We have grown up with many Jayas around us, says Darshana Rajendran on ‘Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey’

Darshana Rajendran talks about playing the titular character in ‘Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey’ and her love for theatre

Darshana Rajendran talks about playing the titular character in ‘Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey’ and her love for theatre

“I had to fight against how Darshana would think when it came to playing Jaya. I wondered why Jaya was behaving in a certain way or not saying something when decisions were made for her,” says Darshana Rajendran about playing the titular character in the Malayalam film Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey, also starring actor-director Basil Joseph .

Describing Jaya as an ordinary girl who does not have much say even in matters concerning her, Darshana says that the character is someone we all know in our family or neighbourhood. “There could be a Jaya in us. We have grown up with so many Jayas around us,” she says. The film is about her journey from childhood. When she wants to study something, nobody cares to ask her and she is sent for something else. Later, she is forced into an arranged marriage. “Then, it is about her marriage and how it goes,” says Darshana.

Jaya is certainly most unlike Darshana, the actor agrees with a laugh. Articulate and with a mind of her own, Darshana says she is blessed to have been born in a family where she had choices aplenty, though she has seen people in Jaya’s shoes. “I felt the decisions Jaya was taking were completely alien to me. And, she does not speak much. That is not me at all. It was a challenge to think like her and be her. But that is my job. I had to remember the circumstances in which Jaya grew up and her state of mind to enact her,” she explains.

Jaya gets married to Rajesh, enacted by Basil. Darshana and Basil share a rapport as they have worked together before. “The unconventional casting has helped the film. Basil is that guy brimming with things to do. Spontaneity is his strength. The trending ‘shoulder wriggle dance’ video, conceptualised by Basil was done in less than five minutes. ”

Darshana Rajendran and Basil Joseph in a promotional still from Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey

Darshana Rajendran and Basil Joseph in a promotional still from Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey, directed by Vipin Das, is set in Kollam, a place that has not been explored much in films despite its picturesque scenery. Since Vipin is from Thiruvananthapuram and co-writer Nashid Mohamed Famy is from the Kollam-Thiruvananthapuram border, the dialect is distinctive. Darshana says Kollam is a place that was not familiar to her and so she enjoyed working in the new locales.

Darshana has had three well-received releases in 2021-2022 with C U Soon, Rani, her film in the anthology Aanum Pennum, and Hridayam, a blockbuster entertainer. She admits that there was a time — before 2020 — when it was difficult to see her enjoy a phase like this. Although the characters she did prior to C U Soon did not have much screen space, she made the most of it.

Darshana Rajendran 

Darshana Rajendran 
| Photo Credit: Bijith Dharmadam

Anu Sebastian in C U Soon, Rani in Aanum Pennum and Darshana in Hridayam put her in the limelight. “Nevertheless, even if those movies, which came to me before C U Soon, were offered to me today, I would do it happily. I am not looking to play the lead role alone,” she asserts.

Darshana’s background in theatre has helped her to see all characters as equal. Darshana thinks there is an ongoing preparation to breathe life into any character. “One has to work on the body, voice and even mind to be ready to do a character,” she says.

Once she gets the script, she reads the script multiple times. But on the set, Darshana puts the prep away. “All my energy is on being present and listening to what the director says and taking what my co-actor gives me. I am highly dependent on that environment. I don’t go with a plan to say my lines in a particular way or react in a certain way.”

Darshana Rajendran

Darshana Rajendran
| Photo Credit: Sivagnanavathy KSK

She says that each director has his/her own way of working. In the case of C U Soon, Mahesh was clear about what he wanted from each actor. Vineeth Sreenivasan’s style was different: “He goes with what happens organically and spontaneously. During the making of Hridayam, sometimes, he would not tell me anything; he wanted to see how we would do it. He would put Pranav [Pranav Mohanlal] and me together, explain the situation, and just observe us.” If Vineeth felt that the scene had worked, he would can the first or second take itself. “I am ready to be flexible and fit into any school or style that the director follows.”

It is creatively satisfying to be able to follow a character through for 30 days of shooting, to see her evolve through multiple events, says Darshana. “Earlier, it was difficult for me to get in and find a character in me in four days of shooting. That is changing. For an actor, there is nothing better.”

Looking back at Anu, she says she was not worried or nervous about the outcome of the film when Fahadh Faasil called her. He told her that it was an experimental film that it might end on a YouTube channel. “He wanted to know if the project excited me. I am most excited about trying new things. It is alright if it fails. I was enthused about how C U Soon was made,” she says.

The film came at a time when the film industry was at its lowest point on account of the pandemic-induced lockdowns. There was no work. “In some way, the film held out hope, of keeping things moving. It was only someone like Mahesh chettan [Mahesh Narayanan] who could have pulled it off despite several limitations.”

Darshana in a still from Rani, one of the stories in the anthology Aanum Pennum , an anthology of three segments

Darshana in a still from Rani, one of the stories in the anthology Aanum Pennum , an anthology of three segments
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Moving on to theatre, Darshana points out that outside Kerala, most theatre actors don’t see the stage as a stepping stone to films. Even after doing many films, there are several actors who are still into theatre. “They use the leverage from cinema or its popularity to vitalise theatre.” The actor realised this when she and a bunch of young film stars did a play, A Very Normal Family. “I remember a time when we struggled to sell 200 tickets for our play. But for this, tickets were sold out. I understood that it was the popularity of cinema that created interest for the play.”

Admitting that she misses being on stage, she hopes to continue her passion for theatre in whatever way she can. “In terms of performance, initially, acting in cinema was new. It was kind of intimidating especially the technicalities… you do the same thing from 50 different angles. Now that I have become a little familiar [with the camera], I have realised that cinema is not that different from theatre. I am enjoying the camera, it is tweaking what we do on stage for a different medium.”

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