Grace Antony, who made her debut with Omar Lulu's directorial Happy Wedding rose to fame with Madhu C Narayanan's Kumbalangi Nights. After donning the director's cap for her short film 'K-nowledge' during the lockdown, Grace will be now seen playing the female lead opposite Indrajith Sukumaran in the film Halal Love Story directed by Zakariya to be released on October 15 on Amazon Prime.
In a candid chat with Onmanorama, Grace speaks about her latest movie, her experience working with the team of Halal Love Story and her love for acting.
Can you tell us about your character in Halal Love Story?
I am playing a Muslim character named Suhara. There's Indrajith Sukumaran playing the role of Shereef. Suhara is his wife. It is a film inside this film and both the heroines are Suhara.
Each role you play in films has its own challenges. What were the challenges in this film?
In this film, I had to act as a person who didn't know acting. At times, it works out and sometimes it goes overboard. This is something I haven't experienced earlier. Usually when I do films what I have to do is to act very well. Here, I had to act badly very well. So that was a difficult task. I had a lot of confusion in the beginning and to get used to the character. It wasn't a character that I usually do. It was important to find how different I can act in it. In the original take, I have to act like normal Suhara. In the next take, I had to act like the 'actor' Suhara in the film inside Halal Love Story. The metre is a very thin line. If it breaks, then there's no difference between the roles I play in it. That was very challenging.
How did Zakariya help you out to get used to the character?
Zakariya has helped me a lot. Suhara doesn't exist had these people were not present. Indrajith too helped me big time and at times I used to get awestruck seeing him act. Of course, he is an experienced artist. But even for him, he had to act badly for the first time. For all of us, it was a risky part. But we all had good communication with each other. Zakariya at times comes and tells me “You have acted badly very well.” I am getting such a compliment for the first time.
How was it working with the whole team of Halal Love Story?
I was very comfortable. Even before the shooting of the film, I always loved working with them. But yes, I was tensed to work with the casts- all talented ones. Most of them were people who have given us good cinema every time. It was a huge responsibility and I cannot mess up. Also, I am a newcomer compared to other experienced actors in the film. But the entire team made me very comfortable. They know that the character will be good only if I am comfortable. I am glad that I was part of the team.
What is your process of getting into a character?
The first time, I was wondering how to do this character. I have never spoken in a Muslim slang before. But I had lot of Muslim friends. Even while talking to them, I never thought of doing a character like this. But I always liked to observe. So I started observing people. At times I would feel that I have met this person before and that helped me a lot to make the character better. I could use that mannerism in it and do the character well. As the movie used sync sounds, it was a bit difficult to get my slang right.
Was there any reference to learn the slang?
No. Nobody asked me to do that. But as an actor, we might not have that much confidence. So we work in our own way to make it better. I interacted with people around most of the time. I kept pestering Muhsin asking how to do something in a particular way. And it kind of worked out well.
You have done various roles with different directors in many films. Now you are doing a film with Zakariya. Do you think a filmmaker can influence you to bring out your best while acting?
Definitely. If you look at this film, if at all there is something good in it, it is because of the freedom the filmmakers gave. The clarity they gave me in each shot also mattered a lot. At times they might not tell you what comes before or after the shot that I was doing. But there was this freedom for me to always go to him and ask what happened next in the film or what I was supposed to do in a particular situation. In some sets, I kind of worry about whether to go and ask the director or not. I have even heard the same from many of my friends that they are tensed to approach a director. But in my case, I don't even care if they scold me but I keep pestering them to get clarity. Otherwise, I don't talk much. When my turn comes, I need clarity. Otherwise, it is difficult to work. Even if it is Indrajith, I keep asking if this is the right way to deliver the dialogue. He tells me to try it out once and then decide on how I should go about it. It is not one person who helps me but many. After troubling him many times, he started telling me how I could do it better even before I asked him.
Are you a person who goes for retakes till you get satisfied with your acting?
The moment they say cut after a shot, I always look at the director. You will know from their expression whether you have done it right or not. If at all I feel that something has gone wrong, I would ask him if I should go for a retake. At times, they might be thinking of not troubling us by going for many retakes. There might be many issues on the technical side as we use sync sounds and therefore we might have to go for many takes. At times you become tired. But we have to give the best. I don't have any problem going for as many takes as needed to make the scene the best.
With your short film 'K-nowledge', you have tried your hands at scripting and direction. That too a very relevant issue was discussed- regarding the taboo surrounding the conversation on menstruation. How was that experience?
Honestly, it was my experience. It is also a story of my friends which I had been longing to convey. But the short film happened out of the blue. Nothing was preplanned. During lockdown, there was nothing to do and I always had just films in my mind throughout that time. That's when 'K-nowledge' came to my mind. Luckily, people accepted it. But it is not just my work but also of my cousins. Only because my sisters did those character effectively, it turned out well.
Do you have any plan in your mind to direct a full-fledged movie?
I don't know. I do wish to do it sometime. But I need to learn a lot. I understood that it is not an easy task to direct when I did a short film. There's a lot of work to direct a movie and it is not a simple task. If I get confidence after learning from all these films that I am doing, I might direct a film sometime.
We recently saw your dance covers. Can we expect more? Do you dance for fitness or because you love dancing?
I love dancing, I love writing, I love watching movies, I love acting. I love anything that involves art. So I will definitely do more dance videos.
What are your future projects?
'Simply Soumya' was the movie that was supposed to start shooting before lockdown. The shooting might start in January or February. The rest of the projects will be confirmed once the dates are announced. As of now, it is very difficult to say when everything will start.