Actress Nivetha Thomas is candid when she says one of her immediate thoughts when she was offered to play Rajnikanth‘s daughter in director AR Murugadoss’ Darbar is that she can speak Tamil on-screen again, after Papanasam (the 2015 remake of Drishyam starring Kamal Hassan and Gauthami). Then, the other aspects sunk in. Like the father-daughter storyline was pivotal to the story and she had something substantial in a film starring Rajnikanth.
Chennai-based actor and architect Nivetha began her acting career with Malayalam and then Tamil films, and in the last few years became a name to reckon with in Telugu cinema, since her debut in Gentleman (2016) to her last release, the crime-comedy caper Brochevarevarura (2019).
Talking about playing a daughter of a veteran star actor, again, after Papanasam, she says, “I look at what character I get to do in each film, not if it’s that of a leading lady or some other part. When I got this part, I felt happy that I haven’t been stuck with an image.”
Post the release of Darbar, she hasn’t stopped answering adulatory phone calls or social media messages.
“I thought the frenzy would be for a couple of days post-release, but it’s been two weeks,” she says with a laugh.
After she was signed for Darbar, Nivetha went to AVM Studios in Chennai where Rajnikanth was in a photo shoot. “That’s when it actually sunk in, that I was standing in front of THE Rajnikanth. I was asked to be part of one of the photo sessions,” she recalls.
Nivetha felt the father-daughter on-screen bond would work best if she actually shared a rapport with the superstar, and found him easy to approach and talk to: “From day one, I would talk to him and discuss the method of work.”
She didn’t have the luxury of pre-production script reading sessions where actors get to understand each other’s working methods. “Each film unit and director work differently and I’ve learned to go with the flow. With Darbar, I went straight to shoot and from time to time would have discussions about my scenes. It’s a mass film and the audience would primarily come to watch Rajni sir.
Keeping with the film’s format, I understood that I needed to peak every emotion rather than keep it subtle, and at the same time not go over the top. In the end, I knew that if something happened to Rajnikanth’s daughter in the film, it has to be enacted in a way that the audience empathizes with her plight,” Nivetha explains.
She’s happy she’s being appreciated as “Thalaivar’s daughter” and is keen to do more Tamil films, “Something has to pique my interest though. I wouldn’t do a film in any language just for the sake of it.”
Meanwhile, in Telugu, she has finished shooting for her mentor Indraganti Mohanakrishna’s action thriller V starring Nani, Sudheer Babu, and Aditi Rao Hydari. Word in the film circles is that she’s also part of the Telugu remake of Pink starring Pawan Kalyan and the remake of Korean film Midnight Runners. She refrains from commenting. Prod her some more and she says, “I can neither confirm nor deny these films.”
I remind her that the last time we spoke prior to the release of Brochevarevarura, she ‘neither confirmed nor denied’ that she was part of Darbar. Is this a similar case? “I won’t say anything,” she laughs heartily.
When Nivetha debuted in Telugu cinema, everyone on sets would see her study during break time and complete her bachelor course in architecture. There were times when she wondered why she took on the grueling schedule of academics and cinema, but in hindsight, says architecture made her appreciate a creative field like cinema even more.
When she debuted as a child artist in Malayalam cinema in 2008, at the age of eight, it wasn’t like she had a gnawing passion for cinema. “After years I realized how much I loved it. At one point, I was keen to pursue aeronautical engineering. One of my teachers said I wouldn’t be able to act in films if I took up a course like aeronautical engineering.
That’s when I realized I loved the cinema and didn’t want to give it up,” she recalls.