Director Sathyan Anthikkad was on the phone, and as always, he began the conversation with ‘Sathyan aanu’ (This is Sathyan). At the other end of the line was Nikhila, still a schoolgirl.
That day she replied, Allannu njaan paranjillallo! (I didn’t say you are not). Nee aalu kollalo (You are smart), he told the child actor. At that time, Nikhila was playing sister to Jayaram in Sathyan’s movie Bhagyadevatha. Years later, when she was back in films as a heroine, she felt nervous about meeting the director again.
This time she was acting in Love 24x7, a film by Sreebala Menon, who was an associate director for Bhagyadevatha. One day, Nikhila heard that Sathyan Anthikad was visiting the set. “I was tense from the morning. Finally when I saw him sitting in front of me as I walked into the room, I just turned and ran away,” she laughs. She later came back and heard him tell Dileep about their old phone conversation and laughing about it.
When Sreebala asked Nikhila to play the role of a television anchor in her film, Nikhila readily agreed. “I can never say no to Balechi,” she says. Up till now, Nikhila had acted in two Tamil films, Panjumittai and Onbathu Kuzhii Sampath, both as heroine. In both films she dubbed for herself in Tamil. “That was not as difficult as dubbing for Love 24x7, where I have to speak in Thiruvananthapuram slang,” she laughs.
Nikhila, a girl from Kannur, found it hard to bring the pyerus and ryamans in her lines. “At first, my character does not speak much, because she is worried that the city people at the news channel will recognise her village accent.” But when Dileep’s character, a reputed TV journalist, joins her, she starts talking. Meeting Dileep was also an ordeal for Nikhila.
“Usually you lose the fear of meeting stars after working with them for a couple of days. But here, they didn’t all come together. Every few days, they’d turn up one by one. At first it was Lena chechi, then Sreeni uncle, then Suhasini ma’m, Dileepettan and so on.” A Botany graduate, Nikhila has not yet decided if her future lies in cinema. “There’s time,” she says with the casualness of the young.