The “FLAWLESS” star to debut in Bollywoodby Opinion Express September 7, 2018 0 comments
Talented actress Nithya Menen, the South goddess named the “Perfectionist” in acting is on her way to land in Mumbai for her bollywood debut.
Nithya Menen who faced the camera at the age of ten in an Indian English film, ‘The Monkey Who Knew Too Much’ played the younger sister to actress Tabu. She has acted in several films across industries and established herself as a “single-take” actor who could pull off any role stealing the attention and praise of audiences with her vivacity. She is one consistent actress who can play many things at her best while she is tapping into her deep well of passion and strength. She brings life to characters on the brink of meltdown. She became the first Telugu actress ever to win Critics Award & the Best Actress Award at Filmfare. Apart from being an actress, she is also a fabulous singer who crooned for above 19 songs in films.
Q. We think you’re on top of your game right now. What do you think it is that makes Nithya Menen so successful?
I din’t ever go after success. I didn’t do my work with success in mind. I’m fortunate to have success come my way and I always give that credit to Grace or something that is beyond us. I have had more appreciation than criticism. But sometimes when I don’t do what is expected or if there is a certain rule that I don’t follow, and then I get criticised. I think my choice of films and my style of working has always been what truly felt right to me and what was in alignment with my soul. I have never taken a commonly followed path.
Q. What is that one thing you’d like to change about in the film industry?
A majority of the films in south film industry where I have worked so far are mostly people centric rather than being script centric. There is an imbalance when a project is built around an actor or a director or any one person. If this changes, then there would be appropriate casting for that particular script, a bigger opportunity for more talented people to be in films and also the industry could grow and expand to a greater space. All the decisions taken for the film should be made with the script in the centre of everything.
Q. Any historical character that you would like to play?
I would love to play a warrior queen or princess. I think it would suit me.
Q. What is the biggest risk that you took in your career and you feel that it has paid off?
I have taken risks throughout my entire career. And I think it has all paid off! I was not aware that these were risks. I did what made sense to me. To my surprise there were many people who would think that the kind of films I did and people who I chose to work with were very unusual. I did films as I felt right at that point of time. The success and credibility I have today is only a result of every single one of those decisions I have made.
Q. You are one of the most beautiful women around! How do you deal with all the attention?
(Laughs) I don’t see myself the way another person does, I guess. I am not very fond of attention. I prefer to keep myself away. But it comes along with the profession. Films for me are only about an artistic expression and never about gaining fame or attention, so I have to learn to deal with it (smiles). I am a private person and I have my own little lovely world here at home. I love doing normal things like going for a walk on the street and observing people without drawing all that attention to myself.
Q. Tell me about a project that you consider to be the most significant in your career and that you are proud of?
I always felt that most of the films I worked in so far were not able to draw from me what I’m truly capable of. They have utilised only a small percentage of what I can do. ’OK Kanmani’ was a significant project as I had a larger canvas and good space where I could express more. It portrayed me in the best light and it was clear people liked to see me in a romantic film. ‘OK Kanmani’ went pretty wide and people watched it also because it was director Mani Ratnam’s film and was beautifully made. I got compliments from many Bollywood actors including Vidhya Balan that she loved me in the film which I am happy about.
Q. ‘Praana’ being directed by VK Prakash, shot by the legendary PC Sreeram and the sound being designed by Oscar winner Resul Pookutty. How was your experience about working with such big names of the industry?
I have known VK Prakash (VKP) for a long time and we had done a couple of films together a while back. We were looking for a good script to collaborate on. So when he approached me with the script of ‘Praana’, I felt this would be the right one. I have worked with PC sir on more than a couple of films. VKP and I were discussing the cinematography of the film which we agreed should be done in an extraordinary way for a subject like‘Praana’.VKP also felt somebody like PC would be perfect but we were not sure if he would be able to do the film. Later I called PC sir and told him about this script. The fact that it was a one actor film excited him very much. He immediately agreed and made time for the shoot. That is my equation with PC sir.
Working with Resul was fantastic. I love his sensibilities and the efficiency with which Resul and his team works. They were really good in their department and I thrive in an environment like that where there are efficient and passionate people around me. He was so precise with every little detail; I enjoyed being in a professional environment like that. I feel at home and relaxed when I work with people of that caliber.
Q. You are known to be a single take actor. How challenging was it to do the same scene which was shot 4 times for 4 different languages? What type of preparation did you do for playing the character in the movie ‘Praana’?
This is a really good question because it was absolutely a challenge in this case because I am a spontaneous actor and I like to do a shot only once. It’s painful for me to repeat it over and over. When the VK Prakash approached me for this film I was bracing myself when he told me that he wanted to do ‘Praana’ in four different languages and he also wanted to try surround sync sound for the first time. I was left with no option but to shoot for all the four languages because this film was something special and it was needed. I had to learn and deliver the dialogues four times in four different languages one after the other. I am usually fast with my takes and that really worked for this film. We finished the entire shoot in 23 days. Actually I was prepared for it to be tougher but it went on smooth than we all expected. The team would plan a scene to be shot till noon but I would finish it in two hours. One of the best compliments I received was from PC sir. He said it is only because of “Nithya” that it is going this fast.
I don’t prepare or plan anything to play any role. I prefer not to think about it too much as it becomes intellectual. Creative stuff should not be intellectualised. There are different kinds of actors but I have always been the spontaneous one and there is no need for me to change. It is not about thinking about the best thing to do, it is about something happening in the moment which will never happen the second time. I guess that’s why I have been a one take actor.
Q. Is the movie ‘Praana’ completely outside of commercial mainstream? We hear that it is first of its kind in Indian Film history. How do you feel about being part of this experimental film?
‘Praana’ is not completely out of commercial mainstream. The difference is in the making and the people involved are each extraordinary in their area. It is definitely in the mainstream as it falls under thriller genre category. ‘Praana’ is made in a beautiful way because of all the technical expertise involved. I’m very happy to be a part of a well made film like this. It is the first time we have ever done a single actor film, single heroine film and surround sync sound which Resul has tried. There are a lot of “firsts” for this film. Also it is going to be my first Hindi film.
Q. How excited are you for your Bollywood debut with ‘Praana’?
Earlier I got a lot of offers from Bollywood but I was as selective with them as I am with any of my other films. I wanted to make sure that especially the first film I did is something which portrays me correctly and does justice to me as an actor. I am happy about‘Praana’ being my first in Bollywood which happens to be a film where I’m the only actor, also the first in the Indian film history.
Q. What really appealed to you about the character in the movie ‘Praana’?
I have played a writer in this movie. There were a lot of beautifully written lines for the character to write or speak. This script had depth and beauty in its dialogues. Although it is a thriller genre it had deep philosophical ideas going parallel with that and it attracted me the most to the script and the character.
Q. You have crooned close to 20 songs in Mollywood, Kollywood and Tollywood. Can you talk about your hidden talent that not many are aware of.
Yes, I love to sing. Singing was something I actually loved even more than acting. Apparently I was told I started singing when I was one year old(laughs). Everybody thought I would be a singer when I grew up. As a creative person I am extremely emotional, singing involves expressing an emotion and it helps navigate all the emotions. I am glad that people like my voice although I’m not professionally trained for it. The reason why it appeals to me is because I put my soul into anything that I do and singing especially as it involves the voice. I believe that my soul comes straight into the music.
I’m working on something pretty exciting with music. I want to release singles working with certain artists and which is too early to talk about. All that I can say is I am working with international musicians which was something that I was always passionate about. Things are in the pipeline and I think very soon people can see something very different of me.
Q. Can you talk about your upcoming projects?
I have ‘Praana’ which is releasing this year in Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada. I am doing a Tamil film directed by Mysskin. Also I’m doing a Telugu project where I play a Muslim girl who lives in old city and is mistaken identity. I am looking forward to both the film as they are going to be very bold and exciting scripts.
Q. Do you have any final words for the readers of OPINION EXPRESS magazine and your fans across the globe?
For the readers, I would use this as an opportunity to reach out to you all and ask to do the needful for the flood affected victims in the parts of Kerala and Karnataka. We are doing our bit to help them in all possible ways. Do whatever you can to help those people.
For fans, I know I always got this input that I should do more films and people always feel I am not doing enough and want to see more of me. There is an actress I adore and I was looking particularly for her films to watch. I could not get many and it then hit me like a ton of bricks that this is what people were saying to me when I was being very choosy with films. So I have decided to do more and I want to expand as an actress and do films in more languages like Marathi and Bengali films as well and I will learn those languages too.
If you weren’t an actress, You’d be?
A wildlife filmmaker.
What book/movie that left a lasting impression on you?
There are several but I will go with ‘The secret life of Walter Mitty’.
One thing you are exceptionally good at?
Acting I guess (giggles) and something that not many people know is I am really good at driving. I love cars.
If you would like to live in a foreign country, where would it be?
Maybe it is Costa Rica.
What is your favourite daily wear attire?
Anything that is comfortable, 100% cotton and breathable.
What’s the latest splurge in your wardrobe?
I’m not a big fan of designer clothes and somehow I have never splurged on that. My last splurge that I decided get something was my car. So let’s call it “the latest splurge in my garage”(giggles).
One thing you cannot stand?
I cannot stand inefficiency at work.
When was the last time you took off on a vacation?
It was three years ago. But the last two years I did less films and have been doing a bunch of things that I really love and wanted to do, but had to keep putting them off because of tight schedules. So it’s still been wonderful.
Is there a ‘hand me down’ from your mother that you cherish?
No, not from my mother but I did get a saree from my grandmother who passed away recently. She had apparently kept this particular saree and said that one is for “Nithya”. I loved my grandma a lot and that saree is something very special to me.
Article and interview is conducted by Ms Nithya Ramesh: Bureau Chief – Fashion & Entertainment Opinion Express: She can be contacted at +91 9663940619 for any feed-back.