And after 12 years, she still is. In this exclusive chat with T. Krithika Reddy, the star says staying power is all about talent
She has played the blithe spirit in breezy romances, elevated syrupy dramas into commercial potboilers, and anchored fast-paced action films in dhavanis with that ingénue halo that macho heroes found hard to ignore.
Close to 50 films in 12 years is a big number. But actor Trisha is not interested in numbers and number games. Instead, she lives in the moment and is enjoying shooting for Gautham Menon's untitled film. "There's a lot of expectation from this first-ever Gautham-Ajith combination. This is my second film with Gautham after the incredibly successful Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaayaa, while Ajith and I share screen space again after the mega hit Mankatha. We have been shooting continuously because we follow one particular look and then move to another. It will be interesting to see what kind of audience reaction it will elicit. After so many years in films, I told myself, it's now or never!"
It's an afternoon of sunshine and showers in Chennai. Trisha pushes away the Twitter clouds that put her in the news recently and revels in the sunny side of her career. "It's been a busy year. Power, my debut film in Kannada with Puneeth Rajkumar, is set for release soon. It's a simple, well-packaged story. Then there's the action romance Bhooloham in Tamil, where I team up with Jayam Ravi. I'm also doing actor Balakrishna's next project in Telugu."
Trisha likes good projects with established stars and directors but "I'm not finicky," she says. "I'm not the type to insist on two-hour screen time or turn down multi-starrers. A film is about entertainment; I love blockbusters, even if it's formula."
Are women-centric films a dream? "There's a surge of emotion against stereotyping of women," she says. She mentions the complex characterisation of Jessie in VTV and the chutzpah of Anamika (Priya Anand) in Arima Nambi. "Why always deify or demean women? Can't we get real," she asks, talking about her long-gestating Rum, where a chunk of the film is about the heroine-villain rendezvous.
Trisha came into films fresh-faced from beauty pageants. Did she just get lucky? It was also about timing, she says, "back then, the top slot was reserved for just one or two of us. People wrote scripts with certain female actors in mind. Now, you have more than half-a-dozen actors in the space. Everyone looks good. Ultimately, staying power is about talent. If you are not a natural in front of the camera, the colours will wear out soon."
And that's what Trisha focussed on. She polished her acting chops and soon became Kollywood's poster girl with combustible on-screen pairings with Vikram, Vijay, Suriya, et al. The string of hits grew longer — Saamy, Lesa Lesa, Ghilli, Thirupaachi, Something Something Unakkum Enakkum, Aaru… Whether with the wide-eyed naiveté of a Bhuvana in Saamy, or the spunk of a Meera in Aayitha Ezhuthu (in which she and Siddharth dance like there's no tomorrow to A. R. Rahman's unforgettable Yaakai Thiri number), Trisha cemented her career not just in Tamil but in Telugu films too, where scripts were written especially for her.
Then came Kireedom, Abhiyum Naanum, Manmathan Ambu, VTV, Mankatha, Endrendrum Punnagai but she misses the Saamy-Ghilli masala days. "Can't help it, I know I'm not 21 anymore. I must play roles that suit my age — mature characters, not necessarily mature-looking!"
With fame comes baggage. Trisha is one of the most gossiped-about girls in Kollywood. "There's no anonymity; people take you for granted; even if I'm having a private dinner with friends in a restaurant, they click pictures and load them online." She talks of the recent Twitter controversy and says, "I'm the type that speaks my mind. Being under public scrutiny 24x7 isn't easy. Sometimes, things are blown out of proportion and debated endlessly on social media." When Trisha entered films, she was far from a typical Kollywood heroine. "I was thin, a model, I used to sit cross-legged on the sets and read books!" How did she cope with it all? "I told myself that cinema is like any other job. The only difference is it can make you famous. I love being famous."
FANS: Hit or flop, they've been extremely loyal.
FITNESS Thanks to my genes! I'm a foodie, love to binge. When I feel I've gained weight, I hit the gym till I get back in shape.
TRAVEL: My mom jokes that I'm in films only to make money to travel! It gives me a high.
TV: From Sherlock to Game of Thrones, I've watched them all. I have a range of TV show apps on my phone.