Ann Augustine is the new star on the Mollywood firmament. It is Ann's sunny disposition and lack of pretensions that help her shine as an actor

Ann Augustine looks like the girl next door. And that is her USP. As she gingerly steps under the arc lights, her mix of confidence, disarming candour and lack of pretentions endear her to people of all ages. Although she has just returned from an interview for a television channel, she looks delightfully fresh in a simple salwar-kameez. Missing are the starry airs, the heavy make-up, chunky jewellery and the ornate hair-do.

“I have never been enamoured of heavy make-up or gaudy clothes. Make-up is invariably some kaajal for my eyes and some lip gloss and I am ready to face the world,” laughs Ann (spelt without an ‘e'), who had a sensational debut last year in Lal Jose's Elsamma Enna Aaankutty. It was not that of a sister or a decorative, helpless heroine whose only job is to help the hero go places. Ann's was a plum author-backed role in a film that completely revolved around her character.

With her gamine looks and petite frame, she stood out amongst Mollywood's A-list of buxom, coy heroines. Her ready smile and sunny outlook won her several fans while her acting won her raves from directors and co-stars.

However, acting was the last thing on her mind when she reached home in Kozhikode for a break after her examination. That was when Lal Jose dropped in to meet her father, actor Augustine. He came, he saw, she conquered! Lal was convinced he had his Elsamma the minute he saw the spunky Ann. Soon, the city-bred girl was facing the camera as the rustic Elsamma in the high ranges in Central Kerala.

Before the stardust settled on Elsamma, Ann moved on to don the role of the urbane Anjali Menon, a journalist in Ranjith Shankar's Arjunan Saakshi, where she plays the lead with Prithviraj.

“Since it was Ranjith Sir's film, I did not think twice before replying in the affirmative. It was a pleasure to work with Raju [Prithviraj]. I had heard he was aloof, introverted, arrogant and so on… On the contrary, he was such a big help. It was such fun having him around on the sets…”

During the transition from Elsamma to Anjali to Ranju (in Three Kings), Ann also evolved as an actor.

“When we were shooting for my first film, Lalu ettan [Lal Jose] had to guide me for each scene. In Arjunan Saakshi, Ranjith Sir explained the scene and wanted me to interpret it in my own way. I enjoyed both. But, even now, before I sign a film, I consult Lalu ettan, as I consider him as my mentor. It is his confidence in me that motivates me,” says Ann. In Three Kings, for the first time, Ann also dubs for her character.

And when she is not working with happening directors and hot heroes, or giving interviews, Ann enjoys chilling with music, books and friends. Old Hindi songs of Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi are her favourites, thanks to her father's choice of music. “I have a close circle of friends and I catch up with them on the phone. My soul mate is a cousin to whom I turn to when I feel the need for some soup for my soul,” says Ann.

Despite the early success and media buzz, Ann refuses to act the star. “Me, a star?” asks Ann, dissolving in a fit of giggles, as her mother, Handsamma, smiles indulgently at her daughter's antics. “I am a nervous actor, a junior artiste taking my first steps in cinema. I am waiting to see how people react to Anjali,” she adds. Aware of the minuscule life span of female actors in Malayalam cinema, Ann says her goal is to be a clinical psychologist and cinema is a fortuitous milestone on the way to her goal. Shine on, you sunny star!

Eye for style

Ann has had several of her young fans asking her the name of her brand of kaajal she uses to highlight her eyes. “I tell them it is not the brand. It is the way I do my eyes. I smudge the kaajal after I use it to outline my eyes. Initially, my make-up man was horrified. But now, he has got used to it,” she laughs. Fashion, for her, is comfortable clothing. “My wardrobe has the usual stuff that most girls of my age have– jeans, salwar-kameez, skirts, shirts, saris… Although I enjoy wearing saris, I find it difficult to look elegant if I have to spend a long time in a sari.”

Three Heroines

I consider myself lucky to have got such a range of roles so early in my career and that too with such great directors and co-stars. While Elsamma, my first character, is a village belle, Anjali Menon, my role in Arjunan Saakshi, is an urban career girl who is more like the real me in her outlook. Moreover, if Elsamma was a news agent, Anjali is journalist. In V.K. Prakash's Three Kings, I play a silly nitwit called Ranju, who does not have a grey cell in her head,” giggles Ann.