Divya Spandana is on a roll these days. After donning glamorous roles in her earlier Tamil films, this young girl has proved in Vaaranam Aayiram that she can be understated, subtle and deep if given substantial roles. As Priya, the girl who is madly in love with Suriya and who waits patiently for him, her gentle, radiant performance has earned her plaudits. Having completed around twenty films in South Indian languages, Divya’s career is steadily climbing up. The morning after the gala premiere show of Vaaranam Aayaram our contributing editor, Pradeep Sebastian, caught up with Divya at the Connemara, Chennai, to find out how she was taking in all the excitement.

"I have always been in love with Suriya"

BW : What was your reaction when Vaaranam Aayiram hit the theatres?

Divya : I have been waiting anxiously for the release of Vaaranam Aayiram because we were shooting for almost two years and I was eager to see the completed film. It was supposed to release earlier but got postponed which only added to the anxiety. So I was equally excited and nervous when the film hit the screens.

How was it working with Suriya?

The first scene that I shot with him was the proposal scene when I barely knew him in the first schedule. I have always been in awe of him and I am a big fan of his and I have become a greater fan more after working with him. Initially I did not know how to make myself feel uninhibited by him. In the second schedule we became friendly and got along very well. He started talking and was very supportive of me. He also realized that I was not opening up and he made all efforts to be friendly so that it was easy for me to perform.

Your beautiful, sexy pout is becoming your signature smile...

I'm flattered. I didn't think it was really noticed. It's something very natural to me.

How did you prepare to play your character?

Initially there were more portions of me when I was fourteen years old. But they had to edit a lot due to the length. I was expected to be chubby and bubbly during the teenage part but later my body language needed to be changed to suit a twenty six year old woman. We had to work on this but it was not a major issue as emphasis was laid on Suriya’s role and his appearance. Suriya’s role needed more attention than mine.

Did you dub for the film?

Yes, I did. Gautham is one person who does not make anything seem impossible. He made me dub for the film which I never thought I could do it. With him around and when he gives you so much confidence, one cannot say NO. Everything is possible when he is around. I enjoyed dubbing.

What is your next project?

I have signed Kaadal to Kalyanam produced by Mirchi movies and directed by Milind Rao who had worked with Mani Rathnam in Yuva and Kannathil Muthamittal. Script is amazing and dialogues are co-written by Bharathwaj Rangan of Indian Express. It is a romantic comedy. Arya’s brother Sathya is being launched in the film. I am very excited about this project as I can relate to a lot of characters in the film. Looking forward to working in the project.

Your character in VA?

I have always been in love with Suriya. That's my character Priya in the film. As Priya, I'm besotted with Suriya from my childhood days and have grown up watching him. I also accept the fact that Meghna has come into his life and gone, but I am still waiting for him and my love for him is always there. Finally when it is time for me to get married I go to him and tell him that my parents want me to get married but if at all I get married, it will only be with him. Priya is very stable and strong in her love. Having known that there has been another woman in his life, she is dignified enough in asking a space for her in his life. Her unconditional love is something phenomenal which speaks volumes about her character.

"Suriya is a brilliant performer"

What is the feedback that you have been receiving for Vaaranam Aayiram?

When the movie got released in Inox Bangalore, I was told that the film received a standing ovation. My journalist friends tell me that people have been very appreciative of my role. Though I come only in the second half, my character has been lauded. People have been congratulating me on my dubbing skills. I am truly happy.

About Polladhavan ?

When director Vetri Maran told me the story of Polladhavan, he said that my role will be that of a ‘girl-next-door’ and not glamorous. They had to portray me in a glamorous manner in song sequences alone due to commercial viability.

Was it a planned move to do Vaaranam Aayiram after Polladhavan?

No, it is not like that. It just happened that way. In fact I signed Vaaranam Aayiram much before Polladhavan. Vaaranam Aayiram was delayed because Suriya had to work on his looks and we all realized that this project would take time and there were no problems whatsoever. We could have shot at one go but that would have been very shoddy work.

"Simbu is very energetic"

On Simbu, Dhanush and Suriya?

Simbu is very energetic in the sets and his energy is very contagious to everyone present in the sets. When the camera rolls, he is very serious and once off the sets he is very jovial and friendly. Dhanush concentrates on the subject and his character. He is very supportive as a co-star. When I forget my lines, he would prompt me or help me out with my expressions. He is my best friend. I’ll always say good things about Dhanush. Suriya is a brilliant performer and there is so much to learn from him. He will pay attention to minute details in every scene. All of them are three distinct individuals with unique attributes.

It has been said that Mrs Rajkumar changed your name. Can you comment?

Rajkumar’s family is very well known to us and they launched me in their banner. Parvathamma generally consults astrologers and she suggested that my name should start with R. So I opted for Ramya but after Kuthu, everyone started calling me Kuthu Ramya. I did not like the sound of it. Now I have changed to Divya. I am fine with both the names.

Have you met Rajnikanth?

He had come to watch Polladhavan but unfortunately I could not get to meet or speak with him.

What is your opinion on woman entering film world?

Cinema industry is like any other industry. If someone is interested to be in film line they can do it. It is just like any other profession and everyone is welcome to try their luck. Gender has no relevance.

Do you feel the industry is safe for women?

I don’t think the industry is unsafe or anything like that. It solely depends on how one behaves. Every profession, in that way has its own shortfalls and it is up to the individual.

Which is your first film? How did you get the opportunity?

Abhi in Kannada is my first film. Punith’s wife is a family friend and they saw a few pictures of mine and I got the offer.

Out of the 20 odd films that you have done, which is closest to your heart?

I like all my films. But if you ask me to choose, I would say Vaaranam Aayiram in Tamil and Amrutha Dhare in Kannada.

Shooting in a military area for Vaaranam Aayiram?

It was a great experience. Usually, no films are allowed to shoot in their premises. I should thank the military people for letting us shoot there. We were asked to shoot without disturbing their schedule. They were all very nice, highly disciplined. When Suriya wore the military uniform, he looked just like an army officer. In the evenings after the shoot, we used to visit the residence of the army officers and spend some time. When we heard how they fought many wars and saved our nation, we felt so small in front of them. It was a totally different experience shooting in army premises.

Places you have visited

Though I was born in Karnataka, I studied in Ooty. I have toured whole of Tamil Nadu. I have shot in many places in Andhra Pradesh.

Are your parents strict?

My parents have always given me ample freedom. They trust me completely and are sure that I am a mature person with head on my shoulders. When I am in Bangalore, I should be back home before 7.30 or 8 P M. Even now, I am not allowed to go out beyond certain time. In fact my friends laugh at me for this. But it is fine with me.

If you had not become an actress, what profession would you have chosen?

I would have either become a veterinary doctor as I love animals or I would have become a teacher.

The roles that you would like to essay?

I want to try out diverse roles. I would like to try my hands in comedy. I am also keen to do a role of a village belle.

Any other films?

I am listening to a lot of scripts. I don’t want to rush in and sign projects left, right and centre. I am looking to work in films where I have a substantial role. No more two heroine subject for me.

When the film world is protesting over issues, you are not there. Why?

The truth is that nobody calls me. If there is an invitation, I would definitely like to participate. I am not against anyone. I also feel that politics should be kept away from cinema.

What are your favorite places in Bangalore?

I like to go to movies, chill out at home. There is a new UV mall which is a nice place to shop.

Interviewer: Pradeep

Additional inputs: Annadurai, Hemananth

Text: Jyothsna

Sneha Sharanya Mohan Nakul Priyamani Tamanna Balaji Sakthivel
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