Playing the character of legendary actress Savitri is by no means a simple task for Keerthy Suresh. The film Mahanati, a biopic on Savitri is all set for arrival in theaters on May 9th.
Presenting the complete life cycle of Savitri and making it a celebration of cinema from past era is a challenge for entire cast, crew which worked under the guidance of director Nag Ashwin and producers Priyanka, Swapna, Vyjayanthi family.
Keerthy exclusively spoke with Greatandhra to share her experience of getting into the skin of Savitri.
Here are the excerpts.
Q. Where you afraid of taking up Mahanati or how you landed up with the opportunity?
A. Initially I was so skeptical on accepting the title role because I was afraid of pulling the character. But producers Swapna, Priyanka and director Nag Ashwin were keen on having me. Then I accepted for narration. Once I heard the whole script, I had many thoughts.
There are lot of things like good, bad and different phases of Savitri garu in the film and her journey towards the end. I was worried and questioning inner self that can I do justice for the film. But Nagi convinced me of presenting the whole film in a beautiful way and he instilled lot of confidence.
Q. How come you looked exactly like Savitri garu on screen?
A. Savitri garu’s face is bigger than me and her facial features are sharper than mine. It’s the makeup, costumes and hair put together played major role in matching up both of us. I tried nearly 120 costumes and applied prosthetics for 100 days of shooting in almost 10 months span of time.
Q. Why Nag Ashwin was so particular in having you for Savitri?
A. Nag watched my film Rail. He really liked the innocence in my looks which he felt would match with Savitri garu’s teenage that covered the major first half.
Q. Any homework done before arriving on sets?
A. The minute I signed Mahanati, director Nagi gave me a pen drive filled with video clips of Savitri garu. He divided the clips into emotional, drama, romance and all other parts. More than that, I already watched many of Savitri garu films. As there is a bigger chunk of our film with Maya Bazar portions, I watched it fully again.
In recreating moments like Maya Bazar or Neevu Leka Veena song, I need to be so particular about mannerisms or the way she walks, talks, smiles to cope up with the role.
About Savitri garu’s on screen character, I had many inputs but about her off screen behavior, it is Vijaya Chamundeshwari garu (Savitri daughter) provided me four to five pages of information about her behavior at home. Her hobbies, playing cricket, driving cars, swimming… we both had many coincidences.
Q. How is Mahanati divided content wise?
A. Yes, Mahanati content has two divisions. While 80 percent is about Savitri garu’s off the screen character, the life behind an actress and remaining 20 percent is regarding the recreation of interesting scenes which she has done before. Both needed lots of research.
Q. Have you learnt anything from Savitri garu’s life cycle?
A. Acting wise, she was a true legend and real inspiration. Nuances like minute expressions, natural carrying of character with balance, body language… there is so much to learn. Off the screen, Savitri garu’s generosity is something we can take forward.
Q. How about the big casting team?
A. Samantha, Vijay Deverakonda, Dulquer and so many artists. Everyone has got amazing characterization. Without any of these characters, you cannot drive the narrative forward when dealing with a full life cycle of a legendary actress. When there are so many people and most of them seniors, I got a chance to learn many things. We had great chemistry to maintain the mood and taste of subject. It was a pleasure for being a part of Mahanati. I am so happy that Vyjayanthi banner looked after everything making everyone comfortable on sets.
Q. About director Nag Ashwin?
A. He is such a chill out personality who never feels the stress. He never plans the things but loves spontaneity and betters his views on sets. He never forces artists for one particular expression. He encourages the realistic approach to bring honesty into performances. So, he makes every artist super comfortable which enhances the final output too.
For the love and professional satisfaction each one of us had towards this movie, I certainly rate Mahanati with 5 out of 5 stars.
Q. In simple, what is the USP of Mahanati?
A. This is the proper life of a legendary actress. Everybody knows Savitri garu. I am sure that lot of people will watch the film just for her.
Even for the present generation audience who knows Savitri garu by name and did not watch much of her movies, even for them also this is a fresh movie which connects emotionally.
For the kind of effort our team has put in, audience of all sections have to watch it.
Q. Mahanati in Tamil?
A. Mahanati is a pure Telugu film. For Tamil, there will be only a dubbed version to be released both in Tamil Nadu, Kerala.
Q. Any future commitments?
A. Telugu, I haven’t signed any new. In Tamil, I have three like Saamy 2, Pandem Kodi 2 and Thalapathy 62…. Keerthy signs off with that heartwarming smile.