Actor Ramya Krishnan who played the matriarch and queen Sivagami in the Baahubali films turned 47 on Friday. The actor who made her debut at the age of 13, has acted in over 200 films across languages.
In a recent interview to film critic Baradwaj Rangan of Film Companion, Ramya Krishnan spoke about her journey in the industry and life after Baahubali.
Asked how she felt about playing mother to Prabhas, who is 37 years old, Ramya said, "When I started acting, I acted with a hero who was 20-30 years older than me. So, it's just the other way round...I'm used to this age difference which doesn't matter."
Ramya said that once she was part of a film, she played her role and it didn't matter what the age of the other actors was.
Noting that Baahubali had changed the lives of everybody involved with the film, Ramya said that she was now getting better roles and money.
Asked what would be her top five roles that she's played, Ramya said that Sivagami and Nilambari (Padayappa) would be in the first place, followed by Panchatantiram, Sutradharulu and other Telugu films she'd starred in.
Ramya recounted that she began acting in films on the insistence of her mother who wished to see her daughter as a popular dancer. Her first film was in Malayalam and had both Mammootty and Mohanlal.
"After I did my arangetram, my photos appeared in a few magazines," says Ramya, adding that she began to get film offers after this.
Though she was selected in the screen tests for a Bharathiraja film as well as a T Rajendhar one, Ramya ultimately decided to do a Y Gee Mahendran film. However, the first film she shot for was the Malayalam one that came to her subsequently.
Ramya said that her uncle Cho Ramasamy did not approve of her getting into the film industry and that he'd appreciated her only for Padayappa. Ramya also said that it was Padayappa which gave her much needed success in the Tamil industry.
The actor was established in Telugu but had struggled to find a foothold in Tamil.
Ramya shared that in the '80s most women actors dubbed for themselves in whichever language they were acting in, including Suhaasini and Saritha. Her voice, however, was rejected a few times till Padayappa happened.
"When I dub for my films, my performance is way better. It reached better and was appreciated better," she said.
Asked about the versatile roles she's played, from vamp to goddess roles in devotional films, Ramya said, "I did not consciously say ‘no’. I just let it happen. Sometimes with a choice, sometimes without a choice."
Referring to Aayanaki Iddaru in which she played a negative role despite being a top heroine in Telugu, Ramya said that the director was very convinced that she should do it. "And it was very well received," said the actor.
"I was playing extremely glamorous roles...extremely glamorous. And in the process, Amman also happened," she said, adding that one of her films with Chiranjeevi in which she'd played a very glamorous role released at the same time that Amman did and that the audience's reactions in theatres was so different.
Laughing about Padayappa, Ramya said that she really did not want to play a negative role against superstar Rajinikanth but that she couldn't say ‘no’ to the film.
"I wasn't very happy about Nilambari initially because I was very scared," she confessed.
Ramya also said that her sister went to the theatre to see Padayappa and saw people throwing slippers at her when she appeared on screen.
"After a week, people started appreciating my role," said the actor.
She added that playing a ‘call girl’ in Panchatantiram was also an unusual choice for a heroine. Calling these films as a blessing in disguise, Ramya said that they had given her career longevity. Incidentally, she'd played a role similar to Nilambari's in Shah Rukh Khan's Chaahat a few years earlier.
Ramya Krishnan agreed with the interviewer that the roles which were called 'vamps' back in the day are called 'strong women' now and that she did not see what was wrong in a woman going after what she wanted.
"Actually, sometime back in any Indian cinema, a woman has to be submissive, she has to listen to a man - her husband or her father, and that woman is a perfect heroine...but that's not the case today," she said. "A woman can put her foot down and say I don't want to do this to her father or her husband or whoever it may be. That is strength, I feel."
Asked if she considered herself to be a strong woman, Ramya said, "After all my experiences, I do think I have become a strong woman."