That Varalaxmi Sarathkumar’s life and career have been a carousel of red-carpet appearances and trying lows is a given. But through many experiences of love, laughter, success, sadness, betrayal and trauma, the actress has emerged a tough cookie, giving not a hoot to naysayers. “I have built my career on courage and conviction,” she says. standing firmly by her belief that “No one can gift you a career or snatch it away from you. It’s your work, your attitude and of course luck that define your space in the industry.”
On completing 25 films, the she wrote a heartfelt note of gratitude to those who’d made her what she is. What stood out was her mention of Ramesh Anna, her long-standing personal makeup artiste. Unlike some stars who refuse to acknowledge their back-up teams Varalaxmi didn’t curry favour with or show undue subservience to the Who’s Who of the industry. Instead, she gave credit where credit was due. “I can never forget those who stood by me and nurtured me as an individual,” she says, and adds, “It’s not always just family that makes you the person you are. My personal staff have taught me so much about loyalty, values of decency and dignity.”
Having worked in unique roles and with maverick filmmakers like Bala, Varalaxmi has carved a niche for herself as a performer who can carry a role with or without makeup and props. She has come to be the life of awards functions with her spontaneous humour and heart-touching warmth. For the actress, who started a movement called Save Shakthi, the campaign to protect and empower the girl child is something that’s very close to her heart. She says, “Women’s issues are no longer just about equality or dignity. We are a part of this nation’s growth agenda and policies must be gender-just. Women must reach out to each other and stand up for each other. I for one will continue to give my voice, time and effort to preventing abuse of little girls.”
She has also ensured that she is part of no camp in K’town. Despite her father Sarathkumar being active in politics, Varalaxmi has managed to win the hearts of Jayalalithaa, Karunanidhi and all other politicians she has met. She has never taken a political stance but continues to work with filmmakers who have a political agenda or bent of mind. “I am good to everyone and engage only professionally”, she smiles.
“Politicians have always spoken about my craft and I have always thanked them for their generosity. I’ve never gone to them for favours or made any statements on politics. I believe all of them are working towards public welfare and I applaud them for their mental strength.”
One of the central points of Varalaxmi’s life is her mother Chaya. Speaking emotionally of her, Varalaxmi says, “She needed no godfather or hero for her to craft her space. My mother singlehandedly raised me and my sister to be independent and understand the world we are going to live in. Love, loyalty, relationships and good deeds were all a part of dinner table conversations. We hold no grudges or bitterness and we are thankful for the experiences. As three strong women, we’ve weathered many a storm and only enjoyed the milestones we’ve crossed...