There are several coincidences that go beyond any rational explanation, which is why the term ‘prognosticate’ exists. It quite simply means to foretell a future event. When Aashiq Abu decided to make a medical thriller Virus based on the 2018 Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, little would he have foreseen that the film would get ready for theatrical release at a time when Nipah scare hangs in the air yet again. The reports that a 23-year-old patient had been moved to the isolation ward in a private hospital after he showed Nipah like symptoms have created panic among people. The virus outbreak in Kozhikode that claimed 17 lives is still fresh in the memories of people, especially of those who lived through the scare.
When Aashiq and his team recreated the events connected with the virus outbreak, the actors found themselves pulled into the pain, worry, courage, hope and despair that their roles based on real life characters demanded.
One actor who is making a comeback to the marquee after 18 long years is Poornima Indrajith, who plays the role of Smrithi, Director of Health Services, which is inspired from various real life people rolled into one character. “She is someone from the administrative level who depicts how the outbreak was contained from that level. There are moments when you have to keep aside your personal problems and put your duty above everything else, like my character does.” Poornima reveals that she has seen real life heroes who have put the lives of others in the forefront through various organisations she has been part of. “The message of the film is that we all have heroes inside of us whom we need to give a tribute to.”
Poornima met many people to get first-hand information and the whole team of Virus was well researched, which made getting into the characters easy. The film is written by Muhsin Parari, Sharfu and Suhas.
Poornima states that she, as a person, analyses moments from a personal point of view while putting herself into the character’s shoes and thinks how she would have behaved or reacted. “This is not as an actor, but for me to understand the emotions the characters go through. I also realised that as a person, I would fall short in front of what some of those people heroically performed,” she adds, mentioning that not only in films, she analyses and steps into the shoes of characters be it in the books she reads or videos she sees to gauge where she stands in comparison. “If I understand that I fall short, that only makes me want to better myself,” she points out.
Talking about her reasons to take up this particular project as her comeback film, Poornima says, “Why would I not? This film will find a place in the history of cinema for sure. It is about real-life incidents that unfolded at a time when people, regardless of caste, gender, political leanings and such, stood together as one and fought! The film is also an attempt to spread the energy, confidence and courage of all those who fought the outbreak and where common men and women found it in themselves to turn heroes.”
Poornima reveals that she always knew she would come back to the big screen, but was never unduly worried about her role or the time frame. Poornima says her biggest advantage was working with a whole lot of talented actors, each vying to understand grass-root realities and imbibe them into their roles. “To share the screen with wonderful actors who give you moments that you can own is a blessing. Each time we all got together, we had a lot to talk about our characters,” she says.
Coincidentally, her comeback project has her husband Indrajith, too, in a pivotal role though she does not have any combination scenes with him. “We do not have even one combination scene which I realised vey late,” she says, laughing. “For 18 years, we have lived our life together so some time away from each other for a film is OK, I guess!”
Indrajith, she says, is an actor she has always admired and looks up to. “As a performer, the way he approaches a role and then transforms himself into the character he plays is mesmerising. As a wife, I am curious and excited to see how he performs on screen.” What was Indrajith’s advice to her? “He walked with me to my location on the first day of my shoot and asked me to just do my job and go with the flow, which is my approach too.”
Poornima is overwhelmed and anxious about the response to her role. She says she is no longer the naïve 20-year-old girl who donned the grease paint for the first time years back. “My approach to movies has evolved in a huge way and so has the industry. Not everybody is lucky to come back and be a part of films through the roles I am playing. To grab that moment and enjoy it is what I am looking forward to,” she philosophises.
Other than Virus, Poornima also has the Nivin Pauly- Indrajith starrer Thuramukham directed by Rajeev Ravi who she has known for the past 19 years. “All I can say is that I am fortunate to get a role that challenges me even in my comeback. This role has emotionally drained me out.” Before signing off, she says, “The burden of a comeback is huge, but I have been blessed with these two great roles and I am waiting for the outcome.”