How Molly Kannamaly's slick pose was planned: Photographer recalls the extraordinary shoot

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Combo image: Molly on the cover page of Malayala Manorama's Aarogyam magazine (L) and Syam Babu with Molly Kannamaly (R)
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Actress Molly Kannamaly, whose comic roles in Malayalam movies has swayed Keralites, set social media abuzz by appearing in a flamboyant western outfit. The comedian's stylish pose on the cover page of Malayala Manorama's Aarogyam magazine and a short video of the photoshoot, has gone viral.

Syam Babu, Manorama's Senior Photographer, who oversaw the photo shoot, reveals the finer nuances of the photographic assignment he would never forget.''It took shape from the intense desire to portray a face among the struggling and not-so-privileged artistes in Malayalam film industry,” says Syam.

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The photoshoot in progress

The time was ripe as lockdown had pushed many of the A-listers in Mollywood into a reclusive mood.

“We listed several artists for the cover. Finally, after discussions, we settled on Molly. She was the undisputed choice,” Syam says. The task was to profile her in the most stylish and modern look for the cover page and at the same time keep it all natural and original.

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Sorting the photos at the desk

"So I asked our make up artist Sivakumar, not to dab anything on her face to change her skin tone," says Syam. Then came a bigger challenge - to convince her to pose for the cover image as a slick, stylish lady. "As part of the preparation, we first decided not to visit her place at any stage of the photoshoot. We all know her misery and the dilapidated condition she lives in. I feared that being witness to that mood might damage our concept of the aura that we were planning to portray her in”. Stylist Jobina was also asked not to go to her place or even not to get involved in casual conversation lest the topic of penury would creep in.

So, it's Jobina's assistant who was sent to bring Molly to the studio.

“We avoided costumes from boutiques and for a perfect western look we resorted to apparels from the stylist's repertoire,” says Syam. On the day of the photoshoot, Molly arrived at Malayala Manorama's Kochi office in the morning, least aware of the plan the team had.

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Molly Kannamaly

"We had only briefed her that it was just a different photoshoot. During the make-up session we followed all beauty enhancement procedures by keeping close to her natural features. We did not even use a wig and shot all the pictures under a single light source,” Syam says. Molly began to feel something was amiss as the makeover progressed.

“However, when we confessed our original plan she took it very positively and participated like a true artiste. Everything went on smooth and as providence would have it we found an old chair in the studio, which suited our theme perfectly well. We asked her to sit on the chair like an empress and she did, majestically,” says Syam. Molly was a happy lot by the end the session and was touched by the photoshoot experience.

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The crew (L) and the cover page of Aarogyam magazine

“Never in my film career have I ever adorned such a costume and character,” she said later in a TV interview.

It was a hearty experience for the actress as well as the team. “The layout artist of the cover also deserves kudos. It was he who gave the final touches without manipulating the original photo a bit,” he adds. According to Syam the photoshoot offered him a splendid experience and will remain close to his heart forever.

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Molly Kannamaly

As Molly's slick avatar wowed the social media, Syam recalls Molly's health problems. Actors like Molly shouldn't be left in the lurch and approached only when their roles are needed in a movie, he says.

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