Most women acting in films pack up and leave the scene after getting married. Kaniha is an exception. Her first film after her wedding, Bhagyadevata, proved to be a winning ticket for her and co-star Jayaram.

Dame Luck seems to be smiling on Kaniha with Pazhassi Raja continuing its reign over the box-office. In the lead role as Kaitheri Makam, opposite Mammootty’s Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja, Kaniha makes her presence felt in the company of stalwarts such as Sarath Kumar, Manoj K. Jayan, Suman, Thilakan, and Padmapriya.

Kaniha agrees she was lucky to land a plum role in a film that brought together titans such as Jnanpith award winner M.T. Vasudevan Nair, veteran director Hariharan, and Mammootty after 18 years.

“I was told that 30 to 35 actors were screened to play Makam. So it came as a pleasant surprise when I was given the role after a costume test,” recalls Kaniha.

She admits she was nervous during the first schedule of the shoot of the film as many of the actors were thespians. “But Mammoo ka (Mammootty) was supportive and helped me a lot to portray the brave queen. As a dancer, I tend to use my eyes and eyebrows too much. Mammoo ka asked me to tone down to make it look realistic,” says the actor, who’s also dubbed for the film in Tamil.

A picture of dignity

She says it was tough to act as the queen who is her husband’s strength. Moreover, while most of the leading stars had exciting action sequences, Makam is the picture of strength and dignity.

Kaniha is all thanks to Hariharan for helping her enact the role without melodrama. “For instance, I thought Makam should be heartbroken in the last scene that shows her accompanying the body of the king. But the director asked me to be stoic and not create a scene,” says Kaniha.

“We had to go back to the 18th Century in the 21st Century. The work each person put in was awesome. Each shoot had to be checked to see if there were any signs of modernity — such as an offending cable or a wire. The same was the case with costumes and jewellery,” she says.

The former Ms. Chennai made her debut in Tamil with Five Star, under Mani Ratnam’s banner. Autograph, Aethiree and Varalaaru opposite heroes such as Cheran, Madhavan and Ajith helped her go places, though she first reached tinseltown via Dinu Dennis Ennittum in Malayalam.

The actor is currently shooting in Ottapalam for the Malayalam film Drona, opposite Mammootty. She will also be seen in the Jayaram-starrer My Big Father.

No Tamil film….? “I am open to offers. But I prefer films that are wrapped up quickly.” She explains: “I have a job as a consultant in the U.S., and so, take up film assignments that can be completed within a month or two.”

In fact, the mechanical engineering graduate from BITS, Pilani, says she has the best of both worlds — “my engineering degree gives me the security to pursue films. And, movies give me recognition”.

Keywords: KanihaPazhassi Rajadignity