This is who Amala Paul is now

Amala Paul opens up on her quest to finding self, how she achieved inner peace after years of tumult and why she now only does films that are worthy of her time

February 23, 2019 02:11 pm | Updated February 24, 2019 11:06 am IST

Amala Paul

Amala Paul

We are supposed to speak at 3 on a hot afternoon, but Amala Paul is not reachable.

“I was surfing. The waves were pretty rough, but I did not feel like getting out of the water,” she says happily, several hours later.

For three months now, surfing has been a vital part of Amala’s new lifestyle, along with old loves trekking and yoga. It helps that she lives is in a village on the fringes of Auroville, Puducherry.

Amala Paul

Amala Paul

“I moved to Delhi last year, because I wanted to migrate to the Himalayas, but that was tough on my work. Auroville is a conscious community that is in sync with what I am now,” she says, as her adopted pets — dog Nature (who followed her after a run) and cat Blue (she jumped in front of her moped when two weeks old) — sit on her lap in a French-style home surrounded by patches of vegetables and flowers.

Her other pet, Winter — needs no introduction if you are one of the 2.5 million people following the actor on Instagram — would be joining the band soon from Kerala.

Amala Paul with her dog Winter

Amala Paul with her dog Winter

“I wake up to the sound of cow bells. I grow tomatoes, spinach and melons, a pepper vine climbs my coconut tree. I have a home and kitchen of my own. I’ve turned vegetarian and am on an ayurvedic diet. I go to the beach every day, and I feel the creative energy of Auroville,” says Amala, 27, about her long-held dream. She laughs that her parents and manager are happy she chose this address over the Himalayas!

After some tumultuous years, a calm has entered Amala’s voice.

“It was a tough journey and the change did not happen overnight. I was broken and had no clue what was happening. Introspection followed, a door opened and then I finally saw light and a beautiful path,” she recalls.

Moment of truth

In July 2016, Amala signed up for her maiden trek to the Pin Parbati Pass, meant for seasoned trekkers. She’d packed a whole lot of things into her voluminous backpack — sunscreen, cosmetics, snowboots etc.

Trek check
  • On the Goecha La Trek — “It puts you face-to-face with the Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world. Also, it is in Sikkim — one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.”
  • On the Pin-Parbati Pass — “Just go for it. It will change your life.”

It was a long trek, and on day one, Amala realised the baggage was weighing her down.

“I threw out almost all my stuff. Unloading that bag was like unloading my soul. That trek put me in touch with my lost self,” she says.

Amala Paul

Amala Paul

She agrees that in the film industry, one is far removed from reality, and “your characters get into your head”.

It was at a camp in Rishikesh that she really discovered what yoga could do for her. “Earlier, yoga was just exercise; now, I know it can help me progress in life. Right now, I’m the unofficial brand ambassador of yoga, trekking and conscious living.”

Power of Yoga
  • Amala admits that yoga helped change her as a person.
  • “When I began acting, I was young and gullible. There was a lot of passion to work, but I took myself too seriously and had become insecure. I could not ask my parents for guidance, because they had no knowledge about the industry. I kept blaming myself in real life even while I was super confident on the sets. But, I’m grateful my evolution happened early. Films, a wedding, and a break-up… I think they all prepared me for what I am today. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been and nothing weighs me down.”

In Auroville, Amala gets around on a moped, shops local, plants saplings, buys milk from a dairy next door, sets curd at home, and is living a life that has left her mother pleasantly surprised.

“Everybody here is on a moped or cycle or an electric car. I’ve sold my Mercedes and I’ll be getting something electric. I work out of a thatch shed on the roof. Initially, there were requests for photographs. Now, even the auto annas know me and wave at me,” she says.

It is reminiscent of life in college. “I live with like-minded people who have chosen to adopt this lifestyle; we upcycle and are low-maintenance.” “I need time to prep for a role, and this is the happiest way to work, my own kind of detached attachment,” says Amala, who has also signed up for a big trek this year — Stok Kangri in Ladakh, the highest mountain in the Himalayan Stok Range.

Amala Paul poses after a surfing session in Puducherry

Amala Paul poses after a surfing session in Puducherry

The actor — who earned a state award for her work in Mynaa (2010) and has 35 films to her credit — says the move has been great for her as a performer.

“I’m close enough to Chennai but also far from its pace. The energy here is different. I breathe better, and because I am so cut off from the glamour and glitz, I can dive into each character with whatever it takes to essay it well.”

The actor has also decided to shoot one movie at a time.

“I need time to prep for a role, and this is the happiest way to work, my own kind of detached attachment,” says Amala, who has also signed up for a big trek this year — Stok Kangri in Ladakh, the highest mountain in the Himalayan Stok Range.

Counting films

Amala has wrapped up shooting and dubbing for debutante KR Vinoth’s Adho Andha Paravai Pola (AAPP), which had her perform stunt sequences that resulted in a ligament tear.

There is also Rathna Kumar’s thriller, Aadai , featuring live sound. “Both films called for different energy levels. An action film drains you, and I trained a lot before beginning work on AAPP. For Aadai , I had to go off yoga, go back to being the crazy person I was and let the pain get to me so I could play my character better,” explains the actor.

Business of health
  • Amala has a wellness company, The Himalayan Yogi, which has launched Night Recovery (a sleep-aid powder made from herbs). It began as her quest for a good night’s sleep, which was elusive what with her state of mind and her father’s cancer diagnosis in 2016. She says her company is involved in “digitising Ayurveda” and is creating an app.

She has no complaints, though. “I like the fact that these are young teams with zero ego and amazing talent. Filmmaking with them is a collaborative process,” she says.

She will also star in Blessy’s Aadujeevitham (Malayalam) co-starring Prithviraj, and will soon start shooting for Cadaver , a Tamil film produced by her manager Pradeep Kumar and Ajay Panicker, directed by Anoop and written by Abhilash. She plays a forensic expert in it. Two more “exciting announcements” are on the anvil.

In a yoga session with guru Christine Pauchard

In a yoga session with guru Christine Pauchard

Listening to her speak, it is hard to believe that less than a year ago, Amala considered quitting the industry.

“I craved to do real things, and then Aadai happened, like cosmic intervention,” she explains. “I want to only be part of films that are worth my time. I give my heart and soul for four-five months and I don’t want that to go in vain.”

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