Interview
The 23-year-old actor speaks about the phone not ringing after her debut, acting as Nivin Pauly's sister, and her 5 minute monologue in 'Luca'.

Talking to Ahaana Krishna is like speaking to that teenager in you. One doesn't really come across many female actors who tell you that after their debut (in Rajeev Ravi’s Njan Steve Lopez), no offers came their way. Or that they've done very few films to figure out their process as an actor. Or that it took them several viewings to figure out what their debut film - Njan Steve Lopez in Ahaana's case - was all about.

This 23-year-old has a disarming honesty, clarity and a rare ability to laugh at herself that made me scroll down her Insta feed and sit through her second film, Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela, all over again. It wasn’t easy to get hold of her for an interview. It happened over three days as she was doing patchwork shoot for Pidikittapulli, a dark comedy in which she shares the screen with Sunny Wayne. “Since I have done very few films, everything I do is new for me," she says candidly.

Ahaana likes to call herself an extrovert, someone who prides herself on creating an easy rapport with people and doesn't mind asking for a second helping of dessert at a friend’s place. Right from school, being a dancer, big crowds excited her.

“Bigger the claps, the better. I can talk nonstop about myself. I’m very good at it," she laughs. In her head she is “weird”, and most often doesn’t know what she wants. Like children, she admits to constantly changing her “ambitions.” At the age of five, she wanted to an actor and shoot songs in Switzerland. A few years later, she decided Engineering would probably be a better option but then after grappling with Maths and Physics, she finally chose advertising and marketing. In school, she recalls telling anyone who cares to listen about being called for a Fahadh Faasil film. That was Annayum Rasoolum. Three years later came her debut film offer.

“The minute I thought it would be nice if I could do this for a living, no offers came my way!" she exclaims. She was 18 when she was offered Njan Steve Lopez (it came via Geethu Mohandas) and she recalls how she had to go without makeup and still would insist on drawing her eyes and applying lip gloss. “But I'm cool without such vanity now. I'm happier with my own self. So that’s the change between then and now.”

The next big thing?

The day before the release of Njan Steve Lopez, she told her mom— “Our lives are going to change. I would be the next big thing.” But the phone, she tells me with a loud laugh, didn’t even ring once. Though the film didn’t really get her the next film, she is immensely proud of it. She still recalls shivering when she saw herself on screen for the first time, despite knowing that she “hasn’t done anything exemplary.”

“I noticed myself as I am way too much into myself. I love myself," she says. One of the things that has stuck with her is watching Geethu Mohandas and her friends getting moved by the scenes and Ahaana dying to reach the hotel room to ask her dad for the storyline. But her debut did something to her. Soon after is when she started her journey and effort to become an actor. Attending auditions, contacting film folks— “I know almost every director in Malayalam and Tamil because of that. These auditions also helped me to shed my inhibitions.”

Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela happened when she had just finished college. “When you are putting so much effort into getting what you want, probably God feels sorry for you,” she laughs. Though she played Nivin Pauly’s sister and didn’t really have a role to die for, Ahaana felt it was important to choose visibility through credible projects. For a while she was known as “Nivin Pauly’s sister.” She tells me how, while acting alongside stalwarts like Shanti Krishna and Lal, she would wish for a difficult scene to act. “The desire to perform grew inside me. I was craving for a film where I would actually feel relevant.”

How Luca happened

Luca (releasing this Friday) came through a friend, Nimish Ravi, who is the cinematographer of the film. Director Arun Bose was his professor in college. The film, according to her, was first conceptualised in 2014. Tovino Thomas was chosen after his work in 7th Day. But they had to wait till after Oru Mexican Aparatha and Guppy for a producer to show interest in their film.

On September 2017, they announced Luca, but soon after Tovino got busy with a few films. “I was happy I had a film to tell people.” She hasn’t really figured out her acting process yet. “I believe in the out-of-the-blue magic. When action comes something can happen which doesn’t come with practice.”

Having said that, in Luca she had a 5-minute monologue which made her stay up all night mugging the dialogues. “I was thinking it would be so cool if I could get it in one take. Everyone will clap.” (laughs).

A week after Luca comes her next film release —Pathinettam Padi, which is already being discussed on social media for its cameos by Mammootty and Prithviraj. Sharing screen space with the latter was a fangirl moment for her— “I remember watching Classmates and wanting to marry him. But then I was cool while acting opposite him, can’t really afford to make a fool of myself as well.”

It’s a coming-of-age story set in the '90s, about the rivalry between a local and an international school.

Social media and me

Though she doesn’t think it is mandatory to have a presence on social media, she does take her Insta footprints rather seriously. “I'm particular about my Insta feeds and grids being very aesthetically appealing. Right now, people connect to me as a person than an actor. It’s very personal and I block the creeps.”

Since she doesn’t live in a cave, she is aware of the various readings on misogyny in cinema and thinks “weird people don’t like women with an opinion”. “In my head I have an opinion all the time. And, it’s not like I have an opinion when I watch a film and another one when I act in a film. The ideologies don’t clash there. Today we are used to seeing women as the protagonists. That’s some progression for sure.”

She is an unabashed fan of the candy floss variant of films though, the ones that come out of Dharma and Yash Raj productions. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... And her ambition? “I hope I can sustain my passion for acting for a long time. I would like to make a film someday and start an advertising agency. Whatever I have studied (marketing and advertising) seems to go well within my area of work. That’s why when I have a film releasing, I keep thinking about how I can put forward content on social media more sensibly.” Well, we hope that she keeps at it with her disarming spunk and wish her luck for Luca that’s just around the corner.