National Awards 2019: Keerthy Suresh feels 'on top of the world' for winning Best Actress for Mahanati

Sreedhar Pillai

Keerthy Suresh has bagged the prestigious National Award in the Best Actress category for Telugu movie Mahanati. She won the award for her portrayal of yesteryear iconic south Indian actress Savithri in the biopic on her tragic life. The Andhra Pradesh-born Telugu actress died at the age of 45 in the year 1981, but left a rich legacy of her acting.

Mahanati also won the National Awards for Best Flm in Telugu and for the Best Costume Design. Keerthy Suresh (27) was a rank outsider to win the national award. Mahanati is her first serious film after doing commercial entertainers in Tamil and Telugu. Her mother Menaka was an actress in Malayalam cinema while her dad Suresh Kumar is a leading producer, and a buddy of Mohanlal and Priyadarsan, with whom he had made many hits during the 1980s and '90s. Speaking exclusively to Firstpost from her Thiruvananthapuram house, the friendly actress opens up.

What is your first reaction to win the most prestigious award in Indian cinema at such an early age? I'm surprised and still in a state of awe on the recognition bestowed by the award committee. It's a dream come true and I'm feeling on top of the world. I owe it to my director Nag Ashwin, and my producers Swapna Dutt, Priyanka Dutt and Ashwini Dutt, all others in the team who placed immense faith in me to play the legendary Savithri garu's role. How did you get your diction and the body language right to do this difficult role of the controversial role of Savithri? After I was chosen to do the role of Savithri amma, I watched almost all her films and the many clippings. I also read everything written about her, and then I met her daughter Vijaya Chamundeswari amma, who was of immense help to know my character better. You were not the first choice to play Savithri? Yes, they had a few other options before the director Nag zeroed in on me after seeing a particular scene from my Tamil film Thodari with Dhanush. They thought the character I played in the film Saroja looked like Savithri ma'am. Isn't strange that your mother lost out to another actress in the final round of National Awards in 1981 for her role in the Malayalam film Oppol? Yes, in a way, I grew up on stories of how she missed the National Award by a whisker. Oppol, in which she played the central character, was a brilliant film that won several awards, though my mother missed out. In a way, I came into the industry and in my early days, I used to tell my mom, 'Someday, I hope I win the national award.' And that is the reason why I dedicated my win to her. In a way, when you signed Mahanati, people were surprised as till then you were doing mass commercial entertainers, and had never done a women centric film? Nobody in this industry walks in straight and does a women centric film. I'm happy that I did a lot of commercial films with big heroes before doing something serious as Mahanati. But you were criticised for doing films like Saami Square, which released after Mahanati, where you played a typical Tamil heroine. Please comment. I used to keep a balance between commercial cinema and the more serious films. I'm proud that I did a Saami Sqaure, a franchise film, and that too with an actor of the stature of Vikram sir. I will continue doing commercial films with big heroes, if the story excites me, and I have a powerful role. Why are you not doing any Malayalam films, from where you started? I'm doing Priyadarsan sir's Mohanlal sir film Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham. I'm open to doing Malayalam films if the role excites me and would love to do a project with actors like Fahadh Faasil. What are your forthcoming films? I'm doing a Hindi film with Ajay Devgn sir with the Badhaai Ho director Amit Sharma, helming it for producer Boney Kapoor. There are two Telugu women-centric films that I'm doing at the moment. Plus, I have signed to do a Tamil film with director Karthik Subbaraj.      

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