Ketaki feels this November is lucky for her. Two of her movies — Underworld, a Malayalam film, and Girlz, a Marathi film— are about to hit the screens. Among the two, Underworld, directed by Arun Kumar Aravind, is the first to release — on November 1. Ketaki plays a Tulu Brahmin girl in the film. “But, my character is different from the stereotypical portrayal of Tulu Brahmin girls,” says Ketaki. “When they said about my character, the first thing I did was to Google about it. The results showed sober girls in sarees. But my character dresses differently. She is bold and voices her opinions. I was hooked by her attitude.”
In Underworld, she is paired opposite Farhaan Faasil who enacts the role of Majeed. Arike Naam…, a love track featuring them, was released last month. “Our love story is a small and interesting track in the full movie,” says Ketaki, who finds Farhaan as a shy person. “I am exactly opposite in real life. I think that worked in favour of our on-screen chemistry. My character is a bit dominating compared to Majeed,” explains Ketaki, laughing. The movie also features Asif Ali and Lal Jr in lead roles.
It is her third movie in Malayalam after Veeram and Diwanjimoola Grand Prix. “I find it exciting to leave the comfort zone. Each movie is a workshop for me and teaches me new lessons.” If she was scared while doing Veeram, now she is comfortable with the space. She started watching Malayalam movies and listening to Malayalam songs to pick up the language. “I am keen to learn. The words I hear remain with me. I use them in my conversation whenever I visit Kerala. Now, I can understand Malayalam a little bit.” She proves it by uttering a few words in Malayalam, and breaks into laughter simultaneously.
Ketaki has her own way of tackling the language barrier when it comes to understanding the character. “I write down my dialogues on paper. I comprehend each and every word in Marathi, my mother tongue. I would imagine my emotions in the situation in Marathi. I translate that in front of the camera.”
For her, it is not the length of the character, but depth that matters. “I choose roles that challenge me. Some characters may look simple on surface, but they will be complex inside. I don’t want just to be a sexy body on screen. I want to be a woman of substance who inspires viewers,” she elucidates. Fame and money are secondary to Ketaki; all she wants is to live and understand the life of an actor with all her heart. And when one walks such a path, struggle will be a constant companion. “Yes, it is,” she laughs. “But, which life is devoid of struggles,” she asks. “It is everywhere, in one form or another,” says the actor, who is a prominent face in the Marathi film industry. Has she ever felt tired? “Not tired, but disappointed, sometimes. For instance, it disheartens me to see certain movies for which I sweat a lot fail to see the daylight.”
As a woman who is raised by a poet, Ketaki is well aware of the power of art no matter how difficult the journey can become at times. Her father is a poet. It was watching her father perform and receiving applause that ignited the spark of art in little Ketaki. “I realised that when words and expressions are put together, they can move people. I have seen audience cry and cheer during my father’s performance. I wanted to achieve the same.” But, she was not confident to get into acting professionally. She attended a workshop at Adishakti in Pondicherry. “That time, I was working as a software developer in the IT industry.” Taking part in creative competitions sharpened her skill. She knew she wanted to pursue acting, but was afraid to take the plunge.
Soon came that much-awaited twist in the tale Ketaki had been longing for. “It was after performing the play Mannequin where I played a cancer patient. I had a monologue to present in that. I wrote that part as suggested by my director. I researched about the life of cancer patients. I couldn’t even sleep feeling their pain. During the performance, after I completed my part, audience gave me a standing ovation. I saw my father crying. It was quite emotional. But, that cemented my decision. I quit my job.” She turns emotional. Soon, laughing, she shares a secret: that she hid this fact from her parents for a while. “Whenever they visit me, I would go out pretending like going to office. I did so because I knew my father would be concerned. We are three sisters. He has raised us saying that we should be financially independent and have opinion about our lives,” she smiles.
That bringing up is perhaps the reason why Ketaki dares to experiment in life. She takes roles that she feels right— be it commercial or not, and does not confine her talent to one medium. She is active in theatre, films, music videos, short films, docu-fiction and the latest sensation, web series. “If the idea is exciting, then the medium should not be a barrier,” she believes.
One of her recent music videos is Mayathe that depicts love between two women. She has played a prominent role in V.S. Sanoj’s Burning, which is playing in festivals. Her web series Lakho Mein Ek Season 2 is streaming on Amazon Prime. “I play a mother’s role in Lakho Mein Ek. She belongs to an artisan family. At one point, she loses her son. That is a different character,” says the actor who feels that original series serve as platforms for young talents to explore innovative ideas. “Young and new people should get their space,” she feels. As she is open to new avenues, she is not in a hurry. She maintains her pace and take things as they come. “I am not in a hurry. Let the right people and opportunities come to me at the right time,” she concludes.