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Interview Tamil

We have the power to influence thinking of a generation through our work: Andrea Jeremiah


In an interview with us, the actress spoke about how the five-year delay in Vishwaroopam 2 might just prove to be profitable to the political and social idea in Kamal Haasan's film. 

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Shriram Iyengar

After five years, Kamal Haasan's grand scale epic of Vishwaroopam (2013) moves to its conclusion with the second part, Vishwaroopam 2. The film is set to be released on 10 August, and will refocus on the lives of Indian RAW agent, Wisam Ahmed Kashmiri (played by Haasan) and his team's efforts to nullify a terrorist's grand plans. Playing Ashmita Subramaniam, Andrea Jeremiah emerged as one of the surprise elements in the first film. 

Despite the sequel's five-year delay, Andrea beleives it is arriving at the right time. "The interesting part about Vishwaroopam 2 is that the politics of the film is more relevant to the current political climate. Because this current political climate did not exist five years ago. In effect, the delay could very well be a blessing in disguise," she said. 

In an outspoken and breezy conversation, Andrea also spoke about the experience of working with two perfectionists — Kamal Haasan and Vetrimaaran. "I don’t want a director who says, ‘I don’t want to push my actors.’ No! I want the director to push me. Make me cry, make me bleed. That’s alright, as long as we get the best shot," she said. 

The actress will be seen in Vada Chennai (2018), alongside Dhanush, Samuthirakani in Vetrimaaran's film. While the story is said to be a trilogy, Andrea wished to play it one at a time. "Well, for now one part is set to be released this year. You never know, we had to wait for five years for Vishwaroopam 2 (laughs)." 

Following are excerpts from the interview. 

2017 was a good year for you with Thupparivalan, Tharamani and Aval. With 2018, you are coming back with Vishwaroopam 2. Looks like the start of another good year?

Yes, yes. I am very happy with how those films turned out. Although, each film was special in its own way. But yes, I am happy with this. 

The scale, though, might be a little different. Vishwaroopam 2 is one of the most awaited big films of the year in Tamil film industry, considering its long delay.

Yeah, the five-year delay (laughs). No actor is happy to have a film delayed by even a year, but the interesting part about Vishwaroopam 2 is that the politics of the film is more relevant to the current political climate. Because this current political climate did not exist five years ago. In effect, the delay could very well be a blessing in disguise. 

Earlier, it would have just been a film. Now, it becomes a more relevant film. I think for any filmmaker, for any person in the film industry, the truth is that we have the power to influence the thinking of a generation through our work. We can shape their thoughts. If we are able to do that in a way that benefits this country, then why not? I think it's fabulous. 

The trailer is interesting. Where the first film looked outwards at terrorism and counterintelligence in the context of international affairs, the second one has the team returning to India.

Well, this part is also relevant internationally. It is a continuation of the first part after all, not a new story at all. It is just the detail into which we get into the second part did not happen in the earlier film. 

There was only a broad outline of things, and nobody really knows who these people are doing these things. In the second part, you get into their stories. For instance, my character, Anita. You get into her military background. 

In the first part, I just was this girl hanging around Kamal sir’s character. Nobody really knows why, or what is she. Is she his wife? His girlfriend? Why is she hanging around him? There is this air of sobriety between the two of them.  

Was this slow reveal a part of the brief given to you when you first came into the film. What were the early discussions like?

I just had a talk with Kamal sir, he gave me a script and asked me if I’d like to do it. I was like ‘I am not getting what she is?’ He said, ‘Trust me. Come on board, and then you will see how beautifully this character will develop.’ And that’s all I did. I just trusted him with his work. 

What is he like as a director? How was it working with him?

I always like to work with actors turned directors because they know how to handle actors better. A large part of being a director is also your people management skills. Especially, someone who knows what it is like to be on the other side of the camera, knows exactly how to handle his characters, how to make his scenes comfortable, at the same time he knows how to get the best out of his team. It is pretty much what you want from any director. 

I don’t want a director who says, ‘I don’t want to push my actors.’ No! I want the director to push me. Make me cry, make me bleed. That’s alright, as long as we get the best shot. So I am very happy to be working with a professional. Most of my directors are that way. I seem to attract such people. 

Kamal Haasan and Andrea Jeremiah in Vishwaroopam 2 (still)

Is that the same with Vetrimaaran with whom you are working in Vada Chennai? Is the method any different?

Very much so. I mean, Vetrimaaran is no less of a perfectionist than Mr Kamal Haasan. He is just so brilliant to work with. One of the most prolific directors, not just in our state, but in the country. His style of filmmaking, everything is unique and rooted. International and native at the same time is a rare combination. You don’t find it in many directors. 

You have worked with Kamal Haasan before, in Uttama Villain (2015). So was the rapport easier?

Of course, It is always good. For me, Rajkamal is very familiar territory. It is like going home away from home. As actors, we all want familiarity. It makes you feel more at ease. The more at ease you are, the better it is. 

As an actor, what are you looking forward to for the film?

I am certainly looking forward to a whole lot of people watching it. (Laughs) Secondly, I feel the politics of the film is far more relevant now than it would have been five years ago. I am hoping this film will make a lot of people think, give them food for thought. 

Vishwaroopam 2 is not just an entertainer. It has a strong political message. 

With Kamal Haasan entering politics, the film takes on an entirely different colour.

One point I’d really like to make is that people might think the film is political because of his political ambition. But the truth is that this film was made five years ago, before he even thought of being a politician. Every single scene or line in the movie was shot five years ago. The only thing we shot now is a montage song. It’s just an uncanny coincidence, that he has chosen to enter politics at the same time as the movie releases.  

You also have Vada Chennai coming up this year?

This year I only have two releases (Vada Chennai and Vishwaroopam 2), the rest are under production. For now, there is only one part that is releasing. For the rest of it, who knows when it will happen. I mean, we had to wait five years for Vishwaroopam 2. 

How was the experience shooting with Dhanush and Vetrimaaran. The teaser has a very grim, rugged feel to it.

It was an incredible experience. I have already told you about Vetrimaaran, and Dhanush is one of the finest actors in the country. But he is also a brilliant producer. He has a knack for picking good stories. 

This project is Vetrimaaran’s baby. He has been living with this script for a very long time. So, it was about time we got down and made the film. It is a film that is close to all our hearts. We have a very strong emotional connect.

For a person, who often says acting happened by chance, you do sound quite passionate?

I guess, film acting happened by chance, but I did spend most of my childhood on stage. I never went out and sent my pictures, and met people. 

How do you manage your singing in the middle of this?

I’ve never left my singing. It is the prime cause of who I am. I need to sing in order for the actor in me to survive.