Saritha, an actress remembered for her spectacular performances in Tamil films such as Thaneer Thaneer, and Achamillai Achamillai, returns to our screens next week after a decade with Santosh Sivan’s film Inam.
Set during the civil war of Sri Lanka, in an orphanage for teenagers, Saritha plays a mother-figure to the youngsters, who fondly call her ‘tsunami akka.’
For Saritha, it was a dream come true to work with the ace cinematographer, whose visuals are sheer poetry.
“I remember watching his film Ashoka, and being in awe of his shots. I wondered then, will I ever work with him?”
In Inam, tsunami akka shares a close bond with a special teenager, Nandan. Karan, who plays Nandan is a special child himself.
“Santosh trained him for few months before shooting began. Karan’s expressions are commendable. It was a special experience for me working with Karan.”
Praising Sivan for his cool attitude despite managing both direction and cinematography, Saritha said: “He made our work easy, despite the film looking stark and realistic onscreen.”
The only challenge she encountered was delivering dialogues in Sinhalese.
“There was a Sinhalese writer on the sets to train us.”
For one who has worked in all four south Indian languages and with renowned directors too, Saritha’s journey into films was never planned, admits this mother-of-two.
She was in class eight when her father, a film producer and distributor from Guntur, suggested that she audition for director K. Balachander, who was looking for a new heroine to act opposite Kamal Haasan in his next film.
“I was not at all keen and did not even know who KB sir was. But my father convinced me to give it a shot. Besides there was the excitement of acting opposite Kamal,” said Saritha with a smile.
Draped in a sari for the first time, Saritha walked into Balachander’s office the following day.
The first day of shooting required her to cycle down to meet Haasan and kiss him on his hand and then deliver her line: ‘Did I do anything wrong?’ Haasan replied: ‘The place you kissed is wrong.’
“I was supposed to blush, but I just could not get it right. I was only 14 then and could not relate to the emotions. The first day turned out to be a disaster and the producer wanted me sent back home that night, but KB sir was eager to give me another chance.”
The next morning, she surprised everyone, by delivering a long dialogue for a heavy scene in one take.
“KB Sir was happy and gave me a chocolate bar.”
Saritha’s debut film was the box office Telegu hit Marocharithra, later remade in Hindi as Ek Duje Ke Liye.
Subsequently, she featured in two of Balachander’s National Award-winning films, Thaneer Thaneer and Achamillai Achamillai.
“I missed the National Award every time narrowly,” she said.
She counts Julie Ganapathy, among the ones close to her heart. Directed by late Balu Mahendra, she played Julie Ganapathy, a fan of a television writer, who in her obsession for him and his story reveals a dark psychopathic side to her character.
Saritha’s performance was a stark contrast to Themozhi of Achamillai Achamillai and Sevanthy in Thaneer Thaneer.
“When I go to the sets I forget that I am Saritha, I become the character,” she says.