Following her father footsteps, but a bit differently
Acting, it might seem, is the predetermined or obvious career choice for most star kids in the Indian film industry. Bollywood sees them being ‘launched’ ever so often; in Malayalam cinema, Dulquer Salman stepped effortlessly into the large shoes of his father, Mammootty, while Pranav Mohanlal debuted as a child artiste in Onnaman (2002), his father’s film, and has gone on to establish himself as an actor, assistant director and songwriter.
His younger sister, Vismaya, however, has chosen a different realm for her creativity, most recently publishing a collection of poems and illustrations titled Grains of Stardust.
Mohanlal, who’s written an eloquent foreword – in which he quotes Matsuo Bashō – to the book, told HT Brunch, “I’ve never planned a career in cinema for Maya. She has been involved in theatre productions during her school days, and has expressed interest in performance art. If she wishes to pursue that it would be entirely her choice, and if she does, she has all my blessings.”
According to Vismaya, she’s never felt pressured to enter cinema or follow a certain career path. “That said, I am interested in performance and I’d be open to acting if I came across a good script,” she says. So, we may just see her follow in the footsteps of her father and brother.
Right now, it’s her skill as a poet that is being talked about, and her father is admiring it. “I have read all of Vismaya’s poems and, much like the meaning of her name, they too are strange and otherworldly. They are simple yet philosophical and can be interpreted in many ways…on a spiritual level, in a personal manner, and so on. It depends upon the reader.”
Vismaya says the book came together quite unexpectedly. ‘I would write a little here and there, but I never saw myself as a poet and I never imagined that what I was writing or scribbling would one day become a book.” Some of the poems, she says, are personal, others emerging from her imagination.
Claim to fame
While she has stepped into the limelight with this work, she has not grabbed the attention that starkids do. Compare this with the focus on, say, Taimur Ali Khan or Aaradhya Bachchan.
“I did almost all my schooling in an international boarding school where people either didn’t know or it didn’t matter that I was ‘Mohanlal’s daughter’. So, I never felt any different to anyone else growing up there,” Vismaya says.
After schooling at Hebron in Ooty, Maya went to the US and Europe to pursue her interest in art and theatre. “Due to this, she has not been exposed to the limelight and therefore wasn’t so involved in the industry. It was not a conscious decision to keep her away from it. It just happened to turn out that way,” Mohanlal says.
While being different from typical star kids who are prepared for cinema from a young age, Vismaya shares her father’s tangential creativity. “She is someone who loves to explore new and different aspects of life, someone with somewhat strange and different thoughts, and I think this is a quality we share,” Mohanlal says.
The two also share also a common love of nature and a certain conviviality. “She has a desire to get along with people and doesn’t like rifts. Having said that, she can be firm and argumentative. If I were to look at aspects in which we differ, I’d say that while I believe in the truth of my convictions, I am more flexible and accepting of circumstances and events. That is perhaps due to my age, my travels, my experiences and my profession.”
Vismaya says her father allowed her to figure things out for herself. She does go to him when she’s making a big decision. “I am not one to advice people. Apart from the few general norms, I share what I have learned from my own experiences that I think might be of help. As far as being an artist is concerned, it is my belief that one needs to have the fire, drive and commitment to persevere and succeed. I still have that desire, and remain one hundred per cent dedicated to what I am doing. When I lose that, I will know that it is time for me to stop. The same goes for anything in life, and it is each one’s duty to find that thing towards which they feel that pull. If you do not find it in one place, seek it someplace else. It is a deeply personal thing, and only you can know where it lies,” says Mohanlal, who is known for his deeply philosophical approach to his art.
Given his complete immersion in his work, the time he spends with family is limited. “Because of my profession, and because of the fact that Maya went to a boarding school, we have not had the opportunity to spend several days at a time together. Now she is an adult with her own opinions and views, and we are able to discuss and share ideas with each other. We share a good rapport. I would say that she is more connected with her mother, but we still have a good and healthy relationship,” Mohanlal says.
Vismaya says she enjoys the time she gets to spend with family. Cooking together, or rather her dad cooking and the rest of the family eating, listening to music, travelling, anything really. “I honestly just enjoy spending time with my family, regardless of what we’re doing,” she says.
And watching her dad’s films? “There are many that I love and there are also many I haven’t seen,” Vismaya says.
Mohanlal says she watches her fair share of movies and reads a lot. “I find her feedback quite valuable. Vismaya has never critiqued my performance in a film, but shares her opinion about the storyline, and the making.”
Priya Bala is a Bengaluru-based senior writer who specialises in food, travel and lifestyle writing. She has edited several major mainstream publications in the past
From HT Brunch, February 14, 2021
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