Viewers got a Mammootty vibe during my mass scene in ‘Mandakini’: Saritha Kukku

Saritha Kukku, the feisty, bold auto rickshaw driver in ‘Papilio Buddha’ and the brave-hearted Cheeru in ‘Iyobinte Pusthakam’ has gone the extra mile with her role in ‘Mandakini,’ the Malayalam film that hit theatres recently. In the Vinod Leela movie, she plays a mother-in-law, but not the extra sweet or villainy ones that you often get to see in Mollywood. Rather, her character Rajalakshmy is practical, fiercely independent and someone who can rock a mass avatar when needed.
Saritha admits she was not the first choice to play the role. “The makers initially had planned to cast Manju Pillai in the film. Since she had other work commitments, I was asked to step in at the last moment by my friend, who is also the film’s producer. To be honest, the director was not initially pleased with my looks as he had expected someone older-looking to portray the role. I also looked too lean for my character. To overcome these reservations, I approached a make-up artist who brought subtle changes to my looks. The director was extremely happy. I then put on weight (at least six kilograms) within a gap of two weeks to complete my look,” she said.

The Payyanur native admits she has never truly enjoyed watching the characters she has played onscreen. “But Mandakini,’ changed that for me. This was the first time I watched myself on screen with so much joy. I visited the theatre multiple times to enjoy people’s reactions and also experience the joy I felt from seeing my character. I always believed I never got the opportunity to showcase my strengths as an actor. ‘Mandakini,’ allowed me to do that to a large extent,” she said.
Saritha never imagined the reception she would be getting for her performance in the film.

Saritha was part of films, including ‘White Nights’ and ‘Iyobinte Pusthakam’. Photos | YouTube

“I hesitated to do this role initially, since the character Rajalakshmy was older than my original age. Also, I didn’t want to play a mother figure because I feared I would get typecast after my performance in this film. However, I changed my mind upon reading the full script. Rajalakshmy was unlike any woman I had seen on screen. She is a woman of agency and embodies what women really are. Her life is also an ode to all single women out there,” she said. “People welcomed the mass scenes whole-heartedly. Truth be told, I was shocked too with how good it appeared. Some people equated my gait with Mammootty’s style in mass scenes,” she said with a laugh.

Saritha, an alumnus of Satyajit Ray Film Institute, began her career as a theatre artist. She later made her debut in films. Most of them were art house cinema. She bagged the state award for her exemplary performance as Manju in the controversial film ‘Papilio Buddha’, directed by Jayan K Cherian. She later went on to do smaller roles in commercial films like ‘Rani Padmini’ and ‘Iyobinte Pusthakam’, winning praise for her performances.
The actor, who has already signed up for new films, hopes she will get to essay more such feisty roles in the future.

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