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Comedy, Sarala style

"I think I am gifted in that I can bring laughter into people's lives," says comedienne Kovai Sarala in an interview



All I wanted was to see myself on the screen: Kovai Sarala

KOVAI SARALA is not a run-of-the-mill comedienne. Comedy comes naturally to her. Be it speaking the Coimbatore or the Madurai dialect or taking on a handful of pettai rowdies, she does it elan. With 500 films (in the four South Indian languages) to her credit and having worked with almost all the leading comedians of her time, she has carved a niche for herself in the world of comedy.

The slim and fair actress' recent foray into television too has proved successful. She appears as "Sakalakala Sarala," a sitcom on Vijay TV (Thursdays, 9 p.m.), directed by S. N. Shakthivelan.

"It's a sitcom with a message, each episode being complete in itself. People have problems in life and there is no point in showing the same on screen. I think I am gifted in that I can bring laughter into people's lives," she notes.

Small screen exposure

Hugely enjoying the small screen exposure, she says there are no limitations here and also, there is the gratification of seeing your work instantly. After "Vishwa Tulasi," she is currently busy with a clutch of Telugu and Malayalam films. "Nowadays, not enough importance is being given to female characters in Tamil cinema. Unless it is good, I don't simply accept roles like I did in the early stage of my career."

Bitten by the acting bug early in life (soon after her schooling), Sarala (maiden name Saralakumari) made her debut in the film "Mundanai Mudichu," directed by K. Bhagyaraj whom she happened to know.

"In the beginning, I was only doing comedy tracks — nothing big or great. But all the films I featured in became super hits. "Chinna Veedu" (also directed by K. Bhagyaraj) was my second film. Then followed films such as "Japaanil Kalyanaraman" and "Vaidehi Kaathirunthal." With "Udaya Geetham" and "Pondaatti Sonna Kettukanum" (the remakes of which gave her a break in the Telugu and Kannada industry), Sarala graduated from comedy to character roles with a comic streak.

A landmark

"Sathi Leelavathi" was a landmark in her career. Directed by Balu Mahendra, the film had Kamal Hasan in the lead and Sarala playing his wife. "I never dreamt of landing such a role. One has to fully utilise such unexpected opportunities. I have never seen such a sincere artiste as Kamal, and patience is something I learnt from him."

Was it comedy she had always set her sights on? "All I wanted was to see myself on the screen. I didn't have any specific goal about the kind of characters I wanted to play. It so happened that I was offered comic roles. Initially, I had no clue as to how to handle them."

But soon she figured out a method. "Once the director briefs me about a role, I draw inspiration from real life characters and portray it, adding new dimensions." Sarala consciously avoids imitating the style of other actors, as she believes in having a unique slot for herself. "My flair for the regional dialect came in handy and helped me reach out to a large audience."

What makes for successful comedy? "Any actor needs luck, besides talent, a sense of timing, the ability to speak with clarity and to adapt to your co-artiste's style. If you do your own thing, it will amount to over-acting."

If you're wondering what she is like in real life, she says, "I am a little serious and given to mercurial moods. Sometimes, I will be chattering away and at other times, I maintain a stony silence. But I am not one to harbour ill feelings."

Single by choice, she says. "I am wedded to cinema and I will continue acting till the end. I want to play characters that will leave a lasting impact on the viewers."

SUDHA UMASHANKER

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