Ammani - an ode to life

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Ammani - an ode to life
Tamil star Lakshmy Ramakrishnan

Actress-director Lakshmy Ramakrishnan launches the trailer of her third feature film, Ammani, today in Dubai. She spoke to Deepa Gauri.

By Deepa Gauri

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Published: Sat 26 Sep 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 26 Sep 2015, 10:00 AM

LAKSHMY RAMAKRISHNAN CALLS herself an accidental actor and filmmaker. It all started with late director Lohitada's location scouting her house for his movie Chakkara Mutthu in Malayalam.
He insisted that Lakshmy act in the movie and before she knew it, Lakshmy went on to become an integral part of the Tamil film industry with a succession of movies under veteran directors - from Mani Ratnam to Gautam Menon to Mysskin and more.
Her role in Mysskin's Yuddam Sei, for which she had to tonsure her head, brought her tremendous accolade and laurels. She also directed two films, the award-winning Aarohanam, about bipolar disorder and Nerungi Vaa Muthamidathe, a road movie of sort that also addressed social issues.
But Lakshmy has many parts to her personality that go beyond films. She presents one of Tamil television's most popular shows, Solvethellam Unmai and has been an event manager.
It is her TV show that brought Lakshmy to her third movie titled Ammani. She is launching the film's trailer in Dubai today as a thank you gesture to the fans of her TV show in the Gulf and also for the fact that the film is produced by Ven Govinda, who is based in the UAE.
"I happened to meet a lady, a rag-picker who is around 85 years, while doing the TV show," says Lakshmy, "she is no more but her story, her approach to life, her spirit and determination inspired me. I thought if she could influence me so profoundly with the meeting, her life would surely mean something to a lot of others too."
Thus was born Ammani that has actress Subbalakshmi, whom Tamil and Malayalam movie lovers would recognise as the loveable granny, and Lakshmy too playing two central women characters in a film that "is a tribute to old age and life itself."
Lakshmy says the film is not a biopic about Ammani other than that her story served as the trigger. "Ammani is the theme of the movie and its soul."
Lakshmy does not believe in communicating a message but if there is a powerful, overarching thought that she wants viewers to take home. And that is, "one must let the children go after they are old enough so that they will learn to take responsibility in life. We must not deprive them the pleasure of making it big with their own effort."
The film, therefore, sees life from the perspective of the wisdom of age that evolves through several protagonists. Lakshmy feels that everyone will have something to take from the movie. "I have been very genuine about what I have felt about Ammani. I have not manipulated the movie for film festivals or the commercial circuit."
The one character trait about Ammani that has left a lasting impression on Lakshmy is her "detached attachment" - and that, she says, is a powerful approach to life. Lakshmy is confident that the film will be interesting to the audience.
Lakshmy says she has not approached the film by being sarcastic or judgemental. "Who am I to comment on whether anything is right or wrong? It is all situational, anyway. I have made the film as light as possible - I wouldn't call that humour - but there is an underlining blackened truth that is hard-hitting."
The spirit of the 82-year-old Subbalakshmi was a driving force in making the movie, says Lakshmy. "She would work till midnight and be on sets early in the morning. She was tireless and full of childlike enthusiasm."
Lakshmy says she likes to multi-task. Even when she was in Muscat earlier, she found herself keeping busy with several things at a time including fashion designing.
"I am a very restless person, I need to be busy and I am at my best when I have a handful. It is a punishment for me to do one thing at a time."
But she says acting in Ammani and directing it simultaneously was strenuous. "It was not an easy role and the task cost my health. But since I shaped the character, I could understand her more than anyone else."
Lakshmy says working with the director-greats of today has been a rewarding and learning experience. "My guru is Lohitadas; he opened the doors for me. Maybe he had expected me to be a good actress or else he wouldn't have cast me."
Looking back on her career, Lakshmy says "everything has been a bonus. I have never imagined I would ever make movies. It happened and I went with the flow. I am not a qualified actor or director and I don't want the pressure of setting standards and living up to them. I want to enjoy what I do, give my best and be as genuine as possible."
The mother of three says now that she has identified her true field in life, she is doing things in fast mode to make up for all the time lost.
"My search ends with films but I would say this is just the beginning of my journey."
A journey in which, she wants to be remembered as being both an actress and a director.

A scene from Ammani
A scene from Ammani
A scene from Ammani
A scene from Ammani

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