Amala speaks about why Kamini from 'Aadai' has liberated her, and how she has evolved over the years as an actor and person.

Unapologetic Amala Actor opens up on Aadai life and moreFacebook/ Amala Paul
Flix Interview Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - 13:18

Over the years, even as Amala Paul kept attempting to reinvent herself as an actor, and partly succeeded, the trolls never took a break. Even a supremely positive interview with the actor would have angry, vile comments, taking potshots at everything from her clothes to her divorce.

For Rathna Kumar’s Aadai, which deals with a sensitive subject and features a bit of nudity, the trolls hit the roof. But, Amala appears unfazed by all the negativity.

“There’s also a good buzz, and I choose to focus on that. I came into the industry at a very young age, and even after Mynaa, whenever I slipped, people always pulled up a Sindhu Samaveli or any other flop to rib me. The biggest celebrities go through it. If being a legend was so easy, everyone would be one. I get criticised for my choices, but I make those choices with all awareness and am prepared for what might come. I don’t let them get to me, or stop me from being confident," she says.

Amala is one of those few actors who don’t sound condescending when speaking about their early works. Sindhu Samaveli was an Aadai of sorts, in that it spoke of an illicit relationship between a father-in-law and daughter-in-law, this despite the fact that her character loved her husband deeply.

“I don’t regret making the film. I was taken in by the three transitions in my character — from teen to wife and adult. I was 17, and did not know anything about the camera or angle. I just wanted to make it believable,” she says.

For Aadai, Amala, who has since grown exponentially as an actor and individual, insisted on long conversations with Rathna to understand the space where the script came from.

“He visited me in Delhi (for a brief while, Amala shifted to Delhi to be close to the mountains she loves), convinced me about his vision. However good the intent, the final outcome is in the director’s hands, in his craft, in the music, in the edit, the cinematography. I wanted all to be on the same page. This film would not have worked without mutual trust. We had to work as a team, with live sound. I was giving my life to the character of Kamini, and it could be the biggest risk I was taking. But, I was assured that it would be a classy product, and that’s what he has delivered," she says.

The team pulsated with youthful energy, and that made it easier for Amala to peel the layers off Kamini and connect with her core: “They wanted to break every cliched way of filmmaking, and I saw that fire in them. There was almost a child-like enthusiasm to do well. There was a lot of frank-speak; we preferred that to diplomacy. No one was judgmental. The film called for improvisations on the set, we needed to be innovative and spontaneous, because some scenes and the end reaction cannot be scripted. There are many directors like Rathna now, but unless actors take that leap of faith, how will they tell their stories? After Meyaadha Maan, Rathna could have chosen to make any film, but he went back to his first story. That says a lot about his confidence in the script. And, because I am the face of Aadai, he was ready to absorb the comments that would come his way. I respect that about him.”

The film, at its core, is about coping with the strange situation where a woman who loves to place bets finds herself naked in an office. And, for that, Amala needed to get into a zone where she grew comfortable with her body before she could reveal it to the world.

“The ultimate truth is the naked body, it’s also the ultimate secret. You can’t do it unless your team makes your comfortable,” says Amala. That’s where her other love, yoga, came in. “This is not about being bold. It’s about being in a secure place, it’s about spiritual awakening. When I did this, I had tremendous peace of mind; I was detached from fear and insecurity. In my mind, it was okay if I got nothing else after Aadai; I would make something of my life. When we focus on the result, it creates attachment. I needed that emptiness, that vacuum, to go with the flow. The last time I felt that way was when I played basketball in school when the coach made us run like our lives depended on it.”

The filmmaking process, says Amala, was enjoyable because it was a small team and a quiet one at that. “I was all dirty and it was emotionally demanding, but I felt powerful once we wrapped up, like I had accomplished something. That confidence helped me during my production Cadaver, where I play a forensic surgeon.”

Kamini also forced Amala to get back to her partying days, to revert to drinking coffee that she’d given up. It meant moving back from the peace that her home and garden in Auroville gave her to the dizzying pace of Chennai, just so she could observe young women.

“I was hanging out at malls, picking up swag from the girls, the bro culture…,” says Amala, admitting that Kamini is difficult to shrug off. “You get me, darling?” asks the actor, who, over the years, has moved from Ma'am to using this writer's name after much coaxing. “That’s Kamini, not me,” she laughs. “I miss her so, she’s so much fun, unapologetically fun. We all carry the baggage of diplomacy, and that drives us crazy.”

Aadai (Aame in Telugu), Amala hopes, will create a path for well-narrated stories that are honest and not made to please any segment of the audience. “I hope this will encourage writing that is set in 2019 and not somewhere in the '80s or '90s. People who will appreciate art will appreciate these films.”

After Aadai comes Adho Andha Paravai Pola, a survival drama. If the former tapped into her emotions, the latter taxed her physically. “I am proud of both. I never knew I could break bones on screen. You don’t know what inner strength you are capable of. And, I felt that way while shooting the film, because, otherwise, the fear will show in your eyes, and the camera will only magnify that. The stunt choreographer would tell me to fight like a man, and I would tell him that I will fight like a woman, with no six pack or biceps, but with inner strength,” says Amala.

She’s begun work on Cadaver, which saw her research by visiting mortuaries and tagging along with forensic surgeons to see what they do.

“You can’t imagine the work they do. I had to go through the process, so that I feel cold and hard, and don’t express any emotion while seeing a body. The film has changed my perspective some more. We keep focussing on the basics, the external beauty, but that physicality will die. I believe a visit to the mortuary is a must to get a crash course about life," she says.

These perspectives that Amala speaks of come from years of experience — of first denying pain, then coping with it in the wrong way, and finally discovering ways to make peace with her past.

“Tragedies are the doorways to travel within one’s self. I was tired of putting on a confidence act, I wanted to cry, I wanted the pain to go away. I did not know where to go, whom to ask. We usually stick to family and friends then, who shield you, but that does not help. You have to face the pain. Temporary measures such as drinking and partying only prolonged the process for me. I was caught in a loop, and I had to break out of it, myself.”

That is when yoga, trekking and the mountains helped. So did new friends and a partner who healed her with his love.

“I discovered people who are wonderful, who made me realise my problem was not a big deal,” she recalls.

Once back in Auroville with her pets who are getting used to life in the city after living amid nature, Amala will hit the beach first to surf. And then, she’ll get back to the sets of Aadu Jeevitham, a survival drama directed by Blessy, and co-starring Prithviraj.

“It’s not an easy film to execute. Prithviraj has to go through these transformations…but now, it’s time to promote Aadai, babe,” says Kamini!

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