Jayam Kondaan opened to middling reviews, but in the week that it has played, word of mouth has been bringing in a new audience eager to see a finely crafted drama from the Mani Ratnam stable (debutant director Kannan) with a stand-out performance from Lekha Washington. Part Indian, part Italian, and part Burmese, this VJ turned actress feels like the most promising newcomer this year. She’s into art films, reads graphic novels, calls herself a Chennai girl and reveals to Behindwoods the mystery behind why she’s called Washington!


“Part Indian, part Italian, and part Burmese!”

BW: You’re a trained actress?

Lekha Washington: I studied film at NID. I always wanted to act, and my first gig was as a VJ. And now Jayam Kondaan – please go see it!

Your native place?

Chennai. Born and brought up here. I’m actually part Maharastrian, part Italian, part Burmese – a mixed blood! But I’ll always consider myself a Chennai girl.

Were you a model?

Not for long. Couple of ads. I began with VJ-ing, really.

How did you come to acting?

I have always loved to pretend to be another person. And I’ve always wanted to act. My parents said – don’t go to the cinema field, its bad – but my desire never died, and here I am.


I’ll always consider myself a Chennai girl.

Why did you choose Tamil cinema?

Chennai is a safe place. It’s home. Besides, we aren’t rich to go off to Mumbai, and become a star or whatever. Chennai was home and an easy place to start.

How did Jayam Kondaan come about?

The movie’s director, Kannan sir, liked my VJ-ing, and asked me to come act. He said I would really like the character he wanted me to play.

I play a very complex character


What is your character like?

Not like a regular Tamil girl. If you see the movie you’ll notice. Everyone first said why are you doing a sister’s role rather than heroine – it’s a complex character – not many opportunities come your way – if you get one you grab it.

You’ve done a terrific job.

Thanks! All credit to Kannan sir, who envisioned this character of a stubborn, selfish girl. He trained me, encouraged me. The maximum training went into learning to be a left handed person. I’m right handed, and for the character I had to learn to write in the left hand and use the left hand. Tough.

On what the industry and friends have said about your performance.

A lot of people had good things to say. I won’t name them here. My friends were nicely surprised that I could act well.

Your very first movie is by Mani Ratnam’s assistant.

Mani sir has groomed Kannan really well. Kannan is a fabulous director – easy to work with, yet firm, and he’s written such a good character.

Do you like reading?

I read a lot. Milan Kundera, graphic novels, Neil Gaiman is my favorite.


Mani Ratnam has groomed director Kannan really well.

Your role model?

Don’t have one person. I respect different people for different reasons.

Movies you liked?

I liked The Namesake, Mumbai Meri Jaan, and Maddy’s Evanao Oruvan, My preference is not for mainstream films

Who wouldn’t want to act with Rajini!?


Acting with Rajini?

Who wouldn’t want to.

What do people say about you?

I’m myself –honest. They can say what they want to. I remain myself.

How did you get an exotic name like Washington?

There’s no mystery to that. My father’s name is Washington – I have never even been to the U.S!

Would you do glam roles?

It all depends on the character. I’d dance, but I prefer something challenging.

Have you met Nayan, Trisha, Asin….?

I know some of them. No, no, should not say who. What I want to say is that every woman acting in Tamil cinema is very strong, clear headed – and all of them have my respect.

Who else would you like to act with?


Other projects?

Let’s see. A lot of talk is on at the moment. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Whatever happened to that Simbu film?

The Simbu film is not complete – you have to ask Simbu why. And my character there is not a step down – don’t know why many people think so. It’s just a different character.

Any words for Behindwoods readers?

Take care and have fun.


You have to ask Simbu why the movie is incomplete.

Director Perarusu Ravi k Chandaran G.V.Prakash Director Sasi S. P. Jananathan Director Venkat Prabhu
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