Ritu Varma is thrilled with the success of her latest film, Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal, and in this interview with Silverscreen India, says that this year, she’s going to make up for the long absence from Telugu cinema…
Soon after the release of Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal, her debut film in Tamil, Ritu Varma saw the film in a cinema hall in Chennai. It was a moment of truth to check if she had made the right decision and if her faith in the story will resonate with the audience.
Until the film had released, there was hardly any news about the role that Ritu was playing in the film, which also had Dulquer Salmaan in the lead. For that matter, the film’s release itself had been delayed by several months. Her other major Tamil film, Dhruva Natchathiram, starring Vikram, has been in the making for a while. And all through the journey, she didn’t know what to tell her family and well-wishers about where her career was heading.
Having made her mark in Tharun Bhascker’s Pellichoopulu, which went on to win a couple of national awards, Ritu says she was growing anxious about what’s next in store for her. The long wait, the hopes that she had pinned on the film, all the questions that she had faced about her career, the long phase of self-doubt about whether she’s doing the right thing or not… the pressure was immense. But an hour and a half into Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal — when a key twist changes the course of the story just before the interval — everything changed. “The reaction from the audience was so good that I still get goosebumps thinking about it. I would do anything to relive that moment and experience it again,” Ritu Varma says.
Directed by Desingh Periyasamy, Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal has Dulquer Salmaan and Ritu Varma playing lead roles, along with Rakshan and Niranjani Ahathian. It’s a romantic thriller with plenty of surprises, and Ritu recalls being as surprised as the audiences were when she first heard the twist at the end of the first half. “I’m a huge fan of Dulquer’s work and loved Ok Kanmani. When Desingh called me to narrate the script and said that Dulquer is playing the lead role, I thought that he was going to pitch a romantic drama. But this turned out to be even better because I was delighted with the character graph he had etched for my role. I could do so much with it, play around with the look, body language, and explore something that I hadn’t done before,” Ritu says. That sense of relief and delight is unmissable in her conversation. “The best thing about the film’s success now is that it broke the mould that I’ll only fit into a certain kind of role — something like what I had done in Pellichoopulu. I think I was stereotyped after that film and I got plenty of offers similar to that film. Someone even asked if I’ll only take up characters that are morally right! But that’s never been my priority. Something has to click, whether it’s the script, the character, or the team you are going to work with. With Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal, everything fell into place.”
About Dulquer, Ritu says, “He’s so easy to work with. There are no starry airs and he’s very secure in his space. In fact, he wanted Rakshan along with him in several scenes, even though it wasn’t there in the script, and it was quite refreshing to see a star like him do that. Another time, in the middle of a scene, he asked me if his reaction was appropriate in that shot. He didn’t hesitate to seek an opinion from his co-star. I have nothing but good things to say about Dulquer. And the same goes for Desingh too. He has immense clarity about what he wanted to do, and the whole shoot was so much fun that, at times, Desingh had a tough time controlling us to get work done.”
And then, there’s Gautam Menon’s Dhruva Natchathiram, which has been in the making for a long time now. Admittedly, Gautam Menon, who had bought the remake rights of Pellichoopulu, was quite impressed with Ritu’s performance in the film and decided to cast her in the film. “A week after my look test, I was shooting alongside Vikram sir. It felt so surreal and I couldn’t believe it was happening. Gautam sir has a different style of working and he makes the actors feel quite comfortable, and rarely goes beyond one-two takes because he likes the spontaneity that the actors bring in. On the first day of the shoot, I just listened to what he wanted me to do, and once he was okay with it, everyone clapped. That was such a big boost to my confidence,” the actress adds. The duo collaborated once again in Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal in which Gautam Menon played a cop, and Ritu is all praise for him. “He’s so classy in the film, isn’t he? I can’t imagine anyone doing the role now. We shot for just one scene together, but he took all of us by surprise with his spontaneity when we were trying to recreate the Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya scene. All those lines in the scene…were all created by Gautham Menon! He’s such a good sport to do that,” she says.
This year, she has a slew of Telugu and Tamil films lined up for release, and she says that she’s going to make up for her absence. There’s Nani’s Tuck Jagadish, a film with Ashok Selvan, another with Naga Shaurya, and her yet-to-be titled film alongside Sharwanand. However, there’s a tinge of disappointment, when she traces how her career has shaped up over the years. Prior to Pellichoopulu, she had acted in films like Baadshah, Yevade Subramanyam, and Prema Ishq Kadhal. However, post-Pellichoopulu, she didn’t find anything challenging to do. “In hindsight, I think I was too naive at the beginning of my career. I didn’t even have a manager and my mom was doing all the talking on my behalf. Also, so many people were giving me plenty of suggestions and I might have taken some wrong advice. I think, over the years, I’ve groomed myself and gained confidence. Each film has been a learning process, and with experience, you also earn a certain amount of respect. Now, I deal with things in a better way,” Ritu says, adding, “I’m an accidental actress and I need something challenging to push me to do better. Maybe that’s why I didn’t even want to strategise about what I have to do to go to the next level in the film industry. It was a little disappointing to not find interesting roles post-Pellichoopulu, and I wasn’t in a rush to sign whatever came my way. People kept questioning me about my decisions, but I had faith in myself. But, if you ask me if I’ve figured out what to do next or what I could have done differently in the past, I wouldn’t know.”