Thousands leave their homes in the interiors of Tamil Nadu towards Kodambakkam with the hope of making it big in the Tamil film industry popularly known as ‘Kollywood’. Only a handful of them succeed. Others continue to struggle or give up altogether. It is not easy.
If this is the case for a citizen of Tamil Nadu, then it is only a farfetched dream for Sri Lankans. But for our very own 23-year-old Mithuna Ananthajeyam, this dream has come true through ‘Oviya’, a fully-fledged feature film produced in Tamil Nadu, where she plays the lead female role. The film directed by Gajan Shanmuganathan and Kandiban playing the lead alongside Mithuna.
Mithuna is the first Tamil actress from Sri Lanka’s North to play a lead female role in a Kollywood film. But, she never aspired to be an actress when she was a child, revealed Mithuna Ananthajeyam in an exclusive interview with the Nation.
“I was never interested in going in front of the camera. But once I did get the opportunity, I wanted to make sure that I make a mark in the local film industry,” she said.
Her break into the South Indian film industry did not happen overnight. She worked hard. She had acted in many short films, music videos and feature films, before gaining wider recognition.
“By the time I was 16, I had already got several offers to appear in short films and videos. By this time, my heart was into acting and I wanted to follow my passion. So I stopped studying and started acting,” she said.
Her first opportunity came in the form of an audition for a local feature film ‘Keeralgal’ seven years ago, to which she was accompanied by her sister.
“The audition was in Colombo. I was not interested. I went for the fun of it. There were 2,000 candidates and I was the last to perform. I was selected,” she said. She was 16 when they shot the film.
However, the movie did not see the light of day until two years ago during which Mithuna had acted in another feature film, ‘Manasukkul Mazhaichcharal’, produced and filmed in Jaffna, and various other short films.
Soon after completing her first film, she appeared in the video of ‘Facebook song’ produced by Kandappu Jayanthan. The song gained popularity on Youtube and gave Mithuna the break she needed. Her work was noticed by several including a Jaffna based director named Kavimaran Siva, who had recommended her to the producers of the South Indian film ‘Oviya’. The film is shot in parts of Kerala and Sri Lanka. The shooting has been completed and the film is currently in post production.
Speaking of her experience, Mithuna says that Sri Lankan artistes are on par with Indians. “We fall short when it comes to technology. But our artistes are capable of performing anywhere and under any circumstances,” Mithuna added.
Sri Lanka’s Northern Tamils are known to focus on education and push their children to do better in academic activities. But Mithuna’s parents had backed her decision to pursue a career in acting despite knowing very well that she would have to face hardships and criticisms along her way.
Mithuna attributes her growth in the industry to her family. “My parents have been very supportive of my decision. If not for them I would not have reached this stage of success,” she admits. However, she also says there were people skeptical of her decision to foray into acting.
“Some of my relatives asked as to why I chose acting instead of something else. But I was firm in my decision. I do not want to be just another actor. I want to make a mark in the local industry, and I am working towards it.”
In addition to acting, Mithuna has also tried her hands at script writing and lyrics. “I have written the script for a film ‘Puzhuthi’ (Dust).”
She had also written for teledramas for local television channels. “I wrote the script for a serial ‘Kadhal Kanavu’, which had 100 episodes and was telecast in a private channel,” she added. “I always give priority to Sri Lankan productions, and also work towards improving the industry by working with South Indian technicians,” she added.
Sri Lankan Tamils here and abroad make up the largest fan base for Tamil Nadu actors, a fact that has been admitted by the industry itself. Kollywood’s international box office successes are largely because of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora in many countries.
Unfortunately, Sri Lanka does not have a vibrant Tamil film industry anymore. But, film makers have managed to showcase their talents through shortfilms which are uploaded on tooutube.
India’s Tamil cinema industry has come a long way over the past few decades. Today, many artistes from Tamil Nadu have a pan Indian and international fan following. Actors like Dhanush have gained international acclaim while musicians like AR Rahman have reached the pinnacle by bagging Academy Awards.
Tamils in Sri Lanka too have grown up watching films of the legendary superstars from MGR, Rajinikanth to Vijay. Indian films over the years have gained so much exposure that it has overshadowed industries of its neighboring countries.
A few decades ago Sri Lanka had a vibrant Tamil film industry which boasted of actors such as VC Ganesan, Kamalini Selvarajah, Marikkar Ramdoss and BH Abdul Hameed.
However, the ethnic crisis resulted in the collapse of the industry and we were left with the South Indian films. Though times have changed, Sri Lanka’s Tamil film industry needs a bigger push if aspiring artistes are to be given a platform.
Mithuna’s efforts in Sri Lanka, and her foray into Kollywood have broken a lot of boundaries and myths, and has showed that talent will get its due recognition backed by hard work.