saranya was one of those actresses who had an exclusive league of fan following for herself back in the day. In an era that was filled with retro glamour and cabaret sequences, she was like a breath of fresh air for the audiences. People loved her for the demure, modest heroine that she was. And those qualities were not testament to her acting skills. She set herself a class apart after her performances in Nayagan, Manasukkul Mathappu, Ulagam Pirandhadhu Enakkaga, Agni Paarvai, Karuthamma and Meendum Savithri.
She took a long hiatus from cinema to focus on her family. The doe eyed demure diva that we knew then made a comeback like no other actor of her age. In an industry were actors often are in denial of their age, unwilling to try out older roles, Saranya had no qualms playing her age or sometimes even older. She struck all the right chords by playing her real life motherhood to her strength. Now, the industry and fans alike look no further beyond her for a loving, dotting mother. Moving away from the quintessential tear-stricken and sacrificial amma roles, she breathed new life into the characters and completely changed the dynamics of the mother-son relationship in cinema. We don’t tire from seeing her play the mother in every movie, as she lends every role a different treatment. Even when she had to play the fierce and over protective mother in Thenmerku Paruvakkaatru, she played it so well and so real that it fetched her National Award.
In her first film, she got the opportunity to work with Kamal Haasan. Recounting her experience, she says, “I was proud of the fact that I was acting with a great star, needless to say that he was the heart-throb of all college girls. I learnt a lot from him, especially to be committed and dedicated to my on-screen character.”¬
“In the South Indian cinema industry, once a female actor is married, she will never be cast as the leading lady again.”
Saranya took a break from acting post her marriage to concentrate on her children. “I was not ambitious at all. It was a conscious decision not to act in films post-wedding. I wanted to focus on my family.” She has two teenage daughters – Priyadarshini, who is pursuing her 1st-year MBBS and Chandini, who is in the 10th grade. “I have always been a very conservative actor. I refused to do intimate scenes with my co-stars and was totally against doing dance sequences that I was uncomfortable with. I think the directors were relieved that I had renounced acting altogether!”However, the actor made a comeback with the television series Veettukku Veedu Lootty, a few years after her wedding. “In the South Indian cinema industry, once a female actor is married, she will never be cast as the leading lady again. No matter how beautiful she is or how well she has maintained herself, she’ll only be cast in character roles such a sister, an aunt or a mother. I was lucky that way because I preferred doing character roles than glamorous ones. I think I am more successful in playing the role of a ‘mother’ than a ‘heroine’.”
In Indian films, mothers were often stereotyped into being grief-stricken and teary-eyed all the time. But as an onscreen mother, Saranya was funny, emotional, angry, protective and comforting all the same time. “Earlier in cinema, there used to be older moms who played their parts well; then came an era of friendly and enthusiastic young mothers. In fact, in any household, a mother will always be humorous and the father will be a strict disciplinarian—the directors started bringing realism into the scripts. In every house, the mother supports the boy and that has been brought to life in films. The realism of the characters portrayed also helps the audiences connect with the storyline. I am happy that I got the opportunity to portray such roles, but it is equally challenging because I have survived in this industry by just playing the character of a mother.”
Every successful person has someone to fall back on or a solid support system. For Saranya, her pillar of strength is her husband Ponvannan.“He is the nicest human being I have come across in my life. He is so supportive, takes care of our children when I am busy – that is the only reason I have been able to focus on my work; he is the reason why I am so successful today. He is very encouraging about all my endeavours and supports me at every step of the way.”
Saranya’s idea of family time is staying at home and spending time with each other. “My family and I are homebound people, but that does not mean that we are not fun loving. We spend a lot of time together at home – we try out new recipes all the time, play games, watch movies and share funny anecdotes with each other.” However, every year Saranya and her family go on a vacation. “We are members of a club that sends us good deals. Every year, for nearly 10 days we travel to some quiet place and spend time together. It is not different than home – the only difference is that I don’t have to cook.”