Star profile: Keerthy Suresh opens up about life after Mahanati, dealing with trolls and picking women-centric roles

One of the most successful heroines across multiple languages right now, the 26-year-old has always played cute, girl-next-door roles untill Mahanati happened earlier this year 
Keerthy Suresh
Keerthy Suresh

Five years and 19 films old, Keerthy Suresh has already had the kind of success only few actors are able to achieve in their entire careers. One of the most successful heroines across multiple languages right now, she’s always been known for her cute-sy, girl-next-door roles. Till Mahanati, aka Nadigaiyar Thilagam, happened. Essaying the role of yesteryear actor Savitri, Keerthy secured immense recognition for her acting chops in this film and proved her on-screen mettle. Her life hasn’t been the same since. In an exclusive interview, Indulge chats with her about all things cinema, handling trolls and more. 

Keerthy Suresh in pinks and pastel greens
Keerthy Suresh in pinks and pastel greens

One of the major grouses that many have with commercial cinema is that the heroine’s roles are underwhelming. But one can’t ignore the visibility one gets by being in these projects. How important is this visibility for you?

It is very important, no matter how small the role of the female lead is. In many commercial films, the storyline might not necessarily even need a female lead. But, it’s very rare that a film without a heroine gets made. Sandakozhi 2 is a very good example of how a commercial heroine should be. It needed a nice character, similar to the one Meera Jasmine played in the first part of the same. And Linguswami, the director, is known to characterise his heroines differently.  However, not all commercial films are required to do this. Be it a meaty role or anything otherwise, being a part of a big project is vital as it can take you places. More than looking at how important my role is, the sense of working with known names and stars is gratifying. When that film breaks records, you will be a part of that film and that gives a sense of pride. If you get a good character, one with some space, it feels even better. 

Commercial cinema or women-centric cinema?
It is the story that is the backbone of a good film now. If a good script tends to be women-centric, it is great, but every film can’t be a Mahanati. Not all films can be that grand. And this was a biopic. I am yet to do a conventional women-centric film. People have started to accept such cinema in the South only in the recent past. It is very important to strike a balance between women-centric cinema and commercial cinema.

Trolls have become a part and parcel of what a celebrity has to tackle. Has it ever affected your psyche?
You can say I am the most trolled heroine (Smiles). When it started, I just looked at it as something people were doing for fun. I used to laugh at it myself. But when it became a sustained torrent, I realised that this is what they do. I started taking both — positives and negatives — out of it. It felt good to accept criticism, learn and also acknowledge my own growth. A few things, I can try and control, but I can’t change myself. This is what I am and this is how I will be. But due to these trolls, I realised where I was going wrong. Initially, I did ponder for a bit. But now, they don’t affect me. I just move on.          

In Mahanati
In Mahanati

Has the success of Mahanati changed how you look at scripts?
Definitely. It has made me more responsible. The question that everyone now asks me is what film I’m working on next. Even I haven’t thought so much about it. (Laughs). But it has made me realise that now, I need to be more cautious about my projects. I haven’t signed anything yet. After several years of continuous shooting, I’ve finally managed to take a break for a few months. This is my first break after I started working on Tamil films actually. I am listening to scripts and stories right now, trying to be wise about setting up next year. I definitely want to balance commercial cinema with offbeat scripts.

Talking about commercial films, you have Sarkar coming up. And this is the second time you are working with Vijay.
It is amazing that I got another opportunity to work with Vijay. I haven’t worked with AR Murugadoss and AR Rahman before. The Vijay-Murugadoss combination is also huge. It is a super package on the whole and I am elated to be a part of it. Like I said before, it is about being a part of a big project.
You started off with Malayalam cinema and now you are making a comeback of sorts with Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham. Incidentally, you are working again with Mohanlal and Priyadarshan, who were a part of your debut film as well. Life seems to have come full circle.

Keerthy and Vijay in Sarkar
Keerthy and Vijay in Sarkar

Yeah (Smiles). It isn’t a full-fledged role, but it is going to be a huge film in Malayalam. Kunjali Marakkar’s story is like an epic and has several versions ­— like Ramayana, for instance. This film will capture one version and I am happy to be a part of it.  

If there is something you can tell your 23-year-old self, who debuted in Tamil in 2015, what would it be?
Thirumbi pakama poite iru (Keep walking and never look back). I didn’t expect any of this to happen. I have always wanted to be in cinema, right from my childhood. But I didn’t know if it would happen. I studied fashion designing because I figured I could be a costume designer, if not an actress. The desire has always been to be a part of cinema. And somehow, I got my debut. When I started off in Malayalam, I didn’t think I would do Tamil films. When I was working in Tamil, I didn’t expect Telugu opportunities. But now, I am working in all three languages. I generally don’t expect anything because that way, you feel more happiness when something better happens.

I think I have used my opportunities well. My choice of projects has helped me. I have also said no to several projects. At that time, people questioned my choices, but it has worked out for me. I think I have made some right decisions at least, and I am glad I did this all  by myself. My entry into cinema might have been easy, because my father (Suresh Kumar) was a Malayalam producer and mother was a Malayalam actress (Menaka). However, I have always wanted to be independent and at one point, I was even managing my own dates. It is easy to say that I have a cinema background, but creating one’s own identity requires a lot of work. My journey so far has been a flight of stairs that I had to climb, not an escalator. 

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