With her unwavering positivity and bubbly spirit, Chinnu in the Malayalam film Thamaasha has been winning hearts. Perhaps, the character comes across as a mouthpiece for many who have been at the receiving end of online abuse and body-shaming at some point in their lives. A level-headed Chinnu sensibly takes the broadsides in her stride with a pinch of salt, not willing to let others invade her personal space that she considers her own.
“I still can’t believe how well the audience has accepted my character. I was a bit nervous before the film’s release as it’s a different movie with no real star cast. But I had a strong hunch that it would click,” says Chinnu Chandni over phone from her residence in the capital city.
She is justifiably excited and considers it a “bonus” that her breakthrough role is her namesake. “My character had another name in the beginning but they later changed it. To be frank, I never wanted to ask Hamza ikka (director Ashraf Hamza) why,” she says.
Chinnu made her acting début in Khalid Rahman’s directorial debut Anuraga Karikkin Vellam where she played the role of Rajisha Vijayan’s boon companion. Her next stint before the camera was a minor role in the comedy drama Cappuccino , again as the heroine’s sidekick. Last year, when Khalid asked Chinnu if she was interested in becoming a “heroine”, she felt the filmmaker was joking. That was during the sidelines of pre-production of Khalid’s Mammootty-starrer Unda where she was set to join the crew.
“Through him, I got in touch with Hamza ikka and (cinematographer) Sameer (Thahir) ikka for the audition. We tried out the scene when Chinnu meets Sreenivasan (Vinay Forrt) for the first time. A few days later, Khalid called me up and told me ‘Now say goodbye to Unda as you are going be one of the lead characters in Thamaasha ,” she recollects. Her Instagram followers jumped from 6,000 to 25,000 in five days of the film’s release and that’s when it started sinking in. She has since been bombarded with umpteen messages of appreciation. “Many have conveyed to me that it was similar to their story too. Then there were others who were actually apologising for having behaved in bad taste to their friends,” says the 27-year-old.
She speaks volumes about the on-screen chemistry she shared with Vinay Forrt, who plays a diffident Malayalam professor very much conscious of his receding hairline. “It was a big learning experience to observe him seamlessly slipping into the skin of the character. As a newcomer, I, of course, could not pretend in front of him,” she says.
Chinnu does admit that she has had her fair share of experiences her character so resolutely confronts. “I think many are unaware that such acts potentially harm a ‘victim’. Sadly, body-shaming is considered an easily accessible humour.” How has she tackled them? “Well, once you joke about yourself before someone else does, that takes the fun away from them. That’s like a coping mechanism, though it may not be an ideal way of dealing with it. Later, I realised that keeping shut or ignoring is a better way,” she explains.
Chinnu grew up in Tanzania where her dad was working and made the shift back to the city during high school years. She currently works with a creative management firm in Mumbai and keeps flying back and both. So, how much of the Chinnu in Thamaasha is the Chinnu in real life? “About 80%-90% I would say. I’m a happy, positive person and I cannot be beaten down,” she avers with conviction. Having done her M Phil in Theatre Arts, she used to be active in theatre before getting busy with work.
Her confession about preferring ‘falooda’ to weight-shedding home remedies in the movie is perhaps the best takeaway dialogue from it. “(Laughs) Yes, I do love falooda, though I don’t have as big a sweet tooth as my character does. I think this is a question every single person who meets me now asks,” Chinnu says with a chuckle.
Though she received enquiries about a couple of films, no upcoming project has been finalised yet. For now, Chinnu is enjoying her break, and, of course, faloodas.