In 2016, when Nivetha Thomas breezed into Telugu cinema, she was quickly acknowledged as a potent combination of talent and good looks. Gentleman marked her debut in Telugu, but she wasn’t new to cinema. That effortless ease with which she carried off her part was built gradually. Now, with her second Telugu film Ninnu Kori hitting theatres this Friday, Nivetha mentions, “I’ve been in front of the camera for 13 years.”
Beginning as a child actress in Malayalam films and later acting as Kamal Haasan’s daughter in Papanasam and Vijay’s sister in Jilla (both Tamil), Nivetha reckons that Mohanakrishna Indraganti’s Gentleman was a game changer for her.
Ninnu Kori brings her back with her co-star Nani, along with Aadhi Pinisetty. “Quite a few offers came my way last year. Going against the notion that Telugu cinema doesn’t gives its leading women enough scope to perform, thanks to being launched by Indraganti sir I was recognised as a performer. I was offered women-oriented subjects as well. I was looking for a film that would be a complete package where I get a good role and the entire story is interesting,” she reasons.
Nani commends her for delivering what he feels is the best performance in Ninnu Kori . Nivetha laughs it off with, “I think I am blessed to do another film with him. How your performance turns out also depends on your co-star. With each scene I feel Nani is learning and I, in turn, have learnt observing him at work. It’s also easy to have a conversation with him.”
Room for improvisation
During the shoot, Nivetha recalls having many discussions with Nani, Aadhi and director Shiva Nirvana. “We would rehearse, analyse the scenes and then improvise on the shooting spot to allow room for spontaneity,” she says.
She finds similarities between her and the character she enacts, Pallavi: “I realised this only towards the end of the shoot. We are similar. Pallavi is innocent, doesn’t know much about the world and along the way becomes mature in dealing with things.”
Nivetha is talking to us during a break from shooting for Jai Lava Kusa starring NTR. “That’s a different school of acting,” she says.
Ask her how she fits into a more commercial, masala entertainer and she says, “The film has a lot of song and dance, fights and emotions and I am keen on exploring that front as well.”
Nivetha still carries her books to the sets (she’s in her final year of architecture), but a lot has changed around her. “You know, after Papanasam I waited hoping more good films will come my way. It took a while. I was open to any language. And then Gentleman happened so swiftly. It brought in a sudden boom in fan following and everywhere I went I started getting recognised. I’m still getting used to all this attention,” she laughs.
She grew up in Chennai and her roots can be traced back to Kannur, Kerala. Fluent in Malayalam and Tamil, she was quick to pick up Telugu. “I didn’t realise how Telugu words have crept into my sentences. When I talk to my mom I say something in Malayalam and end it with ‘ kadha? ’ (isn’t it?). In Malayalam kadha means story and she looks puzzled.”
Nivetha is also getting used to being a star where it’s required. Her recent appearances at awards and pre-release functions have seen her go through the hair-makeup-designer-ensemble routine. “I am most comfortable in my jeans and kurti/shirt. I might be considered short, but I enjoy wearing flats. I wouldn’t wear high heels. Now I am learning to do all this at least for special occasions. Sometimes it’s good to dress up and see how it feels,” she signs off.
Did you know? Nivetha Thomas worked as a child actor in Malayalam film ‘Uthara’ (2002). Other films and a television series followed. She won the Kerala State Film Award for best child actor in 2008 for her work in ‘Veruthe Oru Bharya’, where she played Jayaram’s daughter.