21-year-old Annu Antony is on a high. The young actor is basking in the success of her debut film "Aanandam", a Malayalam campus entertainer which was the launchpad of seven new faces. For Annu, who played Devooty (Devaki), an assertive yet insecure college student, her foray into films still feels a bit unreal.
The News Minute caught up with Annu to talk about her journey through "Aanandam", her experiences as a debutante, what the future holds...and how she reacted when she met Nivin Pauly on the sets!
Excerpts from the interview:
You were a student at Christ College, Bengaluru, when "Aanandam" happened. How did you become a part of the film?
Actually, they'd come there for auditions. I didn't know about it...Christ College is very big and we don't get to know half the things that happen. That day, I bunked an hour of class and went to the hostel to sleep for an hour. On my way, I saw four people who seemed out of place - we have uniforms and there are rules like you can't have a beard etc. So, I stared at them and they stared back at me!
After I slept, I came back and they were still looking at people. One of my friends was talking to them and he called me and introduced me to them. They asked me if I was interested to act in a movie. I said I was interested but that my parents wouldn't let me do it. Then one of them said, "I'm the assistant director of 'Thattathin Marayatthu' and he's the cameraman of 'Premam'." I said I couldn't believe it. They tried to convince me. At last, I said I'd come for the audition but that I didn't know how to act. The first round, we just talked for a while. Then, they gave me a few scenes to do. And I got selected.
Were you into theatre before this?
I was very interested in theatre when I was in school in Kerala. After my school days, when I went to Bangalore, I became shy, I was not as open as I used to be. I lost everything I had when I came to Bangalore. I had a few friends I'd hang around with but that's all. The acting instinct was there within me but I didn't do anything to bring it out.
Image courtesy: Annu Antony
How did director Ganesh Raj prepare you for Devooty's role? What was your interpretation of it?
Only some people will get Devooty's character. Only some will get to know what she's like. Every character in the movie has a past, present and a future - our director told us to create a past and a future for the characters so we can act in the present with all this in mind.
Ganeshettan was very liberal. He gave us so much freedom. Actually, he told me that he'd written Devika in another way. When he wrote the character, it wasn't like how I played it in the film. It was very different - she was supposed to be a hot chick who has lots of attitude and everything. But when I acted, a little bit of humour came in...because I was not able to carry that hot chick caption! And he was like, "Okay, this seems to be better than what I'd written." He gave me complete freedom to do whatever I wanted in the movie. I'm not an actor - I brought so many things that Annu has to Devooty!
I read that your family was reluctant when you decided to become an actor. How did you convince them about your decision?
I didn't expect my parents to accept my wish to act. They were very supportive. But when I first asked them if I can act in a movie, they said, "Moley, no. No one in our family is into acting." The main problem was that they were thinking about what others will say. I'm from a conservative family, there's this particular church group...they were like, "Oh movies, not a nice area for girls!" This made my parents reluctant.
But the time when "Aanandam" came was right. I'd just finished my degree and I was wondering if I should do my post-graduation or act in the movie. I told them that I wanted to take a break and that I wanted to act in the movie. They know that I have a great interest in acting. In school, I used to participate in drama, poetry recitation and so onâ€¦so they know about my interest. They told me that this should be my first and last movie. And now surprisingly, they have changed! They say, "If you get good movies, if you get same themes like this, you can act in one or two movies like that."
Out of the three roles for girls, Dia, Darshana and Devooty, which one did you audition for? Which of the seven characters did you like the best?
The audition for girls was only for Dia. The director gave her lines to everyone. But when Ganeshettan saw me, he said at once that I was not the one for Dia but was for Devika. So, I enacted Dia's part but in their minds, they were auditioning me for Devika.
I liked Roshan's character (Gautam) the best. I felt there was something deep in it. He had an identity crisis that most students in a college face and he acted pretty well.
The Aanandam cast. Image courtesy: Annu Antony
Did you know the other cast members before this? What was it like being on the set with them? Are you all good friends now?
Thomas was my junior in Christ College. Nobody else. Now, we're very good friends. We're like a family! My Amma always asks, "Isn't 'Aanandam' over yet?" and I say, "No!". She asks, "It's been 8-10 months! You're still behind the movie!". I tell her that it will never get over because we're like a family.
We're finding opportunities to meet. For every reason, the seven of us, the director, the cameraman, the executive producer Bhuvana chechi...we're finding reasons to meet each other, talk...you know, this was the first film for many. There were some who had experience before and they'd tell us, "Kids, this is not how movies get made." "Aanandam" was like a trip! We enjoyed the trip, it was a lot of fun...the shooting days.
"Aanandam" had several progressive ideas in it. What kind of cinema would you like to do going forward?
I'm very happy that you see the inner side of "Aanandam". There are very few who see that. We have a scene where the three girls go to a shack and drink with a few boys. So, when I went to my hometown, many of my relatives and my parents' friends said that that particular scene was not needed...they don't want a scene in which girls are drinking. But the main point of the movie is that there's no difference between a boy and a girl socially. There are biological differences but not in how they think or what they can do, interests and so on. The point was to show that girls and boys are the same and that girls can do whatever they want too.
Going forward, I'd like to do movies where my character is different from Annu and Devooty! I was more or less playing myself in "Aanandam", so I want to do films where I actually have to act! I want to know if I can do that...if I'm able to...and if people like me...so many questions!...I'll continue to do films.
Image courtesy: Annu Antony
"Aanandam" has got a good response all round - did you get any comments from seniors in the industry?
Ganeshettan said that Anjali Menon called him and spoke about all of us. Jayasurya personally called each of us and said that he completely loved the movie. He was so humble and said that he learnt so much from the movie. We were so happy to receive his call. He even called us for "Pretham" 75 daysâ€™ celebration.
What was it like meeting Nivin Pauly on the sets?
I had very few scenes with Nivin Pauly. It was Thomas who shared a wonderful experience with him. He has this charisma...just like we get goosebumps when we see Mohanlal on screen...the same way, when I saw Nivin Pauly in person, I was so happy. When my scene came and he was on the sets, I was not able to act. I was looking at Nivin Pauly and standing and staring. So they cut my shot from the scene! When I asked Ganeshettan why, he said, "Yeah, you were staring at Nivin Pauly open-mouthed, how can I put that in the scene?" I didn't talk to him much...no personal conversations...but I got good vibes from him.