Pa Ranjith was in touch with Eswari Rao for a good three months, visiting often, observing her, and speaking to her about the intricacies of the character he hoped she would play. At one stage, she wondered if this would lead anywhere at all. And then, Ranjith told her she was in and that she would play Rajinikanth’s wife in Kaala.
And that is how Eswari, known for her classical features, made her comeback to the big screen in Tamil Nadu, 12 years after Saravana, where she played Prakash Raj’s wife. Two years before, in 2004, she played Dhanush’s sister in Sullaan, and the scene where she chastises a man molesting her in the bus is still remembered for its sensitivity.
When the first stills of Kaala were released to the media, everyone did a double take, wondering how Ranjith had rediscovered Eswari, who had by then done a stint in television and some Telugu films. And then, they asked why they’d seen so little of her on the big screen. Eswari says that those thoughts occasionally cross her mind too, but she does not dwell on them.
“When I entered the industry, the demand was for actresses who were willing to portray glamour, and I did not feel inclined to take up such roles. There was a huge influx of heroines from the North, and I found that the space for me was shrinking. So, I took a call, opted out and started working in television. Even there, I worked under directors such as CV Rajendran and Dharan. Once, monotony crept into serials, I took a break from that too. Over the years, I’ve always had the confidence to back off when I am not satisfied as a performer.”
What gave her that confidence was faith that films will never let her down. “I was a heroine at one stage and a character artiste now. The film industry will always find a way to utilise you. It might not be what you originally meant to do, but it offers choices.”
For Kaala, the actress was requested to put on some weight for her role, and her skin tone darkened by a few notches during make-up. “There was lots of homework before we started shooting. I worked on my body language, and how I would look. I am a director’s actor, and Ranjith knows how to get you to explore different facets of your personality. I am a very calm person, but he’s shown a very different Eswari Rao on screen,” says the actress who is currently working on Varma, Bala’s remake of the Telugu superhit Arjun Reddy, and reading scripts that have been offered post her signing up for Kaala.
“I have been very excited and anxious the past couple of days, wondering how the audience will react to my role. But, it feels good to be back on the big screen,” she smiles before heading back to shoot her scene.