Nervous, excited, happy, anxious… Manju Warrier goes through a gamut of emotions as I catch up with her to talk about Asuran, which releases on October 4. Having breathed life into the character of rustic Pachaiyammal in the Vetrimaaran flick, starring opposite Dhanush, Manju can’t wait to know the audience’s reaction.
“I have been blessed to get strong characters and Pachaiyammal is too one. The wife of Sivasamy (Dhanush) and mother of three children, she is the pillar of the family. They belong to the oppressed segment of the class of society in Tamil Nadu, and are often who gets exploited,” says Manju, without going into details of the movie based on Tamil novel, Veekkai, written by Poomani.
The actor admits that it took some time for her to get into the character. “I haven’t done such a role in Malayalam. The industry was totally new for me and I had my reservations about how the atmosphere on the set would be. It took me a week to get used to the working there, thanks to the whole team who were very warm, welcoming and treated me with love and respect,” she says.
Manju says the team worked on the look of the character, who goes through three different age groups. “I observed women in the area to understand how they wore the sari and how they walked, sat and spoke. Imbibing those things took some time. The Thirunelveli dialect was tough to get my tongue around. Although I speak Tamil, I’m used to the commonly-spoken urban Tamil. There were many words that I haven’t heard at all! I had to work on the intonations, pronunciation and the like,” she says.
Manju points out that the biggest challenge for her was not disappointing the people who had entrusted her with the role. “I had received several offers from Tamil before, but none of them worked out. Maybe it was for the best because I couldn’t have asked for something as good this one,” she says.
She didn’t have to think twice when the role came her way. “I was like, ‘Who can say no to this?’ I have been friends with Dhanush for nearly 10 years now. Although we had discussed some projects in the past, we couldn’t move ahead with it. He is one among the most-loved Tamil actors in Kerala and whenever he has teamed up with Vetrimaaran, they have created magic on-screen,” she adds.
As for Vetrimaaran, the actor can’t stop gushing about his films and characters. “The women in his films get etched in your minds, in spite of the length of their roles. So I was confident about my character. And when someone told me that usually women characters don’t get as much screen time as I have got in Asuran, I was elated! That was a huge thing,” she laughs.
She was also impressed by the ease with his style of filmmaking. “Although the film had heavy-duty scenes, he never made it feel so,” she says.
The film was mainly shot in Kovilpatti. “When the project was announced, my filmmaker friends were excited about the whole thing more than me. They would call me up now and then to hear about the working style of Vetrimaaran and Dhanush. They were even planning to come to Kovilpatti, but I warned them not to come anywhere near the set!” she laughs.
Asuran also has Pasupathy, Prakash Raj, Balaji Shaktivel, Ken Karunas and Teejay in the cast. Music is by GV Prakash Kumar.
Meanwhile, Manju is currently shooting for Rosshan Andrew’s Prathi Poovan Kozhi. She recently stepped into production, co-producing Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Ahar. “It was just an experiment and I am still getting used to the technicalities of it,” she adds.
Her other upcoming projects include Santosh Sivan’s Jack and Jill and a directorial venture by her brother, Madhu Warrier.