“I turned down the offer to essay legendary Savitri ma'am when it came to me as I had doubts if such a biopic can be done. I was frightened initially if I could pull it off at such an early part of my career”, says young actress Keerthi Suresh who has portrayed Savitri in the biopic Nadigayar Thilagam, which is Mahanati in Telugu. The soft-spoken girl talks to DC about how it took four hours for the cumbersome make-up even as she trashes rumours that she put on weight for the film and could not take the kilos off and that she actually used prosthetic make-up, She also spoke about her on-screen romance with Dulquer, who plays 'Kadhal Mannan' Gemini Ganesan in Mahanati.
“I didn't accept when Nag Ashwin approached me to portray the role of Savitri Amma. I was so scared if I can even think of working in the biopic of an iconic actress since I am just a starter. And I also had apprehensions if a film of that scale can be made at all,” is how Keerthi opens up while flashing her infectious smile.
But director Nag wouldn't budge. “He said he watched my film Thodari and immediately decided to cast me. Though the film faced a lot of criticism, I loved the character I did and she was very simple sans makeup. I was happy when Nag referred to that movie. He narrated the script for three and a half hours and I have never listened to a script for that long. But the focus and confidence the two-film old director exhibited made me say ‘yes’.”
On her DoP, Dani Sanchez-Lopez, she said, “I used to wonder why Dani used to take a long time for lighting and other details. I asked him as well. The answer he told me something that was amazing. Despite being from a foreign land, he had prepared himself well. He said, ‘I watched several movies of Savitri before coming to the sets. Invariably, I have seen a ‘spark’ in Savitri’s eyes in almost all the films. I want to bring in that effect in your eyes.”
Dismissing the rumour on her weight gain, Keerthi said, “It was all done with prosthetic makeup. In fact, I have lost weight while completing the film. Even my costumes and jewels to go with that period were given utmost care,”.
It was her make-up sessions, which were challenging and burdensome, she reveals. “Fortunately, with great effort we cracked the looks while doing the look test itself. But it took more than 3 hours to apply make-up and the same amount of time to remove them. For the eyebrows alone it took more than half hour. I wouldn’t be able to open the mouth, eat anything. Though stressful, by the time I enter the sets, everything would be forgotten and only the scene for the day would crop up”.
Yet another challenge she says was that though we have seen Savitri’s on-screen persona, there was none to guide her as to how she was off-screen. “It’s just I have to listen to others and with director's help, I have to do it myself — her mannerisms, smile and her other gestures.”
Gemini Ganesan was known for his romantic films and he was Savitri’s real life pair too. Ask her how was it working with Dulquer and their on-screen chemistry. “Dulquer is very focused and many said he fitted the role to a T. On the chemistry, what would I say? Pauses for a minute….whatever was required for the script has been brought on screen.”
So, will you marry an actor in real life? Laughs. “No, I don’t think so.” While Naga Chaitanya portrays his granddad Nageswara Rao, Mohan Babu will be seen as SV Ranga Rao in Nadigayar Thilagam....