A Soirée: The Valeba Raja Press Meet Report

photo of Visakha Singh

Silverscreen goes to the Valeba Raja press meet


Interviewing the Valeba Raja team is like overhearing a conversation among close friends. They indulged in banter, completed each other’s sentences, and broke into impromptu dance routines. The director of Valeba Raja, Sai Gokul Ramnath, effortlessly joined the gang too. He’s a good friend of actor Sethu, we are told.

We met the lead actors Sethu, Vishakha Singh and Bollywood actress Nushrath Bharucha at a modest production house in Kodambakkam. Despite the sound of electric trains that often muted our discussion – thanks to the Kodambakkam railway line – the actors were all determined to talk about the making of Valeba Raja. [quote align=’left’]”When we worked on the script, we wanted to ensure that Valeba Raja remained a family entertainer. We didn’t want to include toilet humour.”[/quote] Director Sai Gokul said he had “casually discussed” the story of Valeba Raja with Sethu; and the latter, impressed with it, helped Sai meet Santhanam. “When I met Santhanam sir, I told him that the film’s outcome would be my responsibility. It might be good or disappointing, but it would be my effort. Santhanam sir trusted me. Thanks to Sethu,” he added.

Santhanam usually employs a team of writers to write his dialogues. But for Valeba Raja, Sai Gokul and his friend Ganesh have written the script and dialogues. “When we worked on the script, we wanted to ensure that Valeba Raja remained a family entertainer. We didn’t want to include toilet humour.”

Sethu is also a doctor by profession, a practising dermatologist. And ironically, in the movie, he plays a patient who seeks an appointment with Dr Valeba Raja (Santhanam), a psychiatrist. “How the doctor helps the patient cope with his mental condition is the crux of the story,” revealed Sethu. The real-life doctor seemed to have enjoyed the role-reversal. His profession came in quite handy when he had to help Santhanam pronounce medical terminology.

Besides acting in Valeba Raja, practising at Stanley Hospital and working on a three-month fellowship program, Sethu also spent a few hours sweating at the gym everyday. “I had to look uber cool in the film. I had to eat right and exercise. Actually, that is my way of life,” he said proudly, but quickly confessed, “audiences generally detest fair guys. So I should win them with my acting, voice and command over language. But wait, Ajith sir is also fair right? In truth, Power Star is fairer than all of us!”

Just as we were ruminating on Sethu’s startling declaration, Vishakha and Nushrat joined our chat. There must be something incredibly different about Vishakha as every lady co-star of hers wants to act with her again. Nushrat, the Bollywood actress, who debuts in Tamil cinema with Valeba Raja couldn’t stop gushing about finding a friend in Vishakha. “From helping me drape a half-sari to explaining how Kollywood works, Vishakha was my saviour on many occasions,” said Nushrat. But all the same, she confessed that it wasn’t her first impression of Vishakha. “I was skeptical about working with her initially. I was worried if I would be given enough coverage. However, all my apprehensions disappeared.”

Vishakha also revealed the secret code to becoming friends with co-stars. “Only if you feel insecure, would you be uncomfortable to work with another star. We all compete in a healthy manner. We understand the film-making process,”  she declared, as Nushrat nodded in assent.

In Valeba Raja, Vishakha plays a character called Shalu – an extension of her role in Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya. However, she isn’t bogged down by the worry of being typecast. “I’m considered a serious actress in Mumbai. Maybe, in a couple of years, they would give me Shabana Azmi-type roles,” she laughed. “In Telugu industry, I have been glamourous, but here, I’m looked at as a ‘homely girl’. I want to spend a lot of time in Kollywood, and do different roles. But Bollywood keeps calling me back.”