Anaswara Rajan on her breakout role in Jeethu Joseph and Mohanlal’s ‘Neru’

Anaswara says doing her homework helped her essay the role of the visually-challenged sculptor Sara in ‘Neru’

Updated - December 26, 2023 05:43 pm IST

Published - December 26, 2023 04:01 pm IST

Anaswara Rajan 

Anaswara Rajan  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Anaswara Rajan is the shining new star in the Malayalam cinematic firmament today. She says her character of the visually challenged sculptor Sara Mohammed touched a chord in her as soon as film director-scenarist Jeethu Joseph narrated the story of Neru to her.

The female lead of Jeethu’s Mohanlal-starrer Neru, which is making waves at the box office, is on cloud nine with the appreciation coming her way from the box office and critics for a difficult role that she essayed with enviable ease.

“I could relate to her and the horrific experience she goes through. It is a woman-oriented story and so it was not difficult to empathise with Sara’s challenges,” says Anaswara over phone from Kochi, where she is shooting for Guruvayur Amabalanadayil, directed by Vipin Das.

Anaswara Rajan in a still from Super Sharanya

Anaswara Rajan in a still from Super Sharanya | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The 15-year-old Kannur native impressed in her debut in Udhaharanam Sujatha (2017), where she played a rebellious teenaged daughter Athira Krishnan to Manju Warrier’s character. In addition to facing the camera for the first time, she also had to learn the Thiruvananthapuram dialect to play Athira, who hails from a lower-middle class residential colony.

Anaswara then came good in films such as Thaneer Mathan Dinangal (2019), in which she played the lead for the first time, and Super Sharanya (2022).  She was also seen in the Tamil Raangi and made her debut in Hindi with Yaariyan 2. However, Sara is a breakthrough character, helping her prove her credentials as an actor.

Anaswara Rajan with Jeethu Joseph on the set of Neru

Anaswara Rajan with Jeethu Joseph on the set of Neru | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Anaswara held her own even while acting with veterans Mohanlal, Siddique, Jagadish, Ganesh and Priyamani, and was at no point overawed by the acting powerhouses around her.

Learning on the set

“On the contrary, they motivated me to do my best. As soon as my shot was over, I would go and watch their scenes on the monitor. There is a lot to learn from them. The way they react, their expressions that speak volumes, the nuances that make a character real… so much,” she explains.  She adds that each moment with a senior actor is a “wow moment’ for her.

Anaswara Rajan as Sara in a still from Neru

Anaswara Rajan as Sara in a still from Neru | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

To prepare for her character Sara, the 21-year-old watched videos of visually-challenged persons to understand how they spoke, looked, reacted and moved. As a result, her portrayal went beyond the stereotypes on screen. “The minute a visually challenged realise where the person they are talking to is, they turn their head towards them. They may not be able to see but their intellect and determination help them overcome their difficulties. Those videos helped me flesh out the role and Jeethu sir gave me the confidence to take up the character,” she says.

Ananswara Rajan as Sara Mohammed in Neru

Ananswara Rajan as Sara Mohammed in Neru | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In certain tough scenes where Sara, a rape survivor, is emotionally manipulated by the wily lawyer that Siddique plays, Anaswara maintains her composure while portraying her turmoil, never allowing the role to become maudlin or melodramatic.

She says Jeethu had told her in detail about the scenes they would be shooting, how it would be filmed and explained each frame in detail. “That made me comfortable during certain scenes where the assault takes place. It helped that Santhi Mayadevi,  a lawyer herself, had written the story along with Jeethu sir and she was there to guide her too. Another person who was a big support was costume designer Linta Jeethu. She was with me when those scenes were filmed and was guiding me all through the movie,” recalls the actor.

Anaswara, an undergraduate student who is pursuing her education through distance education,  is determined to complete her gradation despite her hectic schedule.

2024 promises to be an interesting year for her with Midhun Manuel Thomas’ Abraham Ozler and Guruvayur Amabala Nadayil with Basil Joseph and Prithviraj.

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