Swati: Amen is a film of magical realism
Swati has made her mark as an actress in Telugu and Tamil films and has won Nandi awards for her performances in Telugu films.
Now Swati has forayed into Malayalam cinema with Amen, directed by Lijo Jose Pellisery. Swati has been acclaimed for her performance in the film as Sosanna, a rural Christian girl.
In this exclusive chat, she talks about her experience of doing her first Malayalam film and how wonderstruck she is by Kerala.
You must be proud of doing a film like Amen. How did you get to sign it?
Director Lijo had been calling me for a few years. Earlier, the role offered was similar to Subramaniapuram and I refused it. We parted amicably.
I was always in Amen even before it took off. We would talk of it. The director was stubborn I do it.
'Fahadh Fazil is a no-nonsense person'
How was it to portray a rural Christian girl in the film?
Amen is a film of magical realism. It has a dreamy feel. Initially, there was a retro feel also. Kerala is amazingly beautiful with its greenery and water.
I play this strong girl who is focused. She is in love. She is very open and that is her strength.
Solomon (whom she loves) and she grew up together and people think they will end up together. She scolds him, cajoles him, as she wants him to be the best.
What was alien was the culture, the attire (the chatta, mundu) and the language. It was a different world.
You acted with Fahadh Fazil, the current sensation in Malayalam cinema...
He was very civil and dignified, a quiet, no-nonsense person. He used to call me Reddy garu. I was trying to soak in so many things and trying to pick up Malayalam.
The film was shot in the Kerala backwaters...
We shot in Alappuzha and around Kochi. The prettier it looks on screen, the harder it takes to shoot.
It was hot, humid and sultry. Physically it was tiring for me as I was from Hyderabad.
Water, boats, fishes, lotus was no big deal for the local people but I used to get excited by all that. I had a lot of mixed emotions. It was a wholesome experience shooting there.
Image: A scene from Amen
'There were good days and frustrating days on the sets of Amen'
Could you understand the nuances in the language?
I learnt my lines very well with Kuku Paramesvaran. I was very well prepared before the shoot. But, sometimes, it was difficult and I wouldn't get the lines right. Also, Lijo would shoot the whole scene. I would say there were good days and frustrating days.
I am an obsessive person. I would sit with Kuku ma'm and ensure that my lip sync and look was perfect. I never relaxed. The others would tell me what they would be doing. So I knew what my co-star was doing.
Acting in Amen must have been interesting and challenging...
Yes, not so much because of the emotions but because of the culture. The team of Indrajith, Rachna, Sandra, Sunil, Nandu was fabulous.
It goes without saying that Fahadh was also fabulous. I interacted with all these people who were intelligent, talented and people without egos. They knew their strengths.
How was the experience of shooting in Kerala?
It was a totally different experience. I wanted to know what is what as far as food was concerned. I loved the food. One person would bring the tea for all. We would all go and help ourselves with the food.
'I am getting a few calls for doing Malayalam films'
So, your entry into Malayalam cinema was with a good film?
It was a stellar one. Everywhere people recognised me. My Tamil film Subramaniapuram ran for 100 days in Kerala and people used to sing the song Kangal Irundaal from it wherever I went. They used to shout Thulasi (her name in Subramaniapuram) recognising me.
How was it promoting the film? How were you received by the media?
I was received well and given respect. The anchors who questioned me knew all about me, even the fact that I was born in the USSR. I was impressed with their homework.
Are you getting calls for more Malayalam films now?
I am getting a few calls. Malayalam is special as I can do variety that I can't do anywhere else. As you know, this year 13 Malayalam films have bagged National Awards.
Image: A scene from Amen