The Mayaanadhi frenzy is everywhere. Everyone around is seen discussing the movie, its real-life dialogues, everyday characters, soul-touching songs and the scenes that give them déja vu, especially the balcony scene of the girl gang with one of them singing Bawra Mann... When the movie ends, the song lingers, so does the face of the girl who sang it. Darshana Rajendran says she has always been the ‘Bawra’ girl, not just now.
“It’s my soul song that stuck with me since college days. It was a song I used to sing every time I was asked to,” laughs the Chennai-based theatre activist who made famous the song 'Bawra’, penned and rendered by Swanand Kirkire in the 2003 movie Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, yet again, when Leona Lishoy (her co-star in Mayaanadhi) made everyone listen to it and finally script writer Shyam Pushkaran including it in the scene, which turned out to be a masterstroke.
The girl gang — Darshana, Aishwarya Lekshmi and Leona — felt very relatable and genuine. “That’s because it was real. Since day 1, the three of us were very close. It was never like a film location. The director, writers and actors sat together to discuss what needed to be conveyed. We weren’t given any script. Most of the dialogues were impromptu; it was all rehearsal and improvisations.
The balcony scene was emotional and intense for us as it was our last day of shooting,” she says.
She also admits that she had no idea about their part in the movie. “We just did what we were told. Only when we watched it on the big screen did Leona or Harish Uthaman or I know what all parts we were playing,” she recalls.
A lot of praise poured in for the movie, the most treasured ones for Darshana are the words of music composer Shahabaz Aman, who put up a long post on his social media about the ‘Bawra’ girl. Without concealing the excitement, she says, “It was so touching and left me teary-eyed. I am a huge fan of his music and work. I’m so happy for his kind words.”
Darshana had a huge fan following even before movies happened. It’s just that all her admirers are children under six years of age. Holding theatre and storytelling workshops for kids, she has been working with Karadi Tales for some time now.
The Kochi apartment where her parents live is always flooded with children who want to listen to her stories. “I love working with children. They have a lot of questions and being in the company of kids is a happy space.”
Long before theatre, she used to work in the microfinance sector in Chennai. When a friend introduced her to theatre, she was smitten and tried multi-tasking between an 8-6 job and 7-12 rehearsals. “Finally, I called it quits two years ago and fully dedicated myself to theatre,” she adds.
In between happened small roles in a few movies, then came Vijay Sethupathi-starrer Kavan, the web series Ctrl Alt Delete and Mayaanadhi. Coming up are Irumbu Thirai in which she plays Vishal’s sister and an Anjali Menon movie in which she acts with her mother Neeraja.
Darshana wouldn’t call herself a professional in any stream. She says she tried to learn a bit of everything — dance, Carnatic music, Western music, acting, etc. “It’s my family that always encourages and inspires me to give everything a try.” Family means her uncle too — late documentary filmmaker C. Sarath Chandran whom she fondly calls ‘Saramman’. “It’s all lovely memories. Saramman always made sure that those he loved knew each other. Wherever I have been, in Chennai or Riyadh or Delhi, he used to send banana chips via his friends and made us travel all the way to collect it. But it was never about the chips; he just wanted people to meet. Now, every day, I come across people who love him. Now I am going through all those books and music CDs he gifted me, all those he has left me with. Only now I am getting to know Saramman.”
Looking back, Darshana feels that it was a great journey across the ‘mystic river’. “It was a wonderful experience to have at least watched so many geniuses working under one roof.”