Natasha Sahgal, making her debut as a film actor in Lijo Pellissery’s Amen, releasing on Friday, says that writing is her first love

Natasha Sahgal is not your conventional actor full of airs and affectations. Right from her unusual caller tune to her rather unusual choice of occupations and hobbies, this is one actor who does not follow the cookie cutter pattern. And here she is – making her film debut in filmmaker Lijo Pellissery’s third film Amen, releasing on Friday.

Deep friendly woofs greet you before Natasha, a theatre actor and scenarist, takes the call to talk about her role in the film and her experience of working in a Malayalam film. “Oh, it was fun,” she says with a laugh. But why a Malayalam film for her film debut? “Well,” she says, “Lijo is a friend. We met when I was working for MTV ‘Rush’. Lijo was shooting one of the segments and that is when he told me about a role for me in his new film. I liked the story and the character and that is how I did the role of Michelle in Amen.”

Michelle, a French violinist, arrives in India as part of a band. But once here, she falls in love with the country and the people, and extends her stay to learn music. Indrajith, a priest, is also a musician and that is how they meet. “Both Fahadh and Indrajith made me feel at home. Fahad is a lot of fun and he is always joking about something or the other. Indrajith helped me a great deal in making the transition from the stage to movies. He gave me tips on how to face the camera, how to move, and so on…” she says.

The experienced theatre actor insists that acting on the stage and acting for the camera are two very different takes. While theatre gives the artistes instant feedback and interaction, film actors have to wait for a while to gauge the reaction of the viewers. “Moreover in theatre, you learn your lines, rehearse and then stage the play but in movies, you learn your lines and then wait for hours for the scene to be filmed. Sometimes the same lines have to be repeated so many times, different angles are filmed… Filmmaking is more complicated. But I enjoy both theatre and films although it is ages since I acted in a play for want of time,” she says.

Many non-Malayali actors find Malayalam a tough language to lip synch to but Natasha says she had no problems whatsoever. “I have a Malayali friend and I was always at her home then. I understand some of the words and am used to hearing the language. So, although I don’t understand the language I still remember some of my lines,” she says before shooting off a line of the dialogue in impeccable Malayalam. “Enikkku Malayalam parayan aanu ishtam (I like to speak in Malayalam),” she adds, bursting into laugher. She sure is a good sport and in more ways than one.

Last November, the plucky actor trekked to the base camp of the Everest on her own to raise money for a charity. To prepare herself for the trip, she practised hard to build up her stamina.

That is not all to Natasha. She is the scenarist of Bejoy Nambiar’s critically acclaimed thriller David. Writing scripts, she says, is her first love. “Another one is in the writing stage but it is too early to talk about it. I don’t plan to stop writing,” says Natasha.

On a high

“Usually people travel in groups. But mine was a solo trek to the base camp of Everest. It was physically and emotionally exhausting. But it felt great to have raised nearly Rs. 1.50 lakh for an animal welfare charity. When Indrajith read about my effort on twitter, he gave me a cheque of Rs.10, 000 although I never mentioned about my trip to him during the shooting,” she explains.

Keywords: Natasha SahgalAmen