Happy to get back to my Malayali roots: Suchitra Pillai on 'Cold Case'

Actor Suchitra Pillai has only done two films in her mother tongue Malayalam till now but she hopes the upcoming thriller 'Cold Case' acts as a 'springboard' for her in south cinema.

The 50-year-old actor said she was happy when 'Cold Case' director Tanu Balak told her that she was his first and only choice to play Zaara Zakai, a clairvoyant who is an integral part of solving the murder mystery in the film.

'Tanu Balak during the shoot said he has always foreseen me doing this role, which is great for any actor to hear... That you are not just a replacement for anybody else.

'When they see you in a character, it means you can be believable in it. The film is in Malayalam, I was happy to get back to my Malayali roots,' the Ernakulam-born actor told PTI in an interview over Zoom.

Billed as an investigative crime thriller with supernatural elements, 'Cold Case' also stars Prithviraj Sukumaran, Aditi Balan, Anil Nedumangad, and Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli. The film is slated to be released on Amazon Prime Video on Wednesday.

Besides being a familiar face in films, television and theatre, Pillai is also a singer and voice artiste who has done the dubbing for Maggie Gyllenhaal in Christopher Nolan's 'The Dark Knight', and Cate Blanchett in Marvel Studios' 'Thor: Ragnarok' in the Hindi versions of these blockbusters.

When it came to 'Cold Case', she wanted to do her own dubbing for the film despite not being very fluent in Malayalam.

'I don't speak pure Malayalam but when it came to the dubbing of the film, I told Tanu 'Please don't lose Zaara with somebody else. Can I please do my own dubbing?' I'm so happy he agreed,' Pillai, whose credits include films like 'Dil Chahta Hai', 'Page 3', and 'Fashion', added.

She worked on the pronunciation thanks to her aunt and cousin.

'They recorded my dialogues and I would listen to them before going for the shoot.' She made her Malayalam feature debut in 2016 with Priyadarshan's 'Oppam', starring Mohanlal, saying it was 'strange' how she hasn't done more films in the language.

The actor, who hosted the 1990s Channel V show 'Simply South', said she always wanted to work in the Malayalam cinema.

'My show on Channel V was called 'Simply South', so the connection has always been there. But I don't know why they put me in the VJ (video jockey) bracket in the '90s or after that they said 'oh she's a Bollywood person'.

'I hope this one ('Cold Case') is going to be a springboard for me because people will see that I am believable whether it's speaking the language or playing a character in a movie like this,' she added.

She may be a multihyphenate, but singing is her 'core'.

'You will see me in a different avatar when I'm with my band. That's another part of me. I love my job as an actor. I don't have any qualms in waking up for a 5 am shoot or working round-the-clock,' Pillai, who is also looking forward to the release of her English rock album, said.

As someone who has been part of the entertainment industry right from the advent of television to the OTT (over-the-top) platforms in India, the actor said digital media is the best bet for artistes today.

'Over the last year, I've been very lucky that I've had releases on the OTT and it has given all us actors a new lease of life. We're not worried as such anymore about where the next job is coming from.

'A lot of work has come up and that too quality work. It has made the world so much smaller. People used to say music is the universal language, now entertainment is the universal language thanks to OTT,' Pillai, who has starred in series like Netflix's 'Betaal' and 'Hello Mini 3' on MX Player, added.

After 'Cold Case', there is more to come for the actor on Amazon, including the second season of the acclaimed series 'Made in Heaven'.

'There is 'Made in Heaven 2', I will start shooting for that soon. There is another Amazon project as well,' she said. 

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