I have so much hope in Hridayam: Interview with Ann Saleem

Ann Jameela Salem

Vineeth Sreenivasan’s Hridayam is running successfully. Everything about it seems to have endeared to the public—be it its songs, performances, or the narrative. In a film headlined by Pranav Mohanlal, Kalyani Priyadarshan, and Darshana Rajendran, a lot of newcomers were also noticed in the film. Ann Jameela Salem who made a splash with Mazhavil Manorama’s reality show Nayika Nayakan is excited about revisiting her college life through Hridayam. After making brief appearances in Thattumpurathey Thampuran and Pranayameenukalude Kadal, Hridayam will be a career breakthrough for the actor. Ann Jameela Salem shares her experiences in Hridayam to Manorama online.

Nayika Nayakan paved the way for Hridayam

Mazhavil Manorama’s Nayika Nayakan opened new avenues for us. After the show, most of the participants are doing small and big roles in Malayalam cinema. I got into Hridayam through audition. There were three levels of audition and Vineeth came for the third one. Mintu and Meenakshi who were with me for Nayika Nayakan were also part of the audition. After the audition, we had two days of acting workshop. We really enjoyed that process as we really got to know each other. By the time the shooting commenced, we had become lifelong friends. Vineeth came for two days to narrate the script to us. There were around 16 of us playing college students along with Pranav and, Darshana. There are so many junior artists in Hridayam.

Pranav, Darshana, and Kalyani are the main artists. The story revolves around Arun, played by Pranav. Rest are all characters who walk in and out of his life. With just a few scenes, you are able to define the characters and understand their backstories, with just their look, smile, and mannerisms. I play Darshana’s close friend. Therefore I am there till her character is around, like a shadow. It felt like I was going to college after admissions. It felt like we were reliving our college lives. For a month and half, we were all in that college. Darshana, Pranav, and Kalyani were very friendly to us. Am so happy to be part of Hridayam.

Vineeth Sreenivasan is very cool

Vineeth is a humble man. He likes to do everything with the bare minimum fuss without drawing attention to himself. I have never seen him get angry. He always has a smile on his face. The college where we shot Hridayam is where Vineeth studied. I think he got the maximum college feel because of that. More than us. It looked like he was back to his college campus and savouring the experience and those campus days. We never felt like he was a director. He treated us like friends. So cool he was.

Family is my strength

My hometown is Kozhikode. My family consists of mom Jameela, dad Salim, and sisters who are called Jassi, Lisa, Naslin. I am the third child in the family. My younger sister Naslin is acting in films. She recently made an appearance in Thallu Mala along with me. She has also acted in Ashiq Abu’s Naradan. My parents are very encouraging and will not make us do anything against our wishes. They don’t control us. They think freedom is everyone’s birthright and not something you need to give to someone. It is only because of their encouragement that I am able to pursue my dreams.

Acting is my favourite job

Acting is my profession. I learned interior design. But I was also interested in acting. Therefore I didn’t pursue any other profession. When I was in school and college, I used to participate in theatre, dance, and music. Even now I am active in these. In Kerala, people still consider medicine and engineering as the only legit choice of profession. They still can't accept that acting can be seen as a profession. And I am unable to understand why.

No one who participates in Kalolsavam (singing, dancing, or elocution) is really doing that with the hope of making it a full-time career. That mindset should change. My parents encourage me a lot and I think they really know how to think logically and practically. They know about my passion. It’s a blessing to have such practical parents who tell me to excel in whichever profession I choose.

I have lots of hope for Hridayam. I want Hridayam to be a huge hit. And I take acting very seriously. I don’t know anything else. This is my profession. I intend to take all the interesting roles that come my way and continue in films. I want to concentrate on dancing and acting equally. I want to be part of good films and no matter the length of my role, I hope I will be able to do complete justice to it. What’s the point of being a heroine and failing to perform well?

Nayika Nayakan was such a source of encouragement

Not only were we confident after the reality show but the show also taught us how to prepare ourselves for the film industry. It taught us how to approach a film. It was like a mini cinema set. Most of us bagged films after that. I did the Lal Jose film Thattumpurathey Thampuran soon after Nayika Nayakan. I also did a small part in Ashiq Abu’s Virus. I was part of Kamal sir’s Pranaya Meenukalude Kadal and a cameo in Halal Love Story. I am also doing a small role in Appu Battathiri’s anthology, Madhuram Jeevamrithabindhu, and Khalid Rahman’s Thallu Mala in which Tovino Thomas plays the main lead. There are also other projects under discussion.

The reception for Hridayam

Hridayam is releasing after such a long wait. We are offering our heart to you and are waiting with bated breath to see how it will be received. Hridayam was made for the theatre. There are 15 songs in that film and if you want to revel in its beauty you need to watch it in a theatre. I think it is safe to watch films in theatre. I implore all the viewers to keep Hridayam close to their heart and watch it in the theatres. 

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