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I have nothing to gain or lose, says Nithya Menen

Nithya Menen  

Debut director Prasanth Varma’s Awe, a multi-genre film that plays mind games with its viewers, has become a talking point since its release last Friday. Among the several characters and stories that are a part of this genre-bender, the one that’s caught attention is the segment featuring Eesha Rebba and Nithya Menen, for its smart use of humour to talk about sexual orientation of two young women and the impact it has on one of their parents’, and the subsequent, poignant focus on child abuse.

As Krisha a.k.a Krishnaveni, Nithya Menen enacts her part with disarming candour. The real Nithya Menen is no different; she speaks her mind and is unafraid to swim against the tide. “I’ve chosen my films intuitively, and only when I am convinced. I’ve been like this since the beginning. Female actors who’ve done only two or three films normally don’t ask for a narration when they are approached for a well known director’s film featuring a big star. I’ve always insisted on a narration. Before Ala Modalaindi, I’ve turned down quite a few Malayalam films featuring some of the biggest actors. Had I taken them up, my career graph would have been different,” she discloses, somewhere in the middle of our conversation.

When we begin talking, she treads with caution. She’s had unpleasant experiences with the press in the past. It takes a while for her to let her guard down.

Against the grain

Prasanth Varma had narrated the story of Awe to her much before actor Nani and stylist Prashanti Tipirneni took over the reigns of production. Menen was drawn to Varma’s out-of-the-box approach.

Talking to us before the release of Awe, Varma had disclosed that given the nature of the story that comes together in the final minutes of the film, he hadn’t revealed the plot in its entirety to all the actors involved. Menen smiles and says, “It won’t work with me that way. I have to know not just my part, but the entire story.”

Varma gave her a choice of two roles — that of Krishna and Radha (essayed by Eesha Rebba). “In the conventional sense, directors would think of me as Radha — bubbly, feminine... I asked him which role he wanted me to do and he said Krishna. That’s what I wanted too.” A part of Awe’s intrigue stems from casting against the grain.

Menen’s dialogues as Krishna, which talk about the impact of abuse in Radha’s character and her own unabashed declaration of sexual orientation, is an uninhibited act. Menen speaks her lines with a sense of ownership and it seems spontaneous than rehearsed. “There are several occasions, like with Awe, where the script and dialogues are so good that an actor just has to do his/her job. An actor’s job is to say these lines in a manner that he/she believes in it. If there’s a situation where my interpretation of a character or a scene is different, I add to it. But I try to seamlessly blend into the scene and give my 100% to what I do. Right now I am talking to you and I can’t hear anything else. I feel a sense of calm between ‘action’ and ‘cut’; it’s meditative,” she explains.

Give, not take

Has Menen ever felt camera-shy or battled stage fear? She pauses to consider this and says, “Not that I remember. I don’t care about just looking good on screen or how people perceive me. A lot of people come to cinema to get something out of it — fame, money, the satisfaction of doing a good role… I believe in giving something that’s within me to the craft. I have no fear, and have nothing to gain or lose.”

She admits there are several days when she hears scripts she doesn’t like or gets bored. “I am still waiting for a film that will tap the actor in me. Whatever I’ve done till now has only scratched the surface.”

There was a time, when she relatively new to cinema, she had told us that she doesn’t wanted to be limited to cinema. Now, she’s also writing scripts and hopes to turn director someday. “I was young and had wanted to do a lot of things. But then I realised that some of us are meant to do certain things. So hear I am,” she laughs.

Life, she says, has been a roller coaster ride and she takes a spiritual approach to deal with its surprises.

One-actor film

Next up is a one-actor film titled Praana, being made in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada. Shot in 23 days, it required Menen to shoot in ‘surround sync’ (sound design by Resul Pookkutty). “It was a draining exercise; I would be enacting one scene in all four languages. In surround sync, the ambient noise gets recorded. So if there’s a bird crowing away where it’s not required, I’d have to do it all over again.”

Praana was possible because she’s fluent in all four languages. Having grown up in Bengaluru, she was adept with Kannada and Tamil. Her Malayalam, she says, was ‘rusty and different’ and got better as she worked in Malayalam films. She learnt Telugu during Ala Modalaindi. “I can grasp languages quickly and love to speak to people in their own language,” she says, signing off.

German expressionism: ‘Awe’ employs elements of German expressionism, used by German filmmakers in the 1920s and 30s. In this form, characters inhabited strange spaces and distorted/exaggerated mannerisms were used to highlight emotional travails of people in a country faced with war.


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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 5:54:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/nithya-menen-talks-about-awe-her-approach-to-cinema/article22796990.ece

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