Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Swathi - The Soul of Anjali Teacher, Golconda High School

Swathi, the highly acclaimed Telugu film actor, Nandi award winner and Filmfare award winner for Best Actress for her role in Ashta Chamma, plays Anjali, the English teacher in Golconda High School, the romantic interest of Sampath the taciturn cricket coach. The English Teacher not only brings much needed energy, humour and good sense to an environment filed with doubt, friction, animosity and uncertainty, but she also provides great relief from the testosterone charged cricket fields, Irani cafes and dressing rooms. Having seen Swathi's previous performances, I would be inclined to guess that she would have breezed through her scenes in her inimitable style - she is so much like that in real life too.
Swathi at Landmark, Banjara Hills

Energy and good humour is taken for granted when Swathi is around but I add good sense to her personality trait. Good sense as a mix of intelligence, awareness and understanding. She is intelligent, extremely sharp with her wit and repartee on one hand and deep in her quest to add knowledge be it through reading or discussion on the other. I also see intelligence as a trait that gives you the power of discretion, apart from the judicious use of knowledge, and this is something she displays in good measure. Swathi is constantly aware of the demands of the situation and brings an understanding to it that works out best for all concerned. This I state by my observations during our interactions in the past few years.

I watched her anchor a hugely popular television show and found her refreshingly different, irreverent. She pulled off the most audacious capers with ease and that too with some of the stiff big wigs of the industry - one plagued with sycophancy and star struck anchors. But where she scored for me was that she was never offensive, despite poking fun, always tongue in cheek, and carried the subject along with her as she did the rest of the audience. Many far lesser talented anchors lacking the sensitivity, sensibility and intelligence thrived for long on national television on the USP of mistaking spontaneity and wit for being insultingly offensive - Mohan Whatever of Snakes and Ladders and Sajid Khan come to mind instantly. It is a rare feature that someone in India could pull of such a show - and I would have loved to see her on the national stage in the same role, dealing with slippery politicians, big headed celebrities for years to come. She'd have been bigger than some of the current anchors easily with her amazing talent to carry everyone including the subject. It sounds delicious to even think of what she could have done on the CWG!

But television's loss is the film industry's gain as they say and Swathi seems firmly entrenched here now. And true to her potential Swathi stamped her presence authoritatively in almost every single project she has associated with. Recognition followed naturally, in terms of awards, the Filmfare award, the Nandi award, and the young actor is only 5 films old! The mind boggles at what she can do, given the right sort of roles and one can only hope that she gets roles that do justice to her histrionic talent. And that she is not limited to Telugu audiences only and goes far beyond.
Swathi, Sumanth, Ganga Raju and Mohana Krishna at the book launch

I first met Swathi at the audio launch of Ashta Chamma and then at the screening of Ashta Chamma and was so pleased to find her absolutely normal and down-to-earth as she went about checking out our reactions to the movie. Actually we were too dazed to react by the interval, the movie moving at a rapid pace and in an unconventional mode, so we saved our reactions to the end. Ever since, I have always found her very easy to talk to since she can talk about a great many topics easily and is very comfortable being herself. Sometime later, when she read 'The Men Within', she was gracious enough to call me and congratulate me on writing it, a social courtesy that I find very endearing and rapidly disappearing these days - and I was glad she liked the book. So when Art Beat decided to make a movie out of the book, Swathi, to me, was the logical Anjali teacher. She looks the part, adds verve and class to it, and mostly had read the book and approved of it. I never really pictured anyone else doing that role and it was almost a given that she did it.

For someone so young, Swathi displays an amazing amount of maturity. I think she balances her private and public life well, keeps her feet firmly grounded, genuinely cares for people and enjoys whatever she is doing. She has the rare gift of being able to elevate ordinary circumstances to new heights with her presence, especially in front of the camera, and that is an incredible asset that many directors, co actors and producers will discover, as she works on more movies, more diverse scripts. She reminds me of Kajol in her younger days, with her ease of walking through difficult roles and scenes. And she is one of the few actors that one waits for, hoping to see roles that bring out her best, an anticipation that is delicious. Imagine her in 'Come September' or a 'My Fair Lady' or a 'When Harry Met Sally' kind of a role! That would be something. But I am sure there will be better roles coming her way.
Swathi reading from the book

Ganga Raju Gunnam as Chief Guest, Indraganti Mohana Krishna as Guest of Honour, Sumanth and Swathi as Special Guests, were kind enough to grace the occasion of the Hyderabad launch of my second novel 'If You Love Someone...' at Landmark, Banjara Hills. Mohan introduced the book and Sumanth and Swathi generously agreed to read passages of the book and I think they actually did read the passages much better than I did. In fact I think Swathi would  make a terrific Meghna as well, sure of her mind, sharp of wit, of positive action and above all a capacity to understand. And again, like I feel with Sumanth, I am so glad that such a talented and clear headed group of individuals have come together to make movies - from Ram who brings good sensibility and responsibility to the projects, to Mohan, Senthil, Sumanth, Swathi, Nani and all the rest - that one can only anticipate exotic fare in years to come.

I am waiting to see Swathi in 'Golconda High School' of course but I am also in the ringside to watch all her future projects. I do hope she has planned for a long haul here because it is clearly where her talent lies, where she can reach the most people and benefit them through expressing herself fully. It is a responsibility she has to bear, and bear well. Having said that it will be interesting to see all the other ways in which her multi faceted persona chooses to express herself in future, with the passage of time. Here's wishing you a great journey Swathi, one that you enjoy thoroughly, one where you find people and ideas and projects that you love working with. That is one way to get the best of you - success, fame etc will flash by as initial milestones in your journey - not at the end.

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