One is not wrong to assume that the National Award opens doors for better roles and recognition. However, Lakshmpriya Chandramouli, who won the National Award for Best Supporting Actor for Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum, believes the recognition hasn’t necessarily translated into better opportunities. “I realized that cinema has two sides. It is both an art form and a business. Those who see it as art value good craftsmanship or skill. Understandably, the business side of cinema has other priorities. is an important factor when it comes to business. A good performance, a national award, is definitely appreciated by people on the craft side of cinema. However, it doesn’t necessarily translate into a business as many factors come into play,” shares the actor.
In his last outing, Sopana Sundari, Lakshmipriyaa plays Thenmozhi, the mute sister of Aishwarya Rajesh’s Agalya. The film is a comedy of errors, and the success of such a film lies in cracking the right joke at the right time. Indeed, it is not easy to play a comic role without dialogues and Lakshmipriya feels that this touch of inventiveness makes her all the more enjoyable and interesting. “Portraying the role of a mute person in a comedy film was a big challenge,” says Lakshmpriyaa, adding, “I had ASL training Payanigal Gavanikavum (2022) which made me play a similar character. This was helpful for Sopana Sundari too.”
Another layer that aided her performance was how Thenmozhi’s silence was based on trauma. Although the makers haven’t really included a backstory for Thenmozhi, she has brought a certain approach to the role to bring out the required performance. “Tenmoji is not trained in ASL. She speaks her mind with actions and expressions that come to her. I chose to play the character because Tenmoji is very innocent and the movie is commercial. The approach to the character was very different. “
Lakshmipriya has always been an actor who has preferred roles that impact the story over those written to fill frames. Being picky about her scripts, the actor explains, “I strongly believe that the screen time of a particular character doesn’t matter. The first thing I consider is how important the character is to the story. What’s the point of playing a character who appears from the first scene to the end but makes no difference to the narrative? Sometimes there are characters who appear in one or two scenes and change the story entirely.” To support her observation, Lakshmi gives an example of Nandita Das’s character from Kannathil Muthamital. “Her character only appears in two scenes, but the impact she left on the film is incredible.”
This line of thought has often seen her in supporting roles, mostly in offbeat films. One can’t help but be curious how it stays out of the mainstream. “I get offered all kinds of roles and I’m picky when it comes to them. I don’t want to portray any role that is regressive or shows women in a bad light,” says the actor, adding, “It doesn’t matter if I’m the lead or supporting, or if the film is mainstream or offbeat, the meaning of the role is most important. ” In fact, Lakshmi notes that the recent rise of well-written supporting actors can’t be called a trend…yet. “Tamil cinema has a mix of everything. You have great films with extremely well-written supporting characters and also films that they need characters just to fill the frame. I wouldn’t say that Tamil cinema has bucked a certain trend when it comes to writing supporting characters.”
This candor can also be seen in the way Lakshmipriya talks about the beauty standards that exist in the film industry. “The beauty standards of the Tamil film industry are being washed away, albeit at a very slow pace. Honestly, it needs to gain momentum,” she says, adding, “I think it’s also the public perception that’s fueling this narrative. Cinema responds to society’s demands and ends up becoming a vicious circle in which the industry is ready to stop when society stops demanding, and vice versa. That’s the case with other things like showing women’s issues and other social standards as well.”
Coming back to winning the national award, a motivated Lakshmipriya is not worried about how others perceive her or the win. It’s all about the journey inward, she notes. “For me, this is a very personal victory. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of. Personally, I think this is a very high honor for a craftsman as it is a national level recognition and I will continue to work to satisfy myself and achieve my dreams.”