‘I want to wait and choose my characters carefully’

Rima Kallingal in a scene from D. Bijukumar’s 'Kaadu Pookkunna Neram'  

Rima Kallingal, she of the curly locks and hour glass figure, is that rare Malayali actress with a political viewpoint; someone who does not shy away from articulating her well-thought out observations on political and social issues. Be it in her professional or personal life, she has not shied away from sticking to her beliefs either. In her professional life, her choice of roles reflect her reluctance to adhere to safe formulaic characters and her willingness to learn, experiment and try out new characters.

Not surprisingly, her characters have taken her to places where many Malayalam female actors have not travelled to on screen. Irrespective of the movies’ performance at the box office, Rima’s characters, of late, has always made a splash.

Her first film of 2016, D. Bijukumar’s Kaadu Pookkunna Neram, takes Rima into the deep forests in Kerala, where she enacts a radical activist fighting for the Adivasis.

There is excitement in Rima’s deep, rich voice when she talks over the phone about the nameless tough woman of the forest who takes on a policeman on her own terrain and on her terms. “The film is about the confrontation between forces of authority and activists fighting for rights of the marginalised. Biju sir has presented a balanced view of the situation without diluting the seriousness of the issue. For both the main protagonists in the film, a policeman and a woman radical, their encounter opens their eyes to new perspectives.”

Rima, along with the rest of the cast and crew, had to rough it out on locations deep in the woods and also enact difficult action sequences.

She points out that she has been doing these rough and tough roles requiring a fair amount of action since Escape from Uganda in 2013. Rani in Rani Padmini (2015) was also not a delicate darling. Rani was an independent woman with a mind of her own. Rani trekked, ran, rolled and tumbled in the snowy and mountainous terrain. “I knew what to expect. And since I have been a dancer for long, I have been doing strength training and Kalari to build up my stamina and agility. Hence I have always been physically fit,” says Rima.

Nevertheless, she adds that they did not quite factor in the oxygen levels during the shooting of Rani Padmini, as most of the movie was shot at altitudes of 12,000 and 13,000 feet above sea level. “So the terrain of Kaadu Pookunna Neram did not pose a difficulty. The difference between Rani and the activist is that the action is kind of raw. We were shooting in low light in confined spaces and the camera was right there. So when I had to fall, I had to fall. There was no other way out. And since I am not a trained stunt actor, I did not know how to fall. I don’t like half measures and so when I had to do it, I did it as well as I could,” she chuckles.

She feels that it is an important film that deals with a contemporary issue with great sensitivity and that such stories should be told.

“Moreover, these kind of roles are rare in our cinema. That is why I want to wait and choose my characters carefully. I am not saying all my roles have to be serious and intense but it should certainly not be a run-of-the-mill character. Sumathi in Chirakodinja Kinavukal was such an unusual role and I enjoyed doing it,” she says.

Rima has been cherry picking her roles since 2013 when she did a slew of films and disappeared from the screen in 2014. In 2015, she acted in precisely two films - Chirakodinja Kinavukal and Rani Padmini, both of which did well at the box office. Rani Padmini turned out to be a trendsetter as it gave wings to the wanderlust of many women who were inspired by her character to travel solo.

Taking a quick look at her career path, she says she was in an experimental mood after 22 Female Kottayam (22 FK) and ended up signing almost anything that came her way. That did not always prove to be productive.

After the huge success of 22 FK, Rima says she did exercise enough care while choosing her roles. “There were times I would return from a shoot and feel so worthless. I decided that I would not do roles and films that did not convince me and satisfy the actor. I agree I have a responsibility towards viewers and that cinema is a medium for entertainment too but I also have a responsibility towards me to challenge and enthuse the actor and person that I am. Now, I am selective about the kind of roles I do. I have to be convinced about my choice.”

She says it is high time reel women are portrayed like real women and reflect the challenges that women face in life. “While agreeing cinema must entertain, cinema must also mirror reality and take on social issues.”

Is there a director waiting to break free in this articulate actor? “I would love to do that. In fact, it would be great if we had more of women writers writing on women and men too. For so long, we have had many men writing our stories. It would be interesting to find out how women would flesh out male characters and the kind of stories they would narrate.”

She continues: As Aashiq [she is married to filmmaker Aashiq Abu] always tells me, instead of waiting for some one to do it, you must go out and do it yourself. So perhaps I might do it.”

Now that would be another interesting journey to travel along with this bold and bright actor.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 3:07:00 AM |

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