Actor Kaameshaa Ravindran has come a long way since she stepped into the Malaysian film fraternity. From hosting live shows to her breakout platform Oh My English!, this law graduate doesn’t mince her words when it comes to the topics she is passionate about – feminism, family and films.
Kaameshaa opens up to Varnam on her passions for her first ever interview.
Varnam: Thank you for being with us! Malaysians young and old look up to you thanks to your charm and lovable personality. Tell us about your journey and how it all began.
Kaameshaa: Thank you! To be frank, I don’t know why people look up to me, I really am nothing compared to so many people out there! But I am glad that I’m an example to the youngsters.
When I was 9, I did my first hosting program with MiTV. From there I hosted a few live stage shows before I began working on a documentary by RTM. I entered the Malaysian Tamil movie industry when I was 12. Director K Annan got in touch with me, as he was looking for a girl of my age to play Ammani in his upcoming film Yantra.
I then began working with Astro. I initially worked on a few fillers for TVIQ. I heard that they were casting for Oh My English! and was encouraged to audition for the role of Anusha. I was 17 when I auditioned for Oh My English!, and ended up working on the show for five years. I believe that my platform was created there, and people began to recognize me from Oh My English! compared to from Yantra or Uruvam.
That means you literally grew up on the film sets. Are you very comfortable in the limelight now?
You’d be surprised, this is actually my first interview! I’m a little apprehensive only because what I say may be perceived wrongly. At 17, when I first tasted fame, it was a lot of fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Now that I am 24, reality is kicking in!
I am a very private person by nature, so it is really intimidating to put myself out there! Especially because when you’re in the limelight, every small error you make is amplified and blown out of proportion. I’m quite careful in that sense.
You are one of the few Malaysian Indian actors who has worked on productions in different languages. Do you have a preference for which industry you enjoy working in?
Honestly, every industry has their pros and cons. Personally, I really enjoy working in the Malay entertainment industry. They treat the talent well, and have excellent work ethic. Every member of the team does their job to their best ability, and as a result of that, things go smoothly, even with agreements and payments.
And what about the Malaysian Tamil industry?
There is room for improvement in the local Tamil industry, they sometimes don’t see talent as talent. Personally, I don’t like incompetence. And it is hard when people do not take their jobs seriously.
Also, in our community, some quarters cannot take it if a female who’s younger than them is vocal. My petite frame doesn’t help either! (laughs)
I have been in a situation where we had to do multiple takes because the extras on set forgot their dialogues when the main cast has already memorized theirs. I told them to buck up, and they didn’t take that very well.
That’s just downright disrespectful!
It’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have artists who are privileged enough to be on screen and they just don’t have a good work ethic.
I once worked on a project that had a call time of 7.00 am. I was there at 7, and the rest of the cast walk in leisurely TWO HOURS later, at 9. And this isn’t a one time affair, it happened every day! This really frustrates me, because you are disrespecting everyone else’s time by showing up late daily.
“people are watching you, act like an artist if you call yourself that.”
Do you always voice your discontent out while on set?
Always! As I mentioned earlier, I really cannot take incompetence. So I always tell it like it is on set. Of course, not everyone will take it in stride.
The thing is, I have worked with people who are competent, like on this one Malay series, and things were so smooth! So it really irks me when people don’t know what they’re doing and cannot take things seriously.
But I have learnt to accept that everyone has their own perspective, and if that is something I don’t agree with I’ll just walk away.
You mean you unfollow them in real life?
(laughs) Yes I do! In my mind, I’m like, “Okay, that’s your view, it’s good to know that there are people who think the way you do,”
After all, it is a different perspective, and that means it is one more thing to learn. I may not agree with you, but now I know that there are people on this planet who think like you! I mean, there is no harm in having your perspective, but I don’t support it, so I will make my exit.
Speaking of social media, you are an influencer with a sizable number of followers. Does this get you into a tizzy sometimes?
Social media is an easy platform, and it is one that I am grateful for.
It is sad that this platform has been abused in a way that it shouldn’t be. Ultimately, every person who’s an influencer needs to know where he or she stands. It is easy to let the number of followers get to your head. So it’s important to remember that just by having thousands of followers on Instagram, you don’t garner a face value.
Being a human is the most important thing for me. Everything else – you status, job, money, followers – all of that comes later on.
“No matter how high you fly, your feet have to be firmly planted onto to ground.”
Congratulations on graduating with your degree in law! What was the reason you chose to pursue law while working as an actor?
Thanks so much! I want to talk about feminism. That’s the reason I chose law in addition to acting. Law gives me the knowledge I need about that pillar of our country, and acting gives me the platform for my voice to be heard.
When you are nothing, even if you are saying the most intellectual thing, nobody will listen to you. But if you are in the limelight, whatever you say is the gospel truth, whether it makes sense or not. So I want to bring that knowledge to this platform and hopefully do it justice.
We know that you adore your mum, tell us a little about your relationship with her.
Actually, both my parents have been the best support I could ever ask for. My father has been my number 1 fan from the start.
As for my mum, she is my world. Everyone knows how much I love her. She knows my temper, and she knows how to calm me down when I have an outburst. She often advises me to control it as well, lest it be the reason for my downfall.
“Both my parents are my backbone.”
My parents have never stopped me from what I want to do. They both constantly encourage me to do better.
That sounds like a beautiful family!
My family doesn’t end there though! I have my girl gang, my five closest girlfriends. They have been the most supportive, encouraging women I have ever known. I am beyond grateful for them.
My other family is Charley Annae and Shevan Maama – Rabbit Mac and Sheezay. They are my fam! I will run to them no matter what, and pour my heart out to them, and they’ll advise me accordingly. They keep me grounded.
All of these people mean the world to me!
You really are blessed! Being of a different generation, is it easy for your parents to comprehend your feminist views?
Well, coming from a Malaysian Indian family, they don’t always get my feminist views. I have always been the rebellious one in the family, unlike my elder sister. But what I appreciate is that they don’t mock my beliefs. If it’s something that’s really out there, they’ll say, “Give me some time, I’ll think about it, and I’ll come back to you on that,”
But it feels like their love transcends their occasional inability to accept my views. My mum offered to help me with an upcoming project on LGBTQ rights, in spite of not fully comprehending the topic. How sweet is that?
That really is something else. Your parents aside, do you think our Malaysian Indian community will be able to accept men and women as equal?
I doubt it. Especially among those of the older generation, I really doubt it. People don’t see women as a source of power. There is a closed mindset that girls are all about drama and looking pretty. They don’t care to know what our struggles are. And what’s worse, some men are so entitled that they dare touch a woman or hold her waist without her consent. They don’t even know what consent is!
“some people (men & women) feel that men are superior to women and because of that, women don’t deserve to be taken seriously.”
Do you think the films we are releasing plays a big part in this warped line of thought?
Very few Tamil movies that are released locally bear an empowering message to women. I’m not saying it has to be preachy, but there probably should be more strong female characters portrayed on screen. India has taken the first step with movies like Aramm and Ratchasi. This has yet to happen in Malaysia. It’s the same old love story, the same horror story, and there is nothing new.
The filmmakers add to the problem by staying in the safe story bubble…
I mean, it is risky, and I would salute any director who is willing to rise up to the challenge. It’s sad, because ultimately, everyone wants to make money, not make a social statement. But they easily forget the weight they carry in the society and the power of a film as a platform to deliver a message.
At the same time, we cannot blame the local filmmakers either. They need to put food on the table as well. We can only do what we are doing and get the message out there.
How do you react when women are told how to do and how to be?
Yen vaai summa irrukathe! (laughs) I get very irritated when people tell me how a woman should be, and I will just tell them off. Let her be whoever and do whatever she wants to!
“her gender doesn’t grant you the permission to tell her how to live her life.”
People have come up to me and said, “I respect your view, but this is my view, lets sit down and talk,” and that’s fine! I am more than willing to discuss the matter if it is broached with respect. But it is utterly wrong to shove your view down someone’s throat.
I couldn’t agree more!
Right? And it doesn’t end with women. It really makes me so mad when when people tell boys that they cannot wear skirts, or put on makeup on, or do threading, come on lah! Everyone is in this world living their own life, let guys do whatever they want. Why do you have to tell people how to live?
People always forget that everyone has their own opinions, and their own way of doing things. So you really cannot expect everyone to behave in a way that’s comfortable to you. This is something I need to remind myself of also at times.
But there is hope for gender equality among the millenials, you’re saying?
Yes, surely. Today’s 18 year old has a higher level of maturity than I did when I was 18. Millenials are surrounded with information, and everything is literally at their fingertips. The ideology of feminism has penetrated this generation much easier as a result of this.
What is your truth, Kaameshaa? Tell us what you live by.
“Do what you want to do, whatever makes you happy, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else,” That’s the slogan I live by.
It goes without saying that there will be one person or other who will be hurt by your actions, and that is just their nature, and it cannot be helped. In your heart, you will know that this is the right thing to do.
Kaameshaa ends the interview with a poignant few words about her dream, “I want to be so successful, that my voice is heard. Not for the simple things like what I wear, what I do, or who my friends are. I want my voice to be heard for things of substance. To open up at least one person’s world view,”
Well there you go, Kaameshaa. You’ve done just that.
Keep up with Kaameshaa’s views on her Instagram profile here.