Elizabeth a.k.a. ‘Eli’ is not your typical mousy heroine, content to be mere arm candy. Eli, the heroine of Anuraga Karikkin Vellam , essayed by debutant Rajisha Vijayan, has a mind of her own; is bossy, sassy, and spirited. She chatters non-stop on the phone, she raves and rants and whines and bawls herself hoarse. She is, to quote the hero, Abhi (Asif Ali), “a disturbance,” a thorn in his side that he can’t seem to shake off.
The audience, though, has been lapping up Eli’s antics, thoroughly enjoying this refreshingly real portrait of a young woman used to getting her own way. Rajisha, who has carried the movie on her young shoulders with élan, is on cloud nine as she basks in the adulations that have come her way, ever since the film, was released last week.
“I’m being flooded with messages, especially from youngsters, on how Eli inspired them to drop a message to their respective girlfriends, telling them how much they mean to them. Or, how they wished they had appreciated their girlfriends more. I am blown away by the response,” says Rajisha. “I knew the film would do well right from when we were shooting it but I never thought Eli would go down so well with the audience. I loved being Eli and I am so glad that the audience did too,” adds the bubbly actress.
Rajisha, a native of Kozhikode, who has a degree in journalism and mass communication from Amity University, Delhi, may be new on the big screen but she is already a familiar face on television thanks to her stints as an anchor on Surya TV ( Susie’s Code ) and later Mazhavil Manorama ( Ugram Ujjwalam ). “I did not become an anchor to get into films; I was in television for the love of it. I am focussed that way; I like to give whatever I am doing, my whole concentration,” she says.
While in school she was very active in theatre and the arts and says she knew from then on that her future was in media. “Like many Malayalis who grew up on a diet of excellent films, deep inside, I always wanted to be in the movies. I have often play acted my Oscar speech – with a shampoo bottle!”
She had been anchoring for the past one and a half years and all the while was getting many offers for films but says she was holding out for a “good” role to make her debut. “I want roles that allow me to leave an impression on someone. I do not want to be the come-sing-dance-leave kind of heroine,” explains the well-spoken actress, who is now based in Kochi.
Anuraga Karikkin Vellam ’s director, newcomer Khalid Rahman and his brother Jhimsi Khalid, the film’s cinematographer, are her friends and that’s how they knew of her histrionic skills. “I thought Rahman was kidding when he and scriptwriter Naveen Bhaskar approached me to do a screen test. I did not know if I could pull it off especially because I am nothing like Eli in real life; for one, I’m not a phone person; I’m actually one of those rare people who don’t use Whatsapp! But they – and rest of the cast and crew – gave me the confidence,” says Rajisha. “For example, I had to learn driving for the film. Asif, who was in the passenger seat in the scenes, knew I was nervous and kept reassuring me. What you don’t see on camera was that he was hanging on to the hand break for dear life!” she chortles. “Likewise, everyone looked out for me,” she adds.
It was the “realistic” tale of contemporary life, love and loss, told through the story of Abhi, a young architect, and his father, Raghu (Biju Menon), a policeman, that attracted Rajisha to the film. “The story gave due importance to each character, the women, especially. Also, my role itself was fascinating because Eli had plenty to do and she’s the character that connects the dots in the movie,” says Rajisha. And that’s how you strike gold.