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“Suriya Is One In A Million!” : Exclusive Interview with Aparna Balamurali

JFW’s June 2019 cover girl!

Nuanced with a tinge of sparkle, it’s hard to believe that she’s all of 23 and only a few films old. But with promising projects in the pipeline and performances that leave an impact on you, Aparna Balamurali is that artist who has so much going for herself without any traces of pretence. Unrestrained with an eye for what suits her, in a conversation with Sanjana Chakraborty, the young and upcoming actress describes her sojourn so far…something borne out of unanticipated moves.

You might remember her as the haughty-but-grounded Jimsy from Maheshinte Prathikaram. Or the unassuming Sara in Sarvam Thaala Mayam. From being paired with Fahadh Faasil, Aparna is now all set to star in a film alongside Suriya Sivakumar’s in the upcoming biopic Soorarai Pottru. An opportunity of a lifetime, she plays his wife with a role carved out especially for her, a rather difficult one for this Kerala-born and part Qatar-raised girl. But, having met her once, you realise she’s made of sterner stuff – of pure talent mixed with a wise profundity that goes beyond her age or experience.

Soorarai Pottru improved my Tamil!”

For people brought up in the South region, the similarities between Malayalam and Tamil are often unmissable. For Aparna, who has primarily been involved in Malayalam projects, can speak Tamil quite efficiently thanks to the innumerable Tamil movies and songs she was exposed to while growing up. But the real reason for improving at this juncture is her upcoming Tamil film. “After signing up for Soorarai Pottru, I’ve come for reading at least five times already. So by now, I know my Tamil has improved greatly!” she exclaims.

The project, too, is rather dear to her. Directed by Sudha Kongara Prasad, the filmmaker behind the sports-drama Irudhi Suttru, the film is a period film based on the life of Air Deccan founder Captain GR Gopinath. His is a story of determination and success, which will be told on screen featuring Suriya essaying him and Aparna playing his wife, all presented with a Madurai twang.

The project came to her as a surprise, a word she often uses to describe how things have been going for her lately, professionally speaking. “I gave my audition for the film. Since there’s a Madurai slang in it, it was quite difficult. Director Sudha Kongara and I used to still be connected over phone. She didn’t let go of me that easily; she changed the script and asked me to work on it.” Later, Aparna worked on her Madurai slang and familiarised herself with the character more. “I took a video of myself delivering the dialogue again and sent it to her. Till the shoot started, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be a part of the film or not. I knew the whole script, had come for a reading 4-5 times, had even signed a contract, but the suspense was always there,” she narrates.

Photography: Yogeshwaran Styling: Poornima Ramaswamy Wardrobe: Magnoliaa by Vaani Raghupathy MUH: Samantha Jagan, Wink Salon Location: The Westin, Chennai

Maheshinte Prathikaram changed my world, totally.”

Playing the spunky and spirited Jimsy, little did Aparna know that this film would alter her world completely. While she was already two films old, Maheshinte… was a game changer. It didn’t come that easily though. She was initially supposed to play another role. But, a second audition made her the second heroine of the film – the one who ends up with the lead actor in the story. Post its release, the reception towards her and the movie was overwhelming.

“That’s when it hit me that it’s quite the project I was a part of. I am definitely a lot like Jimsy, I realised. Even now, people ask me which part of Idukki am I from!” she shares. At the sets of the 2016 film, she reveals that she was like an innocent child going to school, doing as she was told. “The director and team made me feel so comfortable. It was after this did I realise that cinema is my profession. I felt deeply that, contrary to others, I didn’t have it as difficult as them. So now that I act in movies, I have a slight guilty feeling and work extra hard on my characters.”

Working with Fahadh Faasil, too, added to that element of surprise that Aparna is rather accustomed to. “He’s one of a kind. His acting, his eyes especially – you don’t know what that person is doing, but once he’s on screen, he brings them alive. I’ve always seen him as a fine actor, whose performance really stays with you. When director Dileesh Pothan told me two days before shooting that I’m Fahaadh’s heroine, I remember I was so excited that I was barely able to concentrate during the reading!”

 

“Suriya is one in a million!”

Now that she will be sharing screen space with yet another South Indian male superstar, Aparna reveals that it’s quite the journey for her. Suriya is someone she grew up watching, and admiring him and his wife, Jyothika, as a couple was something that was reaffirmed after their first meeting. “As a co-star, as a human being, he’s very humble and friendly. You end up liking him more especially after you watch Jyothika ma’am’s interviews talking about him,” she says. Ask her if she was starstruck, she admits affirmative. “When I saw Jyothika ma’am, I was really star struck. I mean, she’s my favourite! She is so down to earth. During the look test, she came to me and spoke about how sweet I looked and wished me well. That really moved me,” she shares with a twinkle in her eye.

Watch the video interview here:

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