What are the sheer odds of standing out amongst lakhs of talented and good looking wannabe actors seeking a shot at the world of glamour? Admittedly, very slim. The road to fame sometimes requires talent and sometimes luck. Who knows this better than actors who constantly witness the life-changing power of these two factors on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately there are some who are born under a lucky star, like Sakshi Agarwal who may have been pursuing a career in the civil services if the marquee had not mesmerised her. The model-turned-actor has films in Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam and the most notable of her projects is the big-budget, highly anticipated Pa Ranjith-directed gangster movie Kaala with Rajinikanth in the lead. Of course, that has her floating on cloud nine but there are other projects too that put a spring in her step. Chennai-based Sakshi will be debuting in Malayalam through the Biju Menon-starrer Orayiram Kinakkalal.
Mentioning that she has been around for the past four years in the industry, Sakshi begins, “I have wanted to act in a Malayalam movie for a long time and was waiting for the right project to fall into my lap. When director Pramod Mohan narrated the script, I found my role to be very challenging.”
Before dismissing her statement as a clichéd one, hear her out, “I play Biju Menon's wife Preethi - a UK returned Malayali - who is pregnant throughout the film. The movie travels through the various stages of her pregnancy and this role is very different from what I have ever played.”
There are thriller as well as family moments in the film and she judged that this film was her best shot at an entry into Mollywood.
On the experience, she says, “I went through an audition,” adding, “Malayalam is not my native language so the makers wanted to know if I could audition in Tamil and that is a language I am comfortable with.” The reasoning was that Tamil and Malayalam languages are similar and that if Sakshi could speak Tamil, then Malayalam would not be too difficult! She continues, “I had five scenes as an audition and I improvised on the spot, which made them happy.” Sakshi is someone who is familiar with Malayali actors and the names of Mohanlal and Mammootty are uppermost, followed by all the current heartthrobs like Dulquer, Tovino, Fahadh Faasil, Unni Mukundan, Nivin, etc. She states, “The stories, screenplays, narration and cinematography are so realistic in M'town.”
To Sakshi, original content is important and perhaps that can be traced to a rare achievement she holds. She has been trained at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in Los Angeles, which gives importance to method acting. That stint gave her the edge that has rounded her acting abilities. Beginning by saying that there are a lot of acting styles, she felt that the method acting style might work for her, “It is more about emotional memory recall,” she says. Confused? She explains further, “You recall from events that have happened in your life in the past and bring it life, connect it with the character you are playing and then make it believable for the audience.”
That clear, she explains why she chose to study it, “I am serious about the profession I am in. I needed to hone my skills and also understand the international standards of acting.”
Elaborating on just how the course helped her in playing the role of a pregnant woman, Sakshi says, “The concept of emotional memory recall is about going back in time. My sister was born when I was in class X, so I have memories of my mom being pregnant. I recalled her body language, her moods and her manner of speaking. Emotional memory recall transports you to that time frame and makes you feel every single thing hidden in your subconscious mind that helped me relate to the character.”
When the talk moves to her Tamil film Kaala, she cannot stop the smile that breaks free, “It is my biggest film so far. It is a blessing to work with a superstar known for his simplicity and down-to-earth attitude and I experienced it for close to 50 days when I worked with him. It was blissful and I am running short of words to describe Rajini sir's attitude. There is this aura he creates, which is totally overwhelming. Though he is a superstar, he appreciates and motivates every single person.”
Explaining more, she goes on to talk about her own experience, “He will give a thumbs up and say 'super awesome' and say 'amazing dialogue delivery', etc. He was like 'this girl looks like a north Indian but she speaks Tamil like a native'. All these things mean the world to me at this stage and I even cut my birthday cake on the sets.”
The 'stage' Sakshi is talking about is her journey to become an accidental actor from a girl who aced in her studies and still secretly dreams of becoming an IAS officer. She finished her MBA from Bengaluru and did part-time modeling while working in an IT firm. Then came offers for TV commercials and later films. She recollects, “I did not even have a portfolio for two years, but word of mouth publicity got me film offers, which was when I quit my IT job and then plunged into films full time.” With the sort of serendipity that only happens in cinema, Sakshi is obviously on the right track....