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March 28, 1998


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Child, woman, star

Ch Sushil Kumar

Soundarya. Click for bigger pic!
Soundarya is fresh-faced, young, pretty... And unwilling to expose?? Yet, she's starred in more Telugu films last year than any other actress has. And shows no sign of slowing down.

Her presence in Telugu cinema is heightened by the fact that she still retains the child-like innocence that her contemporaries have quickly replaced with the watchful hardness of experience. She arrives on the sets with her mother, and radiates a dignity that few other actresses can survive with. That's Soundarya.

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She had hoped to become a doctor, and her father, when he was alive, did not press her to join films. "I studied science in Intermediate only to become a doctor but I was offered a role in a Kannada film and I happened to say yes to it. Nevertheless I am happy with my film career," she says.

In Kannada, she got to do small or what she calls insignificant roles. "It is only because of the good roles that came my way in Telugu films that I became popular," she adds.

And the variety of roles she was offered finally had people describe her as a good actress.

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"She is a thorough professional," is how actor Venkatesh describes her. Venkatesh should know, since he's starred opposite her in quite a few films. Their latest hit together is Pellichesukundam.

Her latest film, Osi Na Maradala, is also doing well. And with successful films like Arunachalam, Ma Ayana Bangaram, Aropranam, and Dongata behind her, the actress is on solid ground.

She'd started off, hoping to be a doctor but ended up an actress. She began with insignificant roles in Kannada, her mother tongue, and is now the most popular actress in Telugu films. And even now, she looks as fresh, as child-like, as the day she entered the industry.

When others in the Telugu film industry have been taking the short cut -- dropping their clothes to draw audiences -- she has relied on presence and performance and a middle-class bunch of values. It might have just been the shock value, or the rare mix of ability, reticence and radiant beauty, but it went down well with the audiences. And thus was a new star born.

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Success too hasn't gone to the ingenue's head and she remains down-to-earth, a childish picture of dignity in a milieu traditionally reserved for the voluptuary.

"In films, it is versatility that counts. If only beauty was important and if exposing was a must, several bad actresses would have made it big. In my opinion, talent alone can bring success," she says in all sincerity.

"I am a much sought after actress only because of my talent and not because they say I have a beautiful face. It is also my luck that I have become a successful actress," she says.

"True, I have been able to showcase my talent but I cannot say my best has come. It all depends on the role," she says. The roles she got in Telugu cinema were 'challenging', she adds. So now she finds little time for Kannada films. There is also the fact that she's had fewer flops in Telugu cinema.

Soundarya. Click for bigger pic!
Immaterial of her standing in the industry, she has resolved never to expose. "No director has compelled me to shed my inhibitions for the camera. Not that some didn't ask me, but I politely refused. The messages was clear to all producers and directors: Soundarya will not expose. But in spite of that I am preferred," she says matter-of-factly.

"These are my principles and I will stick to them. If any director insists on making me do what I do not want to, that very day I will pack my bags and leave the film industry," the actress says firmly.

So what does the new star do in whatever little spare time she has. "I spend it with my mother and brother. Otherwise, I bury my head in an Enid Blyton book," she says happily.

Does she regret having entered films and not having become a doctor? No, she replies, looking you straight in the eye. Now all she wants to do is leave an indelible impression on film-goers.

"People should remember me as a versatile actress. That would give me the most satisfaction."

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