Rima Kallingal, who will be seen in Aashiq Abu’s directorial ‘Neelavelicham’, says she does not like the‘bold girl’ image and adds this is the reason why she loved playing Bhargavi, the tragic lover in the film based on Vaikom Muhammed Basheer’s work. In an exclusive interview with Onmanorama, Rima speaks about the upcoming film, why she thinks Roshan, who plays her lover Sasikumar in ‘Neelavelicham’, is one of the most interesting actors of his generation and how controversies helped her become a more sensitive artist and person.
Tell us about the challenges you faced while working on this film?
Basheer, Vincent and Babukka are legends who paved the way we see Malayalam cinema today. I know there were quite a few directors who wanted to reimagine or remake ‘Bhargavi Nilayam’. Two other legends - writer M T Vasudevan Nair and scriptwriter John Paul - also had a dream of making this film with a different perspective. It didn’t work out and it was John Paul who introduced Aashiq to GoodKnight Mohan and one thing led to another. So, yes, the film had it’s challenges. Basheer is every single Malayali's very own writer and there was no scope to go wrong. We had to ensure that we didn’t disappoint a whole generation of moviegoers and people who treat his literature with huge respect.
So, why do you call ‘Neelavelicham’ a reimagination of Bhargavi Nilayam and not a remake?
We didn’t copy frame by frame of the movie. Instead, we borrowed from Basheer’s other texts too to add more details to the characters. That is one thing about Basheer. He draws most of his characters from everyday life and you get to see a slice of it in every other work of his. So, we borrowed those traits and back stories in this film. We approached this movie comprehensively. ‘Neelavelicham’ is hence a tribute to Basheer.
Tell us about working with your co-actors - Tovino, Shine and Roshan?
I didn’t have many direct scenes with Tovino in this film, but if you notice, he had one hour completely to himself. He was performing on his own and as an actor, I know how it is hard to perform on your own, when you have no other actor to give energy back. I worked with Roshan in many sequences together and he is one of the most interesting characters of this generation. There is a soft vulnerable side to Sasikumar, which Roshan has essayed well. He has surprised me more than once. I have known Shine from the time I knew Aashiq. I have seen him grow into an actor who is super-confident. However, we had to find certain middle ground in certain fight scenes, because he is this bundle of energy and he wanted me to actually hit him (laughs).
You had an interesting career so far, with some controversies mixed in between...
I would like to think I am way ahead of my time (laughs). No, joking. Rather, I like to think I am trying to evolve continuously and move ahead in my professional and personal circle. I always want to move ahead, I hate being redundant. I know I am in a privileged position and don’t expect people who are going through different issues in their life, to agree with whatever I have to say. But also, I believe as a human being, public and personal figure, I have the right to express who I am.
Did you expect such criticism for some of your statements?
I didn’t expect this type of tirade. I think the internet amplifies everything to such a level. I think I was more hurt that people associated with me were getting hurt. You want to go ahead in life and these debates and conversations, take a lot of time. I could read a book or learn to cook or do something else during that period (laughs). Nevertheless, this is a process I also enjoyed. I would be lying if I said it didn't hurt me. I felt cornered. It has made me a more sensitive, better human being and artist. I think success and happiness do not make you that, only failure makes you become that.
Would you like to direct a film one day?
I like the trust coming my way. I think I am happy that you people think I can do it. However, I am not done as a performing artist, which is something I dreamt of. There are some artists who do everything, write the script, act, direct. I don’t think women are given that space yet. I would like to live in a time when women in their 40s, 50s or 60s do an action role in Mollywood, and people don’t end up being surprised. I look at Kerala as one of the most progressive societies in the world.
You say you are fed up of the bold image in movies?
Yes, because I feel it has become very performative for me after a time. This is why I loved Bhargavi, for all her boldness, she was also vulnerable. She is so representative of every woman that I met. I felt it when I was saying her dialogues. Everyone would have gone through the emotions Bhargavi felt in this movie. Also, she had this very soft, feminine space that she held on to, but also has the strength.
How do you see all this talk about body-positivity now?
I still remember the conversation after Kareena Kapoor suddenly went size-zero for a role, while on the other hand Aishwarya Rai was bodyshamed right after Ponniyin Selvan trailer was released. Women are so primarily looked at as a body. It affects me and puts a huge pressure on me as an artist and dancer. I think the whole sense of a perfect body is so limiting for women.
Remya Nambeesan had recently said she felt lesser opportunities were coming from Mollywood due to her stand on some issues?
It was an issue with everyone in the WCC (who voiced their opinion on various issues). A lot of us lost plenty of opportunities and livelihood. Acting is our bread and butter and we don’t have anything else to do. That is why, actresses these days have a parallel career or a business. You realise, you can’t depend on one industry alone. It is a fickle industry.
People consider artists as bold...
We don’t want to be bold. We just want to do our art. Give us a sensitive world and it would be easy for all of us.