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'It was a privilege to work with Rajinikanth'

June 05, 2014 09:18 IST

'It was a privilege to work with Rajinikanth'


Srikanth Srinivasa/ in Bangalore

Rukmini Vijayakumar is actress and dancer and her hectic dance schedule gives her little time to squeeze in a film project.

She has modelled and been actively involved in English theatre. Her one-woman show, Lady Obama, is one of her most well-known perfomances.

Her role in Bharatiraja’s Tamil film Bommalattam won her accolades. Her second film Ananda Thandavam, a romantic film, failed at the box-office although her classical dance number was well received.

Her cameo performance in the recently released Kannada hit Bajarangi became the talking point of the film.

She plays superstar Rajinikanth’s sister in her latest release, Kochadaiyaan, which opened recently to mixed reviews and below expectation box-office collections.

She has just started work on a Hindi film.

In this interview, Rukmini Vijayakumar talks about starring with Rajinikanth in Kochadaiyaan, her dance and her success in Bajarangi

What was your experience of working in Kochadaiyaan?

The whole process of working was very interesting. It was a live action kind of cinema.

We had sensors all over us. We did all the scenes like how we always do it. They took the shape of my jaw, dental implants and the images of my face from 100 different angles.

The character had all the mannerisms I had. Shooting was very easy but there were no real things on the sets. We had to walk through an imaginary door, sit at a fake table.

It was all hypothetical and imaginary. There was no retake and I didn’t have to redo my hair.

The whole process was all done very soon. Most of the scenes were done once and if you got it wrong we would do it again and be done with it.

Image: Rukmini Vijayakumar


'In a Rajinikanth film, the female lead doesn't have much importance'

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What was it like playing Rajinikanth’s sister in the movie?

My role is not huge. In a Rajinikanth film, the female lead doesn’t have much importance.

But Rajinikanth is a legend and I don’t think anyone else can measure up to his image. Everybody wants to work with him for the sheer massive screen presence that he has.

People go to watch Rajinikanth and not the character that he plays. That is something unique for an actor.

It was a privilege to work with him.

It is said that director Harsha, who is also a choreographer, gave you a lot of freedom in your latest Kannada hit, Bajarangi. Is that true?

Yes. Harsha gave me a lot of freedom to choreograph this song that I did myself.

I did karanasin that song and the only blatantly contemporary movement that I did was the jump. Everything else was Bharatanatyam with karanas.

I believe that India had this jump much before the Vedic era and I cannot really say that my movements were totally contemporary.

Image: Rukmini Vijayakumar

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'I like to look for something in the script that makes me a part of the story'

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How did you go about doing this film which was seen as a cameo role for you?

Harsha told me the whole story. I like to look for something in the script that makes me a part of the story.

I improvise and choreograph as I am an improviser. As long as I know the song, I can do it.

I didn’t have to worry about the camera angles. The director was there to guide me on the movements that I should do for the camera.

When did you begin learning dance?

I spent a large portion of my younger years in the US. I began learning ballet at a very young age. I started learning Bharatanatyam when I was about six or seven.

I used to go every year to a studio in Los Angeles and several other studios in New York to study ballet and modern dance.

I began learning Bharatanatyam with Padmini Rao and switched to Guru Narmada after my arangetram.

She was largely instrumental in me becoming a dancer. I also learnt to perform karanas from Guru Sundari Santanam who is from Bangalore.

Karanas is an ancient format of movement which is what makes my Bharatanatyam look different. This is in the lineage of noted dance exponent Dr Padma Subramaniam.

Image: Rukmini Vijayakumar

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'I do a lot of choreographing, art shows and festivals now'

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You have had an education that is totally aimed at grooming yourself as a performer. How did that happen?

I went back to the performing arts school in the US for my college education. I did my Bachelor’s in Ballet and Modern Dance from Boston Conservatory, which is a four-year rigorous course.

All conservatories structure their courses to make you into a performer, where you work on your physicality and technique and less on theory.

After finishing my Bachelor’s, I came back to India and was weighing my options - whether I should do Broadway or stay in India. 

I wanted to pursue classical dance more than anything else and so I decided to stay back in India to start my own dance company, Radha Kalpa.

I used to perform Bharatanatyam extensively as a soloist. I do a lot of choreographing, art shows and festivals now.

Who has been your greatest influence?

My mother Vijayalakshmi has been a major source of encouragement.

She is more into Art and Management of Art as she runs an NGO. She does a lot of work pertaining to Indian arts. She runs festivals and she took dance as a hobby but couldn’t take it up as a profession.

She inspired me to learn dance because by seeing her, I was drawn into performing it. Although she stopped performing when I was very young, she has been involved in the arts in some capacity.

My family has been a huge support for me to continue my career as a dancer.

So are you now in India for good?

Yes. I am very much here all the time. I just go to the US a few months every year either to tow my production or work with modern dancers. I do all my contemporary training when I am in the US.

Image: Rukmini Vijayakumar

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'Dance is not an essential ingredient in a movie for me to accept an offer'

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How did movies happen?

I used to model in my school days. It was like a hobby during my vacations.

I did my first film during my vacations after someone saw me in an ad and wanted me for Bharathiraja’s film.

Didn’t your first movie give you a lot of recognition?

Yes. I didn’t have many dialogues, but my character was key to the script.

The role was good and is similar to what I did in Bajarangi.

I like to do roles like that because the time I spend in movies is time taken away from my dance. The role must be enjoyable.

You have done just three or four films; how do you choose your films?

What matters is the script, my role and largely, the director. All the three should work together.

Must dance be an integral part of the films that you sign?

No. As it is, I have enough dance performances to give on stage. Dance is not an essential ingredient in a movie for me to accept an offer.



Image: Rukmini Vijayakumar

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