Bheeshma Parvam was like an acting school: Veena Nandakumar interview

Veena plays a pognant role opposite Shine Tom Chacko in 'Bheeshma Parvam'.

She walked into the hearts of Malayalees soon after her first film, ‘Kettyolanante Malakha’. For someone who did her post-graduation in English literature after nursing ambitions to pursue civil service, Veena Nandakumar has surely taken a 360-degree turn in her career. In her first film, Veena who hails from Mumbai played this traditional girl who gets married to a villager.

She is happy to get more interesting offers from Malayalam cinema. ‘Bheeshma Parvam’ is one such dream, an opportunity to collaborate with a director she always wanted to work with--Amal Neerad. She also shares the excitement of sharing screen space with the ever-energetic Mammootty in this interview with Manorama online.

Tried to see myself as Jessy when I heard about the character

I first got a call from Amalettan’s office. His assistant said there is a project with Amal Neerad and asked me to meet him in person for further briefings. When I went to meet Amalettan at his office, he explained at length about the story, characters, and the milieu. I said yes, the minute I heard it. Not only did I love the story and my character, but I was also dying to work with Amal Neerad.

Rinsi and Jessi are two of a kind

‘Kettyolanante Malaka’s Rinsi and ‘Bheeshma Parvam’s’ Jessi are diametrically different women. Since both are mostly silent, one might find some similarities. I don’t think whatever characters I did had any resemblance.  Each character’s behaviour is different. An actor’s challenge is to bring some distinctiveness to each character, even if they may sound the same on paper.  I try to approach each character on a blank slate.

There is a difference in the silence between Rinsi and Jessi. Jessi’s silence stems from her anger and derision for her husband who has been indifferent towards her for years. She is not a weakling. While Rinsi is a new bride who is desperate for her husband’s love. When her marriage falls apart, Rinsi is heartbroken. Their background is also different.

As an actor, I try to give it my best shot. So I am not nervous before a shot. When I am standing with Mammukka, he is a character for me. Instead of being overwhelmed by his stardom, I am more concerned about giving my reactions to his character. Both the film and my character are getting good reports. That gives me so much happiness. Jessi is a character with a lot of depth, and I have been told by my friends and family that I have done justice to her.

Mammootty, the marvel

It is natural to have big expectations when you hear that Amal Neerad and Mammootty are reuniting for a film. Since he is very friendly on the sets, I didn’t feel anxiety or fear when I was acting with him. When he is acting, he is that character. We are all here to act and there is no point in getting overwhelmed by the surroundings. It’s amazing to watch how beautifully Mammootty has maintained the actor in him.

His energy and attitude towards cinema are emulation worthy. I think those are things only he can do. He has absolute dedication to cinema. When you are passionate about something you are able to give it your 100%.  Just watching him makes you feel recharged as an actor. I learnt to work hard and show my absolute commitment to my work from Mammukka.  He was an inspiration that way.

Amal Neerad the perfectionist

I wanted to act in at least one Amal Neerad film. He gives a lot of space to actors which is very helpful. He would brief us about our characters, dialogues, and emotions and then allow us to do our own thing. Then it is our responsibility to do that character nicely. He trusts us. And if we haven’t got it right, he would tell us to do it again.

He is a great technician and has a lot of clarity about what he wants. Till he gets a shot the way he has visualised he would keep doing it. Even before casting, he would have a clear picture of how each character should look. He has already decided how they should walk, talk, dress, and behave. Every actor is picked with that visual in mind.  That’s why his characters have such a unique style and panache. He is a perfectionist.

When Shine threw that shoe

I wasn’t really hassled in that scene where Shine throws his shoe at me. That’s why I sat still in that scene. Even when the shoe fell over me, I didn’t move. Even if the shoe fell on me, I would have remained unperturbed since he is throwing it at Jessi. And we have this trust in Shine Tom Chacko. He plays my husband, and I am absolutely livid with him. And she has reached a point when she doesn’t care about his reactions. She has already lost all respect, trust and love for him and that’s what Jessi’s face reflects at that time.  I have done ‘Kettyolanante Malaka’ and ‘Love’ with Shine. He is a fabulously talented actor. It’s always a blessing to act with talented actors. I think I have managed to match up with him in every scene in ‘Bheeshma Parvam.’

With ‘Kettyolanante Malaka’ I knew this was my career

I am born and brought up in Mumbai and my parents are from Palakkad. I don’t remember having a talent for acting when I was young. I am a literature graduate who worked in a bank for a brief period. Acting happened by chance. Now I am loving this profession. Though ‘Kadankatha’ was my debut, it was through ‘Kettyolanante Malaka’ that people came to know about me. That’s when I decided this was what I wanted to do in life. The film is as much Asif Ali’s as much as it is mine.

That film’s success depended on our performances. ‘Bheeshma Parvam’ had a lot of big actors. I just need to do my role well. But the success and failure of ‘Kettyolanante Malaka’ fell on me and Asif. I think the film was a success. It was a film that got me a lot of appreciation. ‘Bheeshma Parvam’ is also getting good appreciation. I am currently in talks with some filmmakers about some projects. During my free time, I watch a lot of films in various languages, and I think that will help the actor in me.

Bheeshma Parvam’ was an acting school

‘Bheeshma Parvam’ experience was fabulous and there was so much camaraderie on the sets. Besides, there was so much to learn from each actor. I was able to act with a lot of prominent actors. It was indeed an acting school for me.

Trolls surrounding Marakkar film

I think I was misquoted in a recent interview or people took it wrongly. I said Marakkar was offered to me before ‘Kettyolanante Malakha.’ That didn’t mean I would not have done ‘Marakkar’ if it was offered to me after ‘Kettyolanante Malakha.’ As I said earlier, each character offers me something to learn. It was when I was struggling to get movies that ‘Marakkar’ came my way. I am happy to be part of a Priyadarshan-Mohanlal film.

I think every character I played has helped me to grow as an actor. I decided to take acting as a profession after ‘Kettyolanante Malakha.’ That was the kind of appreciation I got for that film. All that I look at is whether I am able to connect with the character offered to me. The length of the role is secondary. I am really in love with cinema now

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