It is not every day that one gets to see Sameera Reddy in a de-glam avatar.
But Red Alert: The War Within (releasing next week) is a special movie. Based on a true story of a Naxalite, the film, directed by Anant Mahadevan, has Sameera in zero make-up play the role of Lakshmi, an ordinary girl who gets raped and turns to violence. It is definitely a sensitive issue. But ask the actress if this is a conscious effort to break away from the sizzling roles she gets stereotyped in, and she retorts, “Absolutely not. I did not choose Red Alert only to shun the stereotype. I have had other non-glamorous roles before. I have acted in Kaalpurush (Bengali) and another short film by Mira Nair on AIDS. In fact, it was in Kaalpurush that I got a taste of a different kind of cinema and knew I wanted to do more. As for my stereotype, I am very happy with it as that is what audiences connect me with. It’s given me immense popularity. I don’t want to go the parallel cinema way. I am interested only in versatility.”
Sameera denies that the film takes a sympathetic stand towards Naxalites. “The film portrays that there is always a reason why a person turns to Naxalism, but it takes no stand. My character, for instance, gets raped in a police station and undergoes a complete change thereafter. Such incidents can be overwhelming, you know,” she explains.
The actress, who confesses to having little knowledge about the issue when she signed the film, speaks passionately about the Naxals now. “Given my urban living and mindset, I was really not aware of them beyond the two columns reported in the newspapers. But since the last two years, I have been deeply disturbed and have been researching on these people. Anant (director) had handed me a file on Naxalite reports which I studied besides watching television footage,” says Sameera.
During the course of filming, she realised that women Naxals have a tougher life than men and are usually more passionate about their cause. “Women, who suffer violence, either having been raped or having lost their husband and children, have no one to turn to. They are shunned by their families and resort to Naxalism and become staunch supporters. When all I had to do was act out the scene of being raped in a police station, I was shattered and couldn’t get through it without feeling the pain,” she says.
Sameera, who is currently shooting in Chennai for her second film with Gautam Menon, says she’s content with the manner in which her career has taken off. “I have panned my career nationally with several regional language films too in Bengali, Tamil and Malayalam.” After Red Alert, she will be seen in Oru Naal Varum with Mohanlal and in Nagesh Kukunoor’s Yeh Hausla, in both of which she plays a simple girl. She’s also slated to start shooting for an action film with Nagesh, beginning September. “I am very excited about my role in Yeh Hausla where I play a Rajasthani woman. I have good reason to think it might be THE role of my career!” she smiles.