For Melissa Raju Thomas, Moothon, which is hitting the screens on Friday, is her feature film debut. Though she got a break with the critically-acclaimed short film Faded, Melissa Raju Thomas is a known face among the Malayali audience as the popular VJ of a Malayalam show Valkannadi a few years ago.
As the daughter of an Army officer, she grew up in places across the country though she had her roots in Kerala. After studying theatre, Melissa ventured into a few plays and developed a passion for acting. Thrilled to be part of Nivin Pauly-starrer Moothon, Onmanorama caught up with the star for a candid chat. Excerpts:
With Moothon getting wide applauds from all corners, did it bring along any kind of pressure as one of the leading stars in the movie?
Well yes and no, there definitely is the pressure of all the expectations since the movie is gearing up for a theatrical release. But I truly feel that we have made a beautiful film. So more than pressure, I feel really excited and happy to be able to share what we've worked on with all our heart and soul with everyone eagerly waiting for it.
Going by the trailer, Moothon looks like one heavy film with too many characters around. Can you share your experience while shooting? Did you have any preparations for your role?
Before shooting, I was really nervous since I was the newcomer placed with all these established actors, but once I was on set, it all melted away. My character is probably the one with the most transformations within the film, and each of those required quite a lot of research and training. For example, I had certain underwater sequences which were really challenging to shoot. I also had to gain and lose weight to show the difference in the character over a period of time. These were some of the preparations, but overall it was a very fulfilling experience to be challenged in so many ways.
You have been a VJ and would have known how things work behind the camera. Was the transition from a VJ to actress helpful and easy?
Well, I don't think VJing had much of an influence on me as an actress. Since I did it during my teens, I think it was more of a fun and exciting way for me to earn pocket money. But yes, it definitely helped me to become fluent and well-versed in Malayalam since I wasn't brought up in Kerala initially. It also helped me to open up and grow in confidence as a teenager, so I'm very glad to have had those experiences.
Geethu and Nivin have a big fan base in Kerala. What was your first reaction when you knew that you have been roped in a Nivin Pauly-starrer?
The moment when Geetu said, "That's it. I found my Aamina", right after I gave my audition, that moment will forever be etched in my memory. It was one of the most thrilling and exciting moments of my life. Of course, I was over the moon to be given the opportunity to debut with Nivin Pauly, while being directed by Geetu. Couldn't have asked for a better start.
There's a general notion that when a celebrated star is on board in a movie, the other characters seem to get less attention. But Moothon's case has been very different. What do you think?
The story of Moothon is all heart. And each and every character helps to bring that out. While Nivin is absolutely outstanding, I believe every primary character in the film will leave a mark on your hearts.
Heard that though you have your roots in Kerala, you have been places. Did knowing different places helped you mould your persona?
Of course. I am very blessed to have had such diversity of experiences and cultures while growing up. I think it has given me a much wider perspective on life and people in general. I also tend to be able to relate to different kinds of people very naturally and easily.
Over the years, we just have a handful of female filmmakers. How crucial is the role of a filmmaker like Geethu Mohandas in the industry? Will that help the industry to bring out politically correct movies?
Geetu Mohandas is a force to be reckoned with and this is just the start. I think her courage in her choices as a filmmaker will definitely play a crucial role in encouraging more women to come to the forefront of cinema.
I don't know about politically correct, what does politically correct even mean these days? Isn't it more important to make conscientiously correct films, meaningful cinema that makes you think, that makes you feel, well that I'm sure that filmmakers like Geetu will play a huge role in bringing out more of.
If given a chance in Mollywood, any dream directors you want to work with? As in, any directors you have been following since a long time?
Oh so many. I feel like Malayalam cinema is ages ahead of many of the other film industries in India. We have such great content and such unique storytellers. I would love to work with Rajeev Ravi sir at some point. Also, Lijo Jose Pellissery, Aashiq Abu, Anjali Menon, and several others.
Your views on Malayalam movies..
Like I mentioned above, I feel like Malayalam cinema is leading the way for Indian cinema in many ways. I love the gritty, real, all-heart approach of most Malayalam cinema these days. I'm excited to see where it goes.
I am currently shooting for an interesting special appearance role in Bejoy Nambiar's Taish. I'm also a writer, so I am currently in the thick of writing something new. Super excited about that.