Keerthy Suresh is Tamil cinema’s new sensation. The actress, who brought in her 24th birthday on Monday, 17 October, in Australia (she was in Sydney for an event) is also basking in the success of her latest release, Remo. The Sivakarthikeyan-starrer has set new box office records. Up next for Keerthy is a trip to Switzerland, where she will shoot a dance number with Vijay. The icing on the actress' (birthday) cake? The announcement from leading production house Studio Green that Keerthy will star opposite Suriya in the Vignesh Shivan-directed Thanna Serandha Koottam (TSK).
The girl-next-door from Thiruvananthapuram perhaps didn't dream of making such a big splash in Kollywood, when she started out two years ago. The daughter of former Malayalam actress Menaka and producer Suresh Kumar (who is a close friend of Mohanlal and director Priyadarshan, and has produced a lot of films with them), Keerthy had acted in three Malayalam films as a child artiste before she was officially launched as heroine with Geethanjali (2013) a horror thriller by Priyadarshan. Then she played Dileep’s heroine in Ring Master — a hit.
In an interview with Firstpost Keerthy said: “Priyan uncle (Priyadarsan), my dad (Suresh Kumar) and Mohanlal uncle studied together in Trivandrum [sic] and started their careers together. Priyan uncle’s debut film was produced by my dad, with Mohanlal uncle as the hero. So it was but natural that Priyan sir wanted to launch my career as heroine with Geethanjali. I was doing a course in fashion designing and was in London when he called me to be the heroine in a film where Nishant played the hero and Mohanlal sir appeared in a crucial role. It is sheer coincidence that it happened. And in Tamil, I was introduced by director Vijay, who was Priyan sir’s assistant.”
Last year, she took a decision to do Tamil films and debuted with Idhu Enna Mayam, which bombed. But the film that she signed first in Tamil was Sivakarthikeyan’s Rajini Murugan, which released early this year and was a super hit. Her third release was Thodari with Dhanush, which turned out to be a disaster. And with Remo once again with Sivakarthikeyan, she has bounced back, and is now considered to be the next big thing in Tamil cinema.
Keerthy is familiar with how the industry functions and is very choosy about the films that she signs. Keerthy says: “I don’t take up too many projects at a time. I always make it a point to hear the full script, before weighing the pros and cons of doing a film. I guess that clarity comes because my parents are from the industry.” In the early days, Keerthy’s mother Menaka (who's noted for the several offbeat roles she took on) would sit with her during narrations. Now Keerthy attends narrations by herself, is fiercely independent and makes her own professional decisions.
Industry watchers say Keerthy is now in the big league, and can be counted alongside Nayanthara, Samantha, Tamannaah and Hansika. Her biggest advantage over her rivals is that she speaks Tamil fluently (her mother Menaka is a Tamil Brahmin and Keerthy herself attended school in Chennai initially). Asin became a huge star in Tamil as she learned the language and dubbed films in her own voice. Nayanthara initially did not dub for any of her films — until Nanum Rowdy Dhaan, which was directed by Vignesh Shivan (the actress' beau), who insisted that she do the dubbing herself.
In Tamil cinema, there is an unstated preference for fair-skinned, glamorous actresses — one of the reasons Mumbai girls found acceptance in Kollywood. Keerthy, on the other hand, has a “namma veetu ponnu" image onscreen (a girl-next-door/homely type). Her rivals say she lacks the oomph factor, required for mainstream entertainers. However Keerthy is clear: “The typical glamour heroine role is not my cup of tea. It's not in my comfort zone and it won't suit me either. Anything I'm not comfortable with, like clothes or scenes, I will not do. But if you have noticed, the heroine image is changing. My character and image in films like Rajini Murugan, Thodari and now Remo was very beautiful and conservative — and it worked.”
Keerthy is a method actor in a way. She studies the character traits of the roles she plays in great detail, and attempts to bring that out on screen. Her role as the simple, innocent Saroja in Thodari was appreciated by the audiences and Remo has extended her stardom to B and C stations in Tamil Nadu. Keerthy explains: “I like to strike a balance between offbeat and commercial films. Being a producer’s daughter who has seen hits and flops, I pick and choose films that will offer me some scope to perform. At the same time, they should work at the box office. My dad used to say stardom is more about box-office success than anything else.”
One thing is clear: Keerthy Suresh is here to stay. And conquer.