Actor Akshara Haasan, who was last seen in the web series Fingertip (2019), stars as a 19-year-old girl named Pavithra in her latest film Achcham Madam Naanam Payirppu that released on Amazon Prime Video on Friday.
The dramedy borrows its title from the Tamil adage, which defines the ideal qualities of a girl as: achcham (fear), madam (innocence), naanam (coyness), and payirppu (chastity). The film revolves around Pavithra, who comes from a conservative background. She is in that awkward stage between being a curious teenager and a smart woman and struggles to strike a balance between societal expectations and personal desires.
Speaking to Silverscreen India, 30-year-old Haasan says, “Pavithra is very different from me, not just her age, but her personality as well. It was quite interesting playing her because I had to shed myself as a person to become that character. What really helped the process was that the entire character’s personality was on the paper. It was very easy for me to lift from there. There were a lot of rehearsals and discussions that happened on sets, which really helped to develop the character further.”
She notes that the sets were overwhelmingly composed of women. Besides Haasan, the film also features Usha Uthup, Malgudi Subha, Anjana Jayaprakash, Shalini Vijayakumar, Janaki Sabesh, Kalairani, among others.
Not just on screen, the film’s technical crew too consisted mostly of women. Achcham Madam Naanam Payirppu is shot by cinematographer Shreya Dev Dube and has music composed by Susha. Other women in the team included editor Keerthana Murali, production designer Shanoo Muralidharan, costume designer Themis Vanessa, creative producer Vidhya Sukumaran, colourist Mahak Gupta, and makeup artist Abhirami Sivakuma.
Haasan says that it was “empowering to be on a women-driven set” because it “does not happen often.” She adds that she would like to think that it is result of people being “seen for their talent and not gender.”
However, the film is written and directed by a man, Raja Ramamurthy. Haasan tells us the director took pains to understand the female perspective. “He did it very beautifully. He always made it a point to understand each woman’s (character) perspective. When he had questions, he would come and ask us, the women on sets, which was 90% of the cast and crew. He took the effort to understand the psyche of women and dealt with sensitivity.”
This is the first time Haasan has tried comedy and she says she found it “very interesting.” She adds, “The comedy in this film is very innocent, sweet, and simple. When we have a lot of stress in real life, we find ways to lighten the situation, to make ourselves laugh. We used that concept to oscillate between comedy and drama here. Sometimes, if it did not work, we’d do it again in a different way.”
Achcham Madam Naanam Payirppu explores the still largely taboo topic of sexuality and Haasan says they have approached it with a sense of “innocence and purity,” and hope people watch it with an open mind so conversations can be initiated.
When asked if she drew on any real-life inspirations from our patriarchal world to play a young woman struggling to balance societal expectations and personal desires, the actor says, “There were instances when I felt that I have been through that, but dealt with it differently as compared to another girl of my age. However, while I do derive some inspiration from my own experiences, I always try to stay true to the character, to get into that person’s mindset.”
This film also marks Haasan’s return to the screen after three years, following Fingertip and Kadaram Kondan in 2019. She notes that much has changed in the entertainment industry during this time, and the rise of OTT platforms has opened up a “larger audience” than before.
It has been seven years since her debut with Shamitabh (2015), and Haasan feels that the mindset is changing with respect to female characters, in particular.
Achcham Madam Naanam Payirppu is her first female-led script and the actor is glad to note that filmmakers and audiences are more welcoming of such stories. “It definitely brings a different dimension and I am happy to be part of this change.”
As for future plans, Haasan mentions that she would like to try out a psychological thriller or a sci-fi project. “I also have a Tamil and a Hindi feature coming out soon, but I am not at liberty to talk about them at the moment,” she adds.