Actor Raashi Khanna says it takes more than just "good looks" to survive in the Malayalam film industry as the focus is on getting good performance out of artistes.
Since her debut with 2013's Shoojit Sircar-directed "Madras Cafe", Khanna has worked in Tamil and Telugu industries, featuring in movies like "Bengal Tiger", "Supreme", "Jai Lava Kusa", "Tholi Prema", "Imaikkaa Nodigal" and "Prati Roju Pandage".
She ventured into Malayalam movies with the 2017 action thriller "Villain", co-starring veteran actor Mohanlal. Khanna said she is fascinated with the kind of risks the filmmakers from the Malayalam film industry take. Even artistes are constantly pushing the envelope with their work.
"I did 'Villain' with Mohanlal sir but I am not sure if I was registered that much in the industry. I felt as an actor, I wanted to tap this market also. In the Malayalam industry, you are actually expected to act. You cannot sail through without acting.
"You can't be a good looker and just be in that industry. It doesn't work that way. There are so many daring actors in that industry who will choose characters which many in any other industry would not," the 30-year-old actor told PTI in an interview.
Khanna is currently gearing up for her second Malayalam feature, "Bhramam", in which she stars alongside Prithviraj Sukumaran.
An adaptation of Bollywood hit "Andhadhun", the movie sees her taking on the role that was played by actor Radhika Apte in the 2018 original.
The actor said "Bhramam", directed by cinematographer-turned-director Ravi K Chandran, offered her the opportunity to establish herself as a performer in the Malayalam industry.
"While Radhika's character was edgier, my character is a little bit mellow. All characters, however, are extremely grey.
"It is a remake but it still feels original because actors have brought their own personalities to the characters we are playing," she added.
When Khanna was offered the film, she went out of her way to be a part of it and accommodated other projects to make space for it, the actor said.
"When this film came to me, I had no dates at all. But I really wanted to do it, so I fought with people and got those dates. The fact that Ravi sir thought I could recreate Radhika's role in itself was a huge compliment."
"Bhramam" follows the story of a pianist who pretends to be blind but gets embroiled in a murder.
While filmmaker Sriram Raghavan set "Andhadhun" in Pune, Chandran mounted the remake in Kochi, Kerala.
For Khanna, who was born and brought up in Delhi, it was crucial to not look "out of place" in "Bhramam".
"Ravi sir was certain that she should look local, people should relate to her. Which was difficult because I am not from that region and I could not look out of place. So the way I dress was focused on.
"He was clear he didn't want any make up. He wanted my hair and clothes to look a certain way, which probably in other commercial films I would not have been ok with. But here I was totally on board."
The actor said the brief by Chandran for the film was to approach it with a "clean slate" like a newcomer.
"I have realised, every time I have done a Malayalam film, I have grown as an actor. Ravi sir wanted me to undo everything I had done before. I felt there was a lot of responsibility on my shoulder and I hope people like my work," she added.
Jointly produced by AP International and Viacom18 Studios, "Bhramam" also stars Unni Mukundan, Sudheer Karamana and Mamta Mohandas in key roles.