Surabhi Lakshmi: ‘I Didn’t Even Know If I Had The Right To Dream Of Lead Roles’

When Anoop Menon called Surabhi Lakshmi to ask if she had a few days to spare for his directorial debut, she asked if he wanted dates this year or in the years gone by. She was thrilled to be a part of his project, but in a way, it was also her typical comedic way of expressing that ever since she won the National Award for Best Actress in 2017, she has not received too many plump projects.

Speaking about being roped in to essay the title character in Padma, where she plays the naadan woman to Anoop’s urbane husband, she says, “I had worked with Anoopettan in several projects. In Thirakkatha, I was on the sidelines, mouthing minor dialogues in scenes between him and Priyamani. At that juncture, I didn’t even know if I had the right to dream of lead roles .”

It was only after the first schedule of this film that she realised that she was doing the title role. “Padma has comic elements and Anoopettan explained it has elements of the Trivandrum Lodge genre. What makes me really happy is for the first time since I won the National Award and after all my intense characters, a director had shown the gumption to cast me in the lead in a commercial film,” she says.
Also, it was the most glamorous setting she has ever shot in, Surabhi says laughing. “Because of the pandemic protocol, most of the shoot was done in a five-star hotel and we had a really enjoyable time,” she says.

Surabhi’s Kallan Disoosa, which has Soubin, Dileesh Pothen and Hareesh Kanaran, is with a team that she has been associated with since her NID days and hit TV comedy show M80 Moosa. In fact, it was this film’s director Jithu K Jayan and associate director Siju, who saw the potential and persuaded her to do her award-winning role in Minnaminungu. “They are people who have always dreamt of making a film and they’d tell me that whenever they were ready to do so, whatever age I was, they’d write a role for me,” she says. The comedy-thriller entertainer, which is ready for theatre release, has her playing a strong woman character.

Surabhi also has a couple of hefty, serious films, which required a lot of ‘homework’, including spending time with people similar to the characters she would go on to play. One such is K Harikumar’s Jwalamukhi, in which she plays a character based on Selina Michael, a female crematorium worker from Thrikkakara. “After spending days with her and hearing of her life experiences, you come to the realisation that you can face anything that life throws at you,” she says. Another “very challenging” role is in “guru” Jayaraj’s directorial Aval. “It is based on a real-life deaf mute person. I spent time with three different — trained and untrained — hearing-impaired people to learn their mannerisms,” she points out. She plays a woman paralysed from waist down and is paired with Indrans in Farook Abdul Rahman’s Pori Veyil, and is the lead in Khais Millen’s Thala, shot over three years to capture the changes in Thiruvanantha-puram’s Chekalchoola colony, with residents there too, trained to play important roles. She also has roles in Indrajith-Anu Sithara starrer, Anuradha Crime No. 59/2019, and Dulquer Salmaan’s Kurup.

Subrabi remembers how Kappela-director Musthafa, also a National Award-winner, had told her not to expect her life to turn around in a jiffy because of the award. “I cherish his advice, because you expect to see a big change but it doesn’t happen. So, I went about doing my work the best I could, learning and trying to improve with each new project. Now, when I have all these projects, I will just continue the same without taking anything for granted,” she says.

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