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Urvashi Interview: We Were Expecting a Lot of Controversies Around Mookuthi Amman

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For actor Urvashi, who works predominantly in Tamil and Malayalam films, the Diwali weekend has been a busy one. She had two back-to-back releases- Mookuthi Amman and Soorarai Pottruwhere she played starkly different characters.

She plays the doting and ever-hopeful mother in Mookuthi Amman, whose charades mostly include her trying to go to Tirupathi and overturn her family’s luck. She plays a serious and headstrong character, Pechi who hopes that her son and husband will reconcile in the Suriya-starrer Soorarai Pottru.

Starting her career as a child artist and bagging the female lead in Mundhanai Mudichu at the age of 13, she has worked in 500-odd films.

With Mundhanai Mudichu currently being remade, the recent release of Amazon Prime Video’s Tamil anthology film Putham Pudhu Kaalai and the hit film Micheal Madana Kama Rajan’s 30th anniversary in the news, the audience is once again reminded that this season belongs to Urvashi and her stellar performances.

Speaking to Silverscreen India, the actor gets candid about her choice of films, roles and her long journey in cinema.

This year saw you have back-to-back releases with Putham Pudu Kaalai, Mookuthi Amman, and Soorarai Pottru. How does it feel?

I feel happy and I am also a little surprised because this is the first time my films have released on an OTT platform. All three of the films that I worked on, have premiered on these platforms and this is a new experience for me. The lockdown is new for everybody, so there was uncertainty about these films’ releases. It has been one year since Mookuthi Amman and one-and-a-half years since Soorarai Pottru was made. We did not know how the reception would be like because they were released on OTT platforms but thankfully in three or four days many people had already watched it and liked it, and that makes me really happy.

Many social media pages and users have been raving about your screen presence and versatility. They think that this season belongs to you.

I usually do not follow all of this. In my free time, I read, listen to music, and spend time with my child. I do not have the habit of using social media. But in the last three days, I have been learning how to do so because so many people have given positive responses and it won’t be right if I don’t follow that. In my spare time, I see these responses and I feel happy. It is so sincere that they have taken the time to say such kind words for which I am very grateful.

On one hand, there is a serious film like Soorarai Pottru and then there is Mookuthi Amman. You are known for both serious and comic roles. Which one do you identify with more?

In Malayalam cinema, it is a mix. When I was playing lead characters also, it was always a mixture. In Tamil films, in the last five to six years, I was doing movies that were focusing more on comedy. But unexpectedly I got two roles that were vastly different and it was surprising that it released at the same time. As an actress, I feel I can do any kind of role and I should not fall into one particular type of image.

Mookuthi Amman is a devotional film and it is the first devotional movie that has been made in a long time. How was your experience?

It has been a while since these types of films came out. Even if you take the film Dhilluku Dhuddu 2, I came as a godwoman who is a fraud. In 1997, I acted in Ettupati Raasa where there was an Amman song. Generally, after a long time, a movie based on Amman has come out. Even the title has the word Amman in it. The message of this film is not to have blind faith but to have good faith. It is a good thing that this family entertainer released during the festival season.

Credits: Disney+Hotstar

The film is also a satire with many political references. How was it to perform the role?

We were expecting a lot of controversies around the film. When we were doing this film, we used to discuss with RJ Balaji about some of the dialogues fuelling something. Dialogues in the film such as Kanda thanni la abhisekham panna, adhan colour maarirchu (my hair hair colour has turned brown because you have done abhisek in bad water)  are all good messages and the fact that we could watch it with our families without any issues, is a great thing. Today, when anything can become a controversy on social media, due to its growth, but people have seen this in a positive light. The fact that it looks like God itself is saying these things has allowed people to take in a positive manner.

This year, your movies have all been released on OTT platforms. Do you see a difference between a theatrical release and an OTT release?

Of course. Films are meant to be enjoyed in theatres and that is why we fight against piracy as well. Moreover, cinema is not just meant for the directors, artists or the film technicians involved, but also for the distributors and exhibitors and their families who depend on it. So, it’s imperative that they do not get affected. Plus, nothing beats the feeling of watching a film with the entire family on a big screen which is forgone on a smaller screen.  However, now that we are slowly breaking out of a situation where there are so much panic and angst, we cannot afford to stall the release of these big-budget films. It will cause a major loss to the producers.

Besides, watching these films on an OTT platform brings some amount of joy to the audience and at the same time, the producers are also safe. Without the producers, we cannot watch films, be it good or bad. To prove anyone’s talent and to bring it to the screen, we need producers to spend money. All this works fine for the time being, but the future is the big screen, and films should be released in theatres. However, they can run parallelly.

Earlier, when TV was introduced, many were concerned that families would rather stay home and watch serials on TV than come to the movies, but now the two co-exist and people watch movies in theatres as usual. Similarly, OTT and theatres too will co-exist. Both have their positives and negatives. The biggest plus in this situation is that people who were not able to spare the time to watch films in the theatres can now watch those films at their leisure while working, eating day or night.

Considering how your latest films are all vastly different from one and another, what makes you pick a particular script?

In Malayalam cinema, the script will be cleared and we have to read it and do our homework. But for some films, we cannot do that. We will appear in only some portions so there is no need to hear the whole script. We just have to see if it is comedy-based or if there is anything that I need to avoid. The director will narrate the story and if I derive happiness from it, I do it. But for Mookuthi Amman, they narrated the story scene by scene and for Soorarai Pottru, I got the script six months in advance. But for some films, we do not need to see the whole script but I just see if my character will entail any controversy and if I can improvise on it. If yes, then I choose the script.

You started your career as a child artist. What was it about cinema that drew you in?

I grew up in an artistic household, my father and my siblings all were into music and drama. When I entered the industry, I was insecure about my craft and I slowly understood that acting is my profession after almost 15 films. But now I feel like this is the best profession for me. Honestly, I thank all the films I have worked in, the directors, my co-actors, and good writers for my talent and success. Even in my first film, Mundhanai Mudichu in which I played the female lead, I was told what to do by my director because I was young and I thought I would be going back to school after that film. I assumed that no one liked my work and that thought changed only after 15 films. I owe it to my co-artists, directors, and writers who motivated me to do more films.

Are they any type of characters and roles that you would like to work on, in the future?

In cinema, we cannot wait for any particular type of role. It is not in our hands. When we take it up as a profession, we cannot keep waiting. It depends on luck. So many types of characters have been done by actresses across Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam industries but I did not get to play them. Some characters are age-dependent. The only thing that I am particular about is to make sure that I do not play the same type of characters.

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