'Just the thought of Biryani gives me nightmares': Shruthi Ramachandran

Image Credit : Special Arrangement/Manorama Online

Chitra would sneak into Kunjikka's kitchen to polish off biryanis every day. Since she hails from a conservative Gujarati family, she couldn’t afford to be caught consuming chicken biryani every day. Shruti Ramachandran who played Chitra, wins you over with her almond eyes and dimpled smile, in Madhuram. Her presence gave bittersweet imageries to the film, directed by Ahmed Kabir who made his debut with June.

Madhuram is a film that fills your heart with a lot of sweet memories, almost as sweet as the jalebis that keep reappearing in the film. The actor narrates her experience to Manorama Online.

Image Credit : Special Arrangement/Manorama Online

The 10th film

Madhuram is my tenth film. And it's perhaps my most discussed role too. I am overwhelmed by the audience's reactions. Never before in my career have I received such appreciation. I am excited and happy. And honestly, I never expected this level of response. My Instagram is flooded with messages. I don’t know what to say.

Sweet Biryani
I love chicken biryani. I was in Chennai for a long time. So I am a fan of the Chennai biryani. But on the sets of Madhuram, I got heartily sick of eating biryani. There were 10 days of shooting at the biryani shop. I don’t even remember how many biryanis I had. I would start eating biryani at 7:30 in the morning. During the first two days, I was happy to have it but on the third day, I had enough. I am someone who follows an ayurvedic diet. So you can imagine!

My tummy found it difficult to come to terms with the daily consumption of biryani. Having said that the biryani was quite yummy. I have been told that Joju George’s production company always serves excellent food. The sad part is that despite having a variety of food, I was perennially saddled with biryani. By noon my tummy would be so full with biryani that I wouldn’t be able to eat anything else. Very often I might just be having a mouthful during the shoot, but even that is enough if you have to go for several retakes. Finally, I told them I can't do this anymore, please make this shot work in some way. But I loved the experience. Madhuram was a beautiful experience and the vibe on the sets was lovely. All thanks to the director’s people's skills.

Image Credit : Special Arrangement/Manorama Online

The man bearing sweets
It was after the first lockdown that Ahmed Kabir called me— “I am June’s director. There was a project in mind. Would like to talk about it.” I loved June. I thought even if it is a small character I want to work with this director. When he said it was the story of hospital bystanders, I thought it will be a sad story. But when he started narrating the story, I was pleasantly surprised by its feel-good vibes. I loved how poignant and cheery it sounded.

I think it’s the first film I okayed after listening to the script. Through 3 or 4 characters, the film also tells the story of the patients in the hospital. But they are not shown in the film. All these strangers find themselves confiding in each other. When I watched the film, I felt like a camera was casually trained on the bystanders at a hospital. It was that organic. Ahmed made that film with so much sensitivity.

Haven’t we seen how they shoot the hospital scenes in the film? It’s usually a depressing space, filled with sickness, trauma, and unhappy faces. But you don’t see any of it in Madhuram. Only Kabir can narrate a story like this. Another big factor that helped was the performances of Joju, Indrans, and Arjun Ashok. Govind’s and Hisham’s music was the icing on the cake. I was super happy after watching the film in theatres. I love this genre. If I hadn’t acted in the film, it would have been a big loss for me.

The Gujarathi beauty
Chitra hails from a middle-class Gujarati family, settled in Kochi for years. She falls in love with a Malayalee and biryani plays cupid between them. She loves chicken biryani and thinks Veg biryani is only veg pulao. This was the brief Ahmed gave me about Chitra. All the scenes were written in the screenplay. But we were given the freedom to improvise on the sets. Before canning the shot, the cinematographer Jithin, Ahmed, Joju, and I will sit together and have a discussion. Ahmed is someone who is very receptive to suggestions. Madhuram’s credit should also go to a director who works without any ego. It’s lovely to work with a director who has the patience to listen to everyone's opinions.

Image Credit : Special Arrangement/Manorama Online

He is someone who will go to any extent for the betterment of a film. If the film looks beautiful, there is a lot of effort behind it. Jithin was of the opinion that I should wear a big nose pin. So I brought my nose pin collection, out of which Jithin chose that big nose pin which I also love very much. Sameera Saneesh had chosen the beautiful costumes of the film. The makeup was done by Ronex and the hairstyle by Seema. My look of the film would not be complete without mentioning all three of them. If I looked beautiful, all credit to them.

Joju George is so friendly
It was on the sets of Madhuram that I really spoke to Joju. I had seen him during the success celebration of Pretham and had exchanged pleasantries. I was moved by his performance in Joseph and conveyed that to him. During the Madhuram shoot, Joju told me that since we don’t really know each other, he was skeptical about doing the romantic scenes with me. But being a more experienced actor than me, he went out of his way to make me comfortable on the sets.

It’s only when we have a warm friendship can we really make those romantic scenes look so convincing. Thankfully, we were both able to complement each other and pull it off. Madhuram had a very young team and they had been working together since June. Nikhila and I were the only ones who were new to that set. But everyone was very friendly with us. I was quite relaxed on the sets, and it helped that the content of the film was very earnest and tender. Madhuram was a movie where everything fell in palce so beautifully.

Madhuram Movie screengrab - 2
Image Credit : Special Arrangement/Manorama Online

I love to act
When it comes to art, I love everything. I don’t do anything I don’t like anyway. But I am a bit partial towards acting. I think dubbing, writing, and dance also help to better my skills as an actor. I have been learning dancing since the age of five. I had definitive plans for my studies, that’s why I took architecture. I wanted to do a master’s in architecture and become independent. Though I finished my master's, I couldn’t really start a business but acted in a film. Njan was my first film.

It was my dance teacher’s family friend who asked me if I was interested in acting. Since I knew next to nothing about acting, that’s reflected in my first film. It was after Pretham that I started taking acting seriously. That journey has now taken me to Madhuram. I did a web series in Tamil and a film in Telugu.

Save for the language issues, I had a lovely experience in Telugu film. The assistant directors of that film were of great help. I tried to overcome my language barriers by giving my all to my performance. But I don’t know whether it went over the top though. I would like to say that if you are trying to do a film in other languages, do learn that language first. I am in talks with a few films after Madhuram. The shooting might start soon.

Image Credit : Special Arrangement/Manorama Online

Living life to the hilt
Me and my husband Francis love to pursue our passion in life. We are both doing what we love in life. Francis is into advertising. We shifted from Chennai to Kochi as I love writing and acting.

Sweet reactions
We are very grateful for the reactions to Madhuram. It has been welcomed with open arms and we can't be happier. I am truly grateful to all those people who called and messaged me after watching the film. I never had such positive reactions to any other film before. This reaction to my tenth film was so different. I have done very few films in the last five years. Since this was a film I really enjoyed doing, the positive reactions are even sweeter. I am thankful to my director, co-stars, makeup artists, technicians, and all the people who loved this film.  

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