She points at a big chocolate cake with nuts on top of it. Anumol then declares that she’s already put on some weight, so might as well have the cake. She looks comfortable in her T-shirt and pants and a long black shrug. She doesn’t bother about make-up or keeping up appearances of being a star. Outside a Kochi café, she keeps an autorickshaw waiting while she comes in like a casual customer, chats up with the server and starts munching on her cake. “It’s heavy,” she says. She’s just driven overnight from Bengaluru and will be driving again to her home in Naduvattom, Palakkad. The North Kerala connection had made it easy for her to play T.K. Padmini, the woman who had famously made many bold paintings before her early death in 1969.
“There were the usual fears of playing a real life character. Won’t her relatives notice it if I don’t do justice to her character,” Anumol asks. But then the relatives spotted many similarities between Anu and their Padmini cheriyamma. “It has to be the place we come from. She is from Edappal, which is near my hometown. So the way I walk and my body language would all be similar,” Anu says. It is director Shibu Gangadharan who connected her to Susmesh Chandroth, the writer, who was making the film Padmini. “I knew him as a writer. So while he talked to me about T.K. Padmini on one phone, I was looking her up on my other phone and I was so much in awe. She has made such bold paintings in those times, and coming from that place! How did she do that,” she wonders.
Anumol claims she had no connection with art even as she admired music, dance and writing. But on the days she’s down, she’d pick up some acrylic paint and make dark sketches of a lone bird on a tree or fireflies in the night. To prepare to be Padmini, she had approached artist Kaladharan Master in Kochi and he told her to be just confident of what she was drawing, to be sure. Susmesh had given her one of Padmini’s paintings to recreate and Anu shows on her phone the art work she reproduced so beautifully. “I’d still say I have no flair for art.” But she’s enjoyed doing that bit of homework for a character. And this would again be a totally varied addition to her list of characters that includes a folk singer, a human/ghost, a widow/goddess, a housewife, a prostitute, a servant, a fashion photographer, and in her latest, a policewoman! “I don’t like repeating types,” she says. Coming up is another stereotype breaker in Mysore 150km.
Between all these movies, Anu had held close to her dancing interests, performing Kathakali, Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam. “My dance is always there with me,” she says....