Thu. May 30th, 2024

Slow and steady is the only way to grow, says actor Kalyani Priyadarshan

By Sampad May1,2024

Kalyani Priyadarshan seems to be in the Pathu mode at present. She is as chirpy as her character Pathu, aka Fathima Noorjahan from Sesham Mike-il Fathima, a vivacious, talkative football fan from football-crazy Malappuram who dreams of becoming a football commentator.

“Relief. That was the first emotion I felt when the film was released, followed by joy when people appreciated the role,” says the actor over the phone from the sets of her fourth Tamil film, Genie, starring Jayam Ravi.

Kalyani Priyadarshan in Sesham Mike-il Fathima

Kalyani Priyadarshan in Sesham Mike-il Fathima
| Photo Credit:
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Fathima, often addressed as Chilambachi, meaning chatterbox, belongs to a middle-class Muslim family. She questions societal norms about how a woman, especially a Muslim one, should be. The confident Fathima has to face several hurdles when she attempts to break into the male bastion of commentators. How she overcomes the hurdles to achieve her goal is the narrative of the film.

“I was worried because everybody knows I can’t speak Malayalam fluently. I had to say lengthy Malayalam dialogues in Malabar dialect. Moreover, for the first time, I was carrying a film on my shoulders,” she says.

Kalyani admits that she was extremely nervous about playing the lead. “I have had limited screen time in most of my movies. The attention was often on other actors because I have shared the screen mostly with big names in the industry — be it Sobhana ma’am (Varane Avashyamundu) or Lal uncle (Mohanlal in Bro Daddy). I don’t know what I did to overcome my apprehensions,” she explains.

When Manu gave her the script and told her that she had to dub for her character, she immediately said yes. “I knew it was going to be a challenge. In fact, one of the first persons with whom I discussed the project was Rajuettan [actor-filmmaker Prithviraj]. We were then working together in Bro Daddy [which he was directing as well]. I asked him because he knows how much Malayalam I can speak and about my acting. He told me that it was a great role. His advice was, ‘If you take this as a challenge, and you are able to achieve it, then nobody will question your ability as an actor.’ For me it was an opportunity to show whether I am versatile.”

Kalyani Priyadarshan in Sesham Mike-il Fathima

Kalyani Priyadarshan in Sesham Mike-il Fathima
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Dubbing process

She adds that dubbing was an elaborate process for her. “Script assistant Azra Anjum is from Malappuram and she sent me voice notes of the dialogues. I learnt them and could manage 60% of the dialogue delivery. But I needed more help and that came from Surabhi chechi [actor Surabhi Lakshmi] who was with me throughout the dubbing,” she says.

Surabhi has shared a video of the dubbing session on her social media handles. “There were times when I almost gave up. I don’t know how long it took me to finish the dubbing. It is embarrassing if I take a count of that!”

She had to get the correct body language as well. Of the several references, especially on location, one was Safareena K,who was the director’s assistant. “She is so expressive that her face conveys a range of emotions,” Kalyani adds.

As for being a football fan, Kalyani says that though she enjoys football, she is not as crazy as her character or most people in Malappuram. “I have been a fan of N’Golo Kante for the longest time,” she adds.

Many people had doubts about whether Kalyani could pull it off. “Sabu ettan [Sabumon who plays the antagonist] had asked the director if he should cast me. But after watching a scene, he called me to say how much he appreciated my act.”

Kalyani Priyadarshan in Sesham Mike-il Fathima

Kalyani Priyadarshan in Sesham Mike-il Fathima
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The star kid — daughter of filmmaker Priyadarshan and actor Lissy — is elated about making her family proud. “Achan [father] had seen a few scenes before the release and he told me, “Now no one will say you can’t speak Malayalam.” I was thrilled that I got his stamp of approval. But then he is my father and was bound to have a biased opinion. So I was waiting for the response of the audience. They loved it and it has been an emotional weekend for me.”

Action mode

Close on the heels of Sesham… comes Joshiy’s Antony starring Joju George and Chemban Vinod Jose, which releases in theatres on December 1. While the trailer showed a glimpse of Kalyani in the boxing ring, she says that the film is not a sports drama. “There is action because I am playing an MMA fighter. It is a drama about human relationships with action in Joshiy sir’s style,” she says.

Although she loves the action genre, Kalyani never thought that she would get to play such a role. “Joshiy sir must be the only person who thought of casting me as a fighter! I didn’t want to let go of it because this was another chance to challenge myself. My character, Ann Maria, was trained to fight since she was eight years old. I had only three to four weeks to train and look like a fighter. So, if language was the challenge in Sesham…, in Antony I had to push myself physically,” she says.

The actor who made her acting debut in Telugu with Hello (2017) avers that she wants to evolve as an actor with each film. “I believe that slow and steady is the only way to grow. 2022 has been a dream year for me since all my films did well [Hridayam, Thallumaala and Bro Daddy]. My principle is even if my film is not a success, I should feel like I gained something from it,” she signs off.

By Sampad

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