“I can’t stress enough on how much talk therapy has helped me. Yes, you have so many people at home, but a therapist is trained for times like these. Your mum can help you on Day 1 of a fever, but you need to go to a doctor on the third day, right? There’s cheap, affordable, and valuable mental health apparatus available now — there are online sessions, discussion groups, support groups for people recovering from the virus, for the family of those who have a COVID-19 positive person or someone who has lost a loved one. There are support groups for those dealing with isolation and trauma. This is the time when we have to realise it’s OK to not be OK. We can’t be functioning at our optimum 100 per cent level because there’s so much loss and anxiety. So, please talk and create a support structure for those who need it,” she stresses. Excerpts from our conversation…
So, how have you been coping during the second wave?
This time has been all about feeling that combined a sense of compassion and responsibility towards each other. This lockdown is not like the last one, when many of us were planning to work out hard and cook! This time, it is all about trying to help each other. Social media has been a great tool during the pandemic. Yes, it’s a creatively challenging time and I haven’t been able to write music at all. I don’t know what to write; it feels petty to write.
You’ve been amplifying calls for help on social media. How do you manage to verify such posts?
I have a small extended family on social media, who basically started out as fans and friends. Those guys, especially Sriram, have been my resources. They have been helping me by sharing information, which I possibly couldn’t do on my own. We have been verifying things on ground because it’s important to pass on correct information. At this point, I’d like to say, help an organisation that you know is legit and has been using the funds the right way. Help someone you personally know. But every time you see a post, saying they want X amount of money for this thing, please double check because you can’t be overwhelmed by that.
Keeping panic at bay at times like these must be difficult…
Yes, our illusion of health, control, invincibility… everything has been questioned. But I don’t agree with shutting everything down and making a soufflé in the kitchen and acting like nothing has happened. It’s a time when we have to be socially aware — use this time to know how our systems are functioning, what we want by the next election, what changes we want to see in the way medicine is accessed by people. It’s important from a human perspective to collectively feel the pain and compassion for each other. But I also don’t agree with falling down the rabbit hole either. Your mental health is important. Do whatever it takes to make you feel better.
Artistes are using their craft to raise funds and support initiatives. Do you have similar plans?
I don’t think it’s happening as much as the last lockdown. There’s sensitivity, and healing is happening in spurts. It’s not going to be that fun to watch musicians perform when your mom or husband has COVID-19. Yes, art is healing, but art also has to be sensitive.
You recently shared a photo of yourself dubbing from a sauna room!
(Laughs) That was for an OTT series in Hindi, for which I was shooting just before the lockdown. I’ll be getting back to that, and to Salaar and other projects I’ve committed to. There is a lot of pending work, but I want to get back only when it’s safe.
What is the status of Laabam, directed by late SP Jhananathan and co-starring Vijay Sethupathi?
Only the producers will be able to tell you the status, but I can’t tell you how fortunate I am to have worked with Jhananathan sir. He was progressive, socially conscientious, and it wasn’t just for his cinema or screen narrative. He lived his life with the purpose and the cause that he so passionately articulated.
Your goth fashion sense has come into the limelight again…
It was always goth, and I had to ungoth myself when I joined the industry! I remember when I was influenced by it — when I saw Joan Jett singing with her guitar, and I was like, she’s really special. Films like The Crow with Brandon Lee and The Craft have also influenced me. I loved how the characters looked. I remember seeing Morticia Addams and thinking she was the most elegant woman ever. It’s just a taste that I developed from the kind of music I listened to, the kind of comics I read. I loved Edgar Allan poems. As a musician, the goth fashion was like an extension of showing that mood. I had no plans of becoming an actress, but when I joined the industry, I had to tone it down. And then, I realised, the looks of my characters are decided by the film’s team, I experimented on the red carpet, but in my downtime, I wanted to return to who I am. Goth reminds me of who I was.
Does it stem from the need to be different?
I always have the need to be different, and I am proud of it. I’d rather be called weird and misunderstood than acceptable. My heroes are musicians and musicians are unafraid of being misunderstood. We are musicians because we are misunderstood!
Do you often speak to your father, Kamal Haasan, about his political and professional journey?
My first conversation with him is not about his opinions on politics or his profession. I am his daughter, and I want him to be happy and healthy. He feels the same for me as well. Outside of that, with everything that’s going on with dad, I’m really proud of his earnestness and sincerity. There hasn’t been a thing that he hasn’t approached with his specific brand of genuineness. And it’s the same with this. I’m just proud that he has the fire to do good — in society and cinema — and keep working hard. I see that consistently in him.
In an earlier interview with us, visual artist and doodler Santanu Hazarika had said that you guys are collaborating on creative projects. What’s the status of that?
Well, we do have a lot of ideas. He is really talented in a medium that I admire — illustration. He can visually represent thoughts and I really value and respect that. My craft is completely different. One of the most special things for me is that he turned a poem I had written into a piece of art. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that’s what my poem looks like!’ That was exciting. I think we will collaborate in the future. We have a similar sense of fashion and aesthetics and it’s nice to collaborate with someone who’s like that because you are not wasting 50 percent of your time explaining references. I can’t give specifics now, but our collaboration could be anything artistic.