Jaya Prada is surprisingly soft-spoken for someone who has enjoyed a successful political career. The veteran actor, who was last seen in Tamil cinema in 2007’s Dasavathaaram, is making a comeback with Keni, a film that focusses on the issue of water scarcity in a town bordering Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

How does it feel to be back in Tamil cinema?

I feel so happy and satisfied to be back. When I decided to do a film in Tamil, I’m glad that I was approached for a film like Keni. People in Tamil Nadu have seen me doing everything from commercial films to musicals. This time, they’ll see me in a meaningful film with a beautiful subject. I guess I’m lucky to find such a script for my comeback film. Tamil people are emotional and they support good causes.

That said, I’ve never left films to be honest. If it wasn’t one language, I’d be doing a film in another. Despite being an MP for 16 years, being an actor has always been my identity. That’s the strongest identity I can have to reach any corner of the world. And no matter where I go, people make me feel at home thanks to the love and affection they have for me and my work.

Why Keni?

Once we reach a certain position, I feel it’s our responsibility to represent characters from our society and highlight their problems through realistic films. Keni is a film that should be seen by students and youngsters as it talks about a resource like water that we can’t live without. I love how my character, Indira, a normal middle-class woman, is written. She boldly faces the consequences of trying to fulfil her husband’s wish of making water accessible to the needy. These days, thanks to red tape, which I’ve personally witnessed, moving a file from one place to another is a time-consuming process. So how Indira overcomes such issues is the story of Keni.

Did the politician in you get drawn to such a film?

Definitely. The issue we speak about in Keni isn’t just restricted to Tamil Nadu or Kerala. It’s relevant for Rajasthan, Jharkhand, and even some African countries. Our women spend hours walking with pails of water during the worst summers. When I used to be an MP, even my constituency (Rampur, UP) had water scarcity. People don’t have to see this film for me. They should see it for themselves, so they can handle such a situation if it arises.

The film boasts of a cast comprising many veteran actors.

Yes. We’ve got Revathi, Rekha, Nasser, Parthipan, Anu Haasan and many other established actors. They’re legends and what they’ve achieved in this industry is tremendous and I’m glad that we’re all coming together for such a meaningful film.

You’ve always enjoyed fan following that has cut across regions.

Those days, films used to run for years. Nowadays, we have a runtime of a week. Over the years, along with the making of the films, the business angle has also changed. Personally, I think my career has come full circle and I’m doing films again in various languages. In Tamil, I have Yaagam coming out soon, which is also releasing in Telugu as Sarabha. I’m also doing a Telugu-Kannada bilingual called Suvarna Sundari. In Bengali, I’m doing a film titled Atwaja, and I’ve also signed a Marathi film.

How challenging is it to balance politics and cinema?

Very. That’s why there was a gap in my filmography. People know that I got into politics not for lack of films. Politics made me busy. My constituency is so difficult to manage and there was no time for me to do films. I’m blessed that I’ve gotten the opportunity now once again. I feel like a newcomer.

Your co-stars in Ninaithale Inikkum —Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth—are both in politics now.

I’m happy about that. I feel that every successful person from the film industry must come to politics. I believe that’s the next stage for someone of their stature. Both of them are different in nature and considering the state of Tamil Nadu, the people need a right leader, who can take care of them.