Actor Aishwarya Lekshmi, who played boat woman "Poonguzhali" in Mani Ratnam's period drama Ponniyin Selvan, says her performance in the film has been so loved that fans are now revisiting her past work.
The two-part historical epic, based on author Kalki Krishnamurthy's hugely popular 1955 Tamil novels of the same name, features the actor as a fierce boat woman, who helps the central protagonists.
Ponniyin Selvan featured a bevy of stars including Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Jayam Ravi, Karthi, and Trisha Krishnan. Lekshmi had a relatively small screen time but the actor is grateful for the recognition that has come her way.
"The role of 'Poonguzhali' gave me so much love, I was not expecting this. I'm grateful to everyone, who loved me as 'Poonguzhali' because it has opened a lot of doors for me, not just about the opportunity but people loving and knowing me, and then going back and seeing my other work," Lekshmi said.
The actor, who has appeared in films like Mayaanadhi, Varathan, and Jagame Thandhiram, said she didn't want to do too many films after Ponniyin Selvan despite the many offers.
"Contrary to what I would have expected, I was thinking I would be signing (films) right, left, and centre but that's not what happened. I made a conscious decision to work in films that gave me the happiness of being an actor, challenge myself, or are different from whatever I have done," Lekshmi said.
The actor has signed three women-centric films in Tamil-language and an official announcement regarding the same will be made soon.
"For me, it is not about the quantity, it is the quality of the scripts that I got to be part of. There's a director named Padmakumar, and he chose me because of Poonguzhali, a tiny bit of a character."
A day before Ponniyin Selvan released, Lekshmi recalls speaking with Ratnam regarding her performance in the film and he advised her to let the audience evaluate her work.
"I asked Mani sir before the release of the film, 'what do you think?'. Everybody (referring to her co-stars) kept saying, Mani sir 'texted', I'm like he never texted me at all. I knew it was a small part but I did ask him what he thinks, he said, 'You have done something, I have done something, we will know tomorrow once the movie releases'.
"The character was also very much loved in the novel and that translated to me. Also, I was different from every character in the film, everybody was a royal, and I was not. So, that helped because they could see me as someone different.
Lekshmi's co-star from her latest film King of Kotha, Dulquer Salmaan, who has worked with Ratnam on OK Kanmani (2015) , said that audiences in the North first learned about him as an actor thanks to the director.
"Mani sir's films do that, they open doors for you because everybody is going to watch it across the country. Like, 'OK Kanmani' had that effect on me, I think people up in the North discovered me through that film," he said.
In King of Kotha, Lekshmi plays Dulquer's love interest named Tara, who she describes as an ambitious woman.
Actor Shabeer Kallarakkal, known for Tamil films like Rajnikanth's Petta, and Pa Ranjith-directed Sarpatta Parambarai, is thrilled to have made his debut in Malayalam cinema with King of Kotha.
"For me the story, the scale of the movie, is what matters, this film had DQ (Dulquer), Zee Studios. I couldn't have asked for a better debut than this. It was an easy choice for me," he said.
The Malayalam period drama is directed by debutant filmmaker Abhilash Joshiy.