Awe actor Nithya Menen: Telugu cinema needs a revolution with respect to content

Nithya Menen explains how she looks at a broader perspective when it comes to picking up scripts, why Telugu filmdom needs more movies like Awe, and her upcoming multilingual film, Pranaa.

regional movies Updated: Mar 03, 2018 20:50 IST
Haricharan Pudipeddi
Haricharan Pudipeddi
Hindustan Times
Nithya Menen,Awe,Pranaa
Nithya Menen speaks about why Telugu industry needs more films like Awe.

Nithya Menen is, undoubtedly, one of the most exciting actors of our times. From Ala Modalaindi to her latest outing Awe, her choice of roles across languages is proof of her versatility, making her stand out among her contemporaries with her approach to cinema. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise when we saw her as a lesbian in Prashant Varma’s Awe, a multi-genre film in which the segment featuring Nithya and Eesha Rebba, her lover in the film, was not only well-written and executed, but at the same time quite bold, going by Telugu cinema standards. As Krish a.k.a Krishnaveni, Nithya played her part with consummate ease, without an iota of qualm. “When Prashant pitched the character, I was absolutely excited. As artistes, we come across many stories but something like Awe doesn’t come often; it’s rare. I didn’t see it as a lesbian character. I accepted the offer because I thought it’d be exciting and challenging. I love doing different, edgy roles,” Nithya said in a group interaction.

It was not just her role that got Nithya excited about Awe. “As actors, we get typecast easily when we play certain type of roles a few times. What was really exciting about Awe for me was the fact that it portrayed every actor in a different way.” It also explains why Nithya didn’t mind her short screen time. “When I accept a project, I look at it in a broader sense. I look at the bigger picture. I look at the intent of making the film and then think about my character. In a film like Awe, the intent to attempt something that’s quite unlike anything Telugu cinema has witnessed is bigger than any of the characters,” she said.

Brushing aside rumours that Nithya came on board because the project also featured actor Nani, who made his debut as producer. Nani and Nithya have known each other for a long time and are good pals. She clarified it’s the out-of-the-box approach of Awe that drew her to the project. “Prashant approached me much before Nani came on board as producer. Initially, Nani was to just give voice-over to the fish’s character. When Prashant met me the second time, he told me Nani had expressed his interest to produce the film. I was definitely happy for Nani, but I didn’t sign the film for him. I’m sure all the actors were drawn by the story and Prashant’s willingness to cast against the grain.”

Nithya said she really didn’t have to prepare in any way to play the character. “Honestly, there’s no need for preparation for the kind of roles we play. My process to play any character is simple. I take my life’s experience and use it to portray a character. In case of Krish from Awe, I couldn’t draw anything from my own life. I was a little skeptical even a few days before the shoot. But when I stand in front of the camera, I just become the character and that’s exactly what happened in this case as well. I did find this role challenging, but it was in my head,” said Nithya, who still feels she’s yet to land challenging role. “I would consider what I did in Kanchana to be very challenging. Nothing else has even come close to what I did in that film. I’m still waiting for a character that’d fully challenge my ability.”

Throughout her career, Nithya has managed to be part of projects in which her characters had good contribution to make to the story. She says it’s a conscious effort to do something noteworthy in every film she signs. “I’ve signed films intuitively, and only when I am convinced. Even when there’s been slight hesitation, I have turned down projects. If I get 200 scripts, I end up picking 6 or 7 and these are what I do. Somewhere, filmmakers who approach me know I won’t do anything that’s simple and unexciting.” Quoting an example, Nithya said: “I recently did a film called Praana, which will be released in four languages. Originally made in Malayalam, it was also shot in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. It’s a one-actor film, which was shot in 23 days. I’m the sole character in the film. The whole experience was exciting, but equally draining because each scene had to be shot four times. I didn’t mind putting in the effort because I have so much to contribute.” Nithya also doubled up as a writer for this project. “The script was originally written in Malayalam. Since I know Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, I helped them get it translated and was actively involved in the writing process.”

On a concluding note, Nithya said Telugu filmdom needs more films like Awe. “I believe Awe may have opened a small crack with respect to different content. But we need more such attempts and they need to be encouraged. Telugu cinema needs a revolution with respect to content. We have huge audience base but we keep making same type of films. Look at Malayalam industry and their recent films. Telugu cinema needs such films and it doesn’t matter they work or not, but we need different films.”

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First Published: Mar 03, 2018 20:35 IST