Priya Prakash Varrier has become an overnight celebrity. The 18-year-old, a first year B.Com student at Vimala college in Thrissur, featured in a Malayalam song Manikya Malaraya Poovi from the film Oru Adaar Love.
A clip from the song has since gone viral online and has made her an Internet sensation not just in India but in countries as far as Egypt and neighbouring Pakistan, where fans have been posting comments about her expressive face.
When TNM contacted her family, it was her mother Preetha who answered the phone. "Priya has gone to the hostel," she says, preparing to hang up.
But when asked why, Preetha opened up, saying that the instant fame has left them stymied.
"The director has told us strictly not to give any interviews," she says. "He has said she's to give interviews only after the film releases. The film has just started and they've shot only a little bit. I've sent her to the hostel because of all this noise."
"We never expected this to happen," Preetha adds. "We never thought much about it. She had a desire and so we took her to an audition. She'd gone for another audition last year called by the same team, when she was a Class XII student and they'd selected her for that film as well - but the shooting was during the board exams. So she couldn't go for it. They'd said then itself that she should come the next time there's a casting call."
Priya's Instagram account gained a whopping 1.3 million followers in a single day, a feat that more accomplished and established actors are yet to reach. She now has over 2 million followers on Instagram, with numbers only rising.
Asked about Priya's photographs that have flooded the Internet, Preetha says, "She had done modeling once. She did a ramp show. She's not the one who put all those pics on Instagram. They are all fake accounts. These pictures have been put up by photographers who had these images. We'd not taken these images from them. The ones she's put up are likely to be selfies with friends."
Reacting to the craze that Priya has become overnight, Preetha says, "It is very difficult. But what can we do? We can't make anyone hate us by objecting. It will be seen differently."
If Priya is a hit among the men, it is 18-year-old Roshan Abdul Rahoof, the young man who's seen flirting with the actor in the video, who has caught the eye of women. Roshan was one of the finalists in the D4 Dance show on Mazhavil Manorama.
Roshan is bemused by all the attention and says he never expected in his wildest dreams for the song to become such a hit. Like Priya, Roshan too is a first year college student (ICA) in Thrissur.
"This is my first film. I never expected this. There are five heroes and five heroines in the film. Priya and I are one of the pairs," he says.
Speaking about his family's reaction, he says, "They are all very excited and happy."
As of now, Roshan has not received any other film offers but he's hopeful that the viral song may change that.
24-year-old Jubair Muhammed, who is seen as the lead musician in the song, is a composer and singer in real life. He shares a good friendship with director Omar Lulu, from the time of the latter's film Happy Wedding. He also did a promo song for Omar's next film, Chunkzz.
"It is Priya's mom who looks after all her schedules. Priya is a girl with no airs. She is in a situation when she doesn't know what to do. Overnight, everything has changed. She is even a bit scared to step out of the house. Within one night, her face has been splashed everywhere and people are recognising her. That's not something anyone's prepared for. She's a very social, friendly person but she doesn't know how to react to this," he says.
Jubair says that Priya was not cast initially in a lead role. However, seeing her performance, director Omar Lulu decided to change the script and give her a bigger role.
"Shaan Rahman is the composer of the film. My friends have a band called Chumaduthangi. I used to sing as a guest singer for them whenever they did big programmes," says Jubair.
It was at one of these shows that they sang an old moppla song, Manikya Malaraya Poovi. When Jubair shared the video on Facebook, Omar Lulu liked it enough to ask Jubair and the band to sing the song at a relative's wedding. The filmmaker then decided to include the song in Oru Adaar Love. The rights of the song were bought and Shaan Rahman re-composed the song.
It is the Chumaduthangi band and Jubair we see onstage in the viral song.
"Others in the song are Mathews, the producer's son, Siyadh Shajahan, who is a bit hit for his Dubsmash videos. Vishakh came as a junior artist but he got a bigger role because of his performance. Dilrooba is another person in the video," he says.
While the young team is still grappling with the sudden fame, they are hopeful that Oru Adaar Love will open new doors for them in future.