ETimes had an in-depth conversation with Santhi Balachandran about her fruitful journey in the industry and her outlook Love And relationships. Santhi also shared his views on actors breaking stereotypes etc. Below are the excerpts:
You have depicted different colors and forms of love. Beyond these characters, what is love for Santhi? How does Santhi understand love, and how will Santhi deal with different types of love and relationships?
Every person defines love differently. As an actor, you work with the director and writer to find a unique understanding of your character and play out the scenes accordingly with your co-actor. The variable factors in each situation – the character’s personality, the context and the dynamics within the creative team – all contribute to presenting different shades of love and romance on screen. My personal definition of love is one that can be applied to any relationship. I believe that love means investing in someone’s well-being.
Apart from excelling as a theater artiste, actor, singer and writer, do you have any other hidden talent or hobby that you enjoy?
My creative journey started as a child – with painting and illustration – and I’ve always enjoyed trying new things. Every path I have explored so far has provided me with a new means of expressing myself. I give myself permission to try new things and fail. I think it’s important for growth as an artist and a person. I hope to continue to do that for myself.
Reflecting on your acting career, what obstacles and struggles do you still face? Can you elaborate on the challenges faced in acting?
Each new project provides an opportunity to step into the life world of a new character. In general terms, the challenge is to identify elements of similarity and divergence from your own personality and use that insight to bring the character to life. This is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an actor – experiencing life through another person’s eyes and expanding your understanding of the human condition. When you don’t have the experiences that your character has gone through and you don’t have the somatic memory of those particular emotions, it can be challenging to use your body to express them. This is why it is important to constantly activate one’s imagination and cultivate a sense of empathy.
Many actors are exploring the possibilities of OTT platforms by playing stereotype-breaking roles, including intimate scenes. What is your stance on performing intimate scenes and would you consider such roles in the future?
It really depends on the script and the director’s approach to the character and the scene. If the scene in question is integral to the narrative arc and there is clarity about its visual treatment, an actor feels comfortable and confident portraying intimacy on screen.
What specific characters or roles do you want to explore in your career?
I don’t have any such list. The idea is to try to play characters that are different from me and each other. Actors don’t become actors to keep playing themselves on screen—we’re greedy people who thrive on novelty. That’s how you grow – by pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. If I had to name a few genres that I would like to explore, they would be action and horror.
Reflecting on your journey in the industry over the last 5 to 6 years, what advice would you give to your younger self? What would you tell your younger self not to do? What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
Looking back, I feel fortunate to have worked with exceptionally talented colleagues from regional industries on projects that have been critically acclaimed. So I would tell myself to continue to trust my instincts; I think he has served me well. Another thing that has helped me is to consciously live a life outside cinema. This helps you maintain perspective as you navigate highly uncertain creative territory.
As an actor, do you feel a responsibility to play roles that can impact society positively or negatively? Discussing sensitive topics like misogyny and toxicity in cinema, how do you choose roles? What do you think about feeling responsibility towards films?
My personal take on this is that I’m willing to play characters who can be toxic, as long as the narrative itself doesn’t glorify or promote toxic behavior. I don’t have to agree with what my character does to play it. But I think there needs to be a consensus in terms of what the film is trying to say.
In ‘Malaikottai Vaaliban’, Mohanlal and Lijo Jose Pellissery tried their best to bring a unique cinematic experience, but people could not accept Mohanlal in that role. So in this era it was difficult for a megastar like him to break the stereotypical roles. Breaking stereotypes and overcoming typecasting in the industry can be challenging. What are your thoughts on this, and how do you deal with such obstacles in your career? What is your opinion about breaking stereotypes?
I don’t think there can be any comparison between what I experience and what senior actors and superstars have to deal with when it comes to stereotypes. I am not burdened with stardom or public expectations, so perhaps it is easier for people to accept what my characters do on screen. It is inspiring to see superstars like Mohanlal sir and Mammootty sir defying expectations when there is so much riding on their image.
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Can you share any details about your upcoming projects? Are there any ongoing projects you are currently working on?
I am currently shooting for the Sony Liv web series Sambhav Vivaranam Naalara Sangham (The Chronicles of the 4.5 Gang) directed by National Award winner Krishanand. It’s too early to reveal more details, but I have also made an additional script for a project, the shooting of which will start in July this year.
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