It has been six years since the successful Subramaniapuram, Swathi Reddy’s first Tamil film. Her rapid eyelash fluttering and demure smile in the superhit song ‘Kangal Irandaal’ became a defining visual from the film, and helped her rise in popularity here. However, she has since acted only in four Tamil films. She attributes this both to her busy schedule in the Telugu film industry, and the stereotypical roles that are being offered here. “For some reason, people take the roles you play in films seriously and think that’s how you are in real life too. They are convinced you’re capable of playing only such roles.” After her village belle role in Subramaniapuram, she was only offered similar characters. “Had I told people that I dressed up in shorts and pyjamas at home, people would have been outraged,” she says sardonically.
Though she graduated in biotechnology from St. Mary’s College, Hyderabad, the allure of films proved difficult to resist. “My friends reminded me that while there were many biotechnology students, there were only a handful of actresses from South India,” she says. 2008 was a landmark year in the actor’s career with both Subramaniapuram and Ashta Chamma, her second Telugu film in a lead role, attaining tremendous success. It was perhaps too much to handle so early in her career. “To live up to it is truly hell,” she says, frankly. “I had to slow down, if only to reduce expectations and not encourage directors to approach me with stereotypical roles.” Finally, this year seems to be bringing her back to the Tamil industry, with one release already in the form of Vadacurry. She has signed two other films — Amali Thumali and Vishnuvardhan’s Yatchan. While the former’s work is almost complete, the latter’s has just begun.
Signing Yatchan was a no-brainer for her. “It is Vishnuvardhan’s film, and after meeting him, I could see that the atmosphere would be comfortable to work in ,” she says.
She has also learnt over time not to over-analyse choices. “If you have a good feeling about a team and sense that they are serious about conveying a story, you just sign up. This is what I have done withYatchan; and the same with Subramaniapuram.”
In Yatchan, she is paired opposite actor Kreshna, Vishnuvardhan’s brother. “It is a strong, supportive character; not the typical female character in our films whose life is driven by her love for the boy,” she adds.
“It’s great to see filmmakers like Gokul, Vishnuvardhan and Nalan Kumarasamy stepping in with fresh ideas,” says Swathi. “While the roles I’m working on may not warrant comparison with say, Michelle Williams’ role in Blue Valentine (2010), I’m happy that I’m not wearing a thavani and nagging the hero.” Amali Thumali (starring Nakul and Shanthnoo Bhagyaraj), meanwhile, has been in the making for about two years now. “There is just one more schedule pending, and it should be ready for release,” she says.
As an actor who has worked in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films, she sees a difference in philosophy in all three. “Telugu films are about entertainment, Malayalam films about the story, and Tamil films a healthy mix of both,” says Swathi, who has also dubbed for actor Ileana D’Cruz in a Telugu film. “The dubbing work was a one-off request, and I made it clear that I wasn’t ready to be stereotyped as a dubbing artiste and lose opportunities to act.” Given the offers on her plate, she is evidently far from losing out.