In February last year, when cinema was still reeling from the first wave of the pandemic, a breezy Telugu movie called Ninnila Ninnila (Theeni in Tamil) released on ZEE5 . More than a year later, the lead actors of that film — Ashok Selvan and Ritu Varma — are back with Nitham Oru Vaanam, another film that promises to tug at our heartstrings, set to release in theatres on November 4.
Neither of these projects seem far-fetched to these two actors. “(laughs) I think I am just blessed to have gotten such scripts,” says Ritu, who has had a string of feel-good films in Telugu from Pelli Choopulu to Oke Oka Jeevitham. “I am not calculative when it comes to selecting scripts, and all I care about is: ‘Will I watch it as an audience?’ But such overwhelming compliments on my script selections are a reassurance that I am on the right track,” says the actor.
Such films keep Ashok going. “Because they also keep me happy! Moreover, as an artist, I want to instil hope. I want the audience to go back home with a lot of positivity,” he says, adding that he can’t do that with every film. “I don’t want to be typecast as anything. So, I have to break the monotony and experiment with other subjects as well.”
Nitham Oru Vaanam is also an experiment of sorts: it has Ashok playing three different characters — Arjun, who lives in a cocoon; Veera, a self-righteous man from the 2000s; and Prabha. “I am happy that I got the opportunity to speak the kongu slang through Prabha. Though I am from Erode, I only speak Chennai Tamil, and my mother always wanted me to speak the kongu Tamil,” informs Ashok.
Veera’s story is set in a college. Interestingly, Ashok is one of the few actors who looks convincing as a college student. “I have always wanted to do a college film because the youth will connect instantly to it. I am doing another film which has a lot of portions set in a college. Only until a specific age will I be able to pull off such roles, and so I want to do more of that now,” says Ashok.
Ritu plays Shubha, a free-spirited woman who lives life to the fullest. “She looks at life through a different lens and she is someone all of us would love to be friends with,” says Ritu. Shubha is among the three women in the film, the other two are played by Aparna Balamurali and Shivathmika Rajashekar.
Ashok Selvan has been part of multi-starrers before; he insists that his co-actors feel comfortable on the set. “Only then will they be able to perform without any ego. That is important to get the best output. Acting is a co-dependent artform, and so how your co-actors perform matters a lot,” says Ashok.
With Ritu, he was all the more confident thanks to his experience on Ninnila Ninnila. “We are friends and it is always comfortable to work with her. Like Ninnila..., we shot in many locations for Nitham... — from Kolkata to Fort Kochi.” he adds.
Ritu shares the same comfort level with the actor. “ I have known him since 2015 and I am so proud to have seen how Ashok evolve as an actor and a person.”
Like Ashok, Ritu has come a long way as well. “I was giving a try to whatever was offered to me. I wasn’t passionate, and that only grew with each film. I don’t plan or calculate much. Hence, I don’t see acting as a business either,” she says.
Ritu is currently working on the Vishal-starrer Mark Antony, which is her third direct Tamil film. Ashok, on the other hand, is shooting for Neelam Productions’ next. “It is a film set in the ‘90s and it is based on cricket. I am looking forward to it,” he adds.