A shopkeeper shooed me away: Lena on her ragpicker role in 'Article 21'

Actress Lena has impressed the Malayali movie goers with some incredible on screen performances. The actress, who never shies away from donning unique and interesting roles, is all set to wow in a ‘never seen before’ avatar.

Lena plays Thamara in her latest movie Article 21 which portrays the tales of some ‘insignificant’ lives that are often ignored by the mainstream society. In a candid chat, Lena opens up about the movie and her character in it.

Why did you choose a character like Thamara in this age of body shaming?

All I am concerned is that I was offered a character called Thamara. This is one of the most challenging roles that I have essayed in my career so far. Thamara is a Tamil woman who is a rag picker. The movie portrays the incidents that happen in the life of Thamara and her two children. All these are factors that drew me to this movie. The well written script prepared after doing thorough research is this movie’s greatest strength. In my opinion, body shaming is a wound that is self inflicted by individuals upon themselves. They should decide whether they need it.

How did you transform yourself into Thamara?

Each make up session would take up to 2 hours. From the wig to the entire body, the makeup had to be done in a unique tone. It took lots of time to create the stains on my teeth. For some shots, my eyes had to be turned red. I had to touch up constantly as I would sweat profusely due to the severe heat. It was for makeup that I spent most of the time in this movie. Rasheed Ahmed, a native of Kozhikode had done the makeup for me.

Some of the main portions were filmed in a real warehouse where old objects are stored. I had observed the people there to learn some of their mannerisms. Even the minutest expressions and traits of Thamara were amazingly written in the script by the writer - director Lenin Balakrishsnan.

How did you feel seeing yourself as Thamara in the mirror?

I was elated. I thought I couldn’t recognize myself. Shedding my body weight too had helped. No one recognized me even when I walked out in full makeup. I could walk freely wherever I wanted. It was as if I had suddenly turned invisible. A few scenes were shot by setting up hidden cameras at Broad Way in Kochi. No one recognized me there. A wayside saree seller handed me a few sarees and told, ‘The sarees cost just Rs 100, pick your favorite’. I enjoyed bargaining with him to see whether he would further lower the price. When I got inside another shop, the shopkeeper shooed me away. To be honest, I was enjoying every moment of it.

What is Article 21 all about?

The Article 21 of the Indian Constitution states that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty. The theme of the movie too is related to this. The film discusses the issues and helplessness that is caused by ignorance of basic human rights. It is very much relevant in the present scenario. 

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