When the makers of ‘Mahanati’ (meaning: Great actress) approached her to play the lead role of Savitri in the biopic, Keerthy Suresh’s initial answer was no. To put it in her own words: “In fact, I said no to the project in the beginning, because I thought I didn’t want to do something and spoil Savitri madam’s reputation. I didn’t have these positive thoughts on how good the film can become, but rather I thought it was too early in my career to do such a heavy-duty role. But Nagi (director Nag Ashwin) gave me all the support to perform the best I can.”
More than year after the film’s release and Keerthy won applause from all possible quarters for her great performance in the movie, a big recognition has knocked on her doors in the form of National Award for best actress, something which neither she nor Nag Ashwin expected.
While the director said “I thought, realistically, Bollywood actresses would be preferred and may be we won’t make it,” Keerthy said, “The legendary Savitri Amma’s blessings I believe was the strongest reason in getting accolades for me and my team. I am happy that the film has won three National Awards.”
She added: “I would like to dedicate this award to my family especially to my mother, guru Priyadarshan sir, my friends and all my well wishers, who have been a great means of support for me.”
Elaborating, Keerthy said, “I congratulate the costume designers Gaurang Shah, Archana Rao, costume stylist Indrakshi Pattanaik Malik and their team for winning the honours. Their efforts of delving into intense research and detailing shaped not just my role, but every character with realistic shades.”
Interestingly, a decades old dream of Keerthy’s family has come true with this National Award. For, her mother and veteran actress Menaka missed winning the National Award for Best Actress for ‘Oppol’, her maiden Malayalam film, where she played the protagonist.
“My mother was supposed to win the National Award for her first Malayalam movie. She was loved for her role. The movie got 10-11 national awards and she was expecting one. There were last minute changes and it didn’t happen. She always used to talk about it. I thought I should fulfill her dream and that is one of the reasons I got into acting,” said Keerthy, whose father Sureshkumar is a film producer.
Keerthy began acting as a child actress in the early 2000s and returned to films after studying fashion design. She had her first lead role in the 2013 Malayalam film ‘Geethaanjali’. She went on to star in such films as ‘Ring Master’ (2014), ‘Idhu Enna Maayam’ (2015), ‘Rajini Murugan’ (2016), ‘Remo’ (2016), ‘Nenu Sailaja’ (2016), ‘Bairavaa’ (2016), ‘Nenu Local’ (2017), ‘Thaana Serndha Kootam’ (2018), ‘Mahanati’ (2018), ‘Sandakozhi 2’ (2018) and ‘Sarkar’ (2018).
In ‘Mahanati’ (‘Nadigayar Thilakam’ in Tamil), Keerthy Suresh exactly portrayed Savitri on screen. The impact was so much so that almost everyone who had watched the film was of the opinion that they were only able to see Savitri, not Keerthy, on screen. And the pains she underwent to achieve this were immense, as her health took a hit while doing the film.
One of the A-list actresses in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam film industries, Keerthy is currently busy with a bunch of a movies in all these three languages. Also, she is set to make her debut in Bollywood, with a film starring Ajay Devgn in the lead and produced by Boney Kapoor.
Thanks to ‘Mahanati’, Keerthy Suresh too has become one. And her journey continues.