First things first!! Prolific Tamil director Gautham Menon’s webseries The Queen on the iconic Jayalalitha which starts streaming on 14 December, is taking the cautious route by semi-fictionalizing the story.
Says Gautham with a straight face, “Our protagonist is named Shakthi Sheshadri played by the wonderful Ramya Krishnan. Shakthi is a renowned actress who rises to dizziyng heights of fame as an actress and then a politician.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? All resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental?
Gautham isn’t denying the resemblance to Jayalalitha. “If you see the resemblance or connect with the story, it’s up to you. I’ve only gone with the writing and it’s about a woman who stood out and paved the way for herself. But we are not emphasizing the resemblances to any real-life personality. If fans of the great leader choose to see her in our webseries they’re welcome to do so. The Queen, as we call our webseries, is a very inspirational story of one woman’s rise to unprecedented position of power and fame. There’s nothing controversial here.”
This is Gautham Menon’s first webseries.
He reiterates, “It’s also the first time that the project came to me with the writing completely in place. Reshma Ghatala has written the series. When I read what she had done I was deeply impressed. The writing is entirely hers. I came into the project to give the writing a visual manifestation.”
As for doing a webseries for the first time Gautham laughs, “I had some colleagues calling to sympathize with me for doing a webseries. They don’t realize how important this platform has become. I am so glad so many of the big names in Hindi cinema are going on the OTT platform. In Tamil Nadu it is yet to become popular. What I love about doing a web series is the freedom that it affords a filmmaker. I don’t have to constantly think about cutting down my scenes. There’s much more space here to expand on the emotions. A story like this cannot be squeezed into a feature film.”
This brings us to the feature film on Jayalalitha featuring Kangana Ranaut.
Says Gautham, “I wish the project all the best. Our biopic is not about any actual personality. But like I said, I wonder how they will squeeze in Jayalalitha M’aam’s entire life into 2 and half hours. I am waiting to see the film. With Vijayendra Prasad writing it, it’s got to be something special.”
The spoken language in The Queen would be Tamil and English. “The characters will speak in the language that they’re supposed to. In one major chunk of the series Ramya will also speak in Telugu. But there will be English subtitles throughout, no matter which language the characters speak in.”
Gautham says getting Ramya Krishnan to play the lead was providential. “She has had quite a journey as an actress. And she’s able to convey all the nuances layers and dimensions of a character that defies all categorizations.”
Interestingly Ramya has used no prosthetics for her role as the “fictional historical” version of Jayalalitha.
Says Gautham, “I didn’t want to get into the trap of making my actress look any real person through prosthetics, weight-gain, etc. I believe the power of a real-life character comes from the actor’s skills , not the external trappings.”