Actor Ambika on her directorial debut and why acting will always remain her first love
Even when she was a reigning star, actor Ambika was keen on knowing what went on behind the camera. “I would notice how directors constructed a shot, how they worked on the screenplay and dialogues, the jargon they used… every single thing. It fascinated me and I wanted to direct at least one film. Over the years, I developed the confidence that I could do it,” she says.
Her long-pending dream has come true with Nizhal/Anabella, a Tamil and Malayalam bi-lingual that she has co-directed with her brother, Suresh Nair. The 105-minute film, which stars former Miss Kerala Indu Thampy and Major Kishore, has got a U/A certificate from the Censor Board and is due for release soon.
In PoV format
Ambika is all excited about this film, possibly the first in the country to use the Point Of View (PoV) format. In this, the actors wield the camera themselves even as they act. That way, the audience becomes part of the cinematic experience and watches the film from the point of view of the actor holding the camera, she says. “The script, which has romance, comedy, drama and an element of thrill, demanded this format,” says Ambika. Apparently, only 20 per cent of the film was shot by a professional cameraman.
So, how was it to direct after being directed by someone for so many years? “I know what it’s like during one’s first movie. I can recognise the anxiety, fear, lack of confidence, doubt… all of them reflect in the eyes,” says Ambika. “And, so I handled them gently. I never raised my voice and coaxed the actors to do what I wanted them to,” she explains.
The actors were put through a 40-day workshop, mainly because they had to learn how to act while handling the camera.
A new experience
For Ambika, who with her younger sister Radha ruled the South film industry for quite a few years, this is a whole new experience. But, the actor says this is probably her first and last film as director. “I did it because I wanted to go through the experience. Everyone asks me if I’m going to stop acting now. That’s unfair. I came here as an actor and that’ll always be my calling card,” she says.
For now, she’s looking at scripts that tempt the actor in her. She smiles, recalling her cantankerous act in Bala’s Avan Ivan. “It was such a departure from what I’ve normally done,” says Ambika.
The actor is waiting for challenging roles, even negative ones. “If someone came up to me with a role like what Prakash Raj did in Appu, I’d grab it.”
In between movies, she is mom to Ram Keshav and Rishikesh, who live in the U.S. “My children (both of them are keen on music; one is a sports writer, the other a stage actor) have been most understanding about my career. That makes it so much easier to strike a balance between home and work,” she says.