Think of Nithya Menen and the numerous characters she has enlivened would rush to our minds. Be it the Chirakkal Bala of Urumi, Shahana of Ustad Hotel, Natasha of Bangalore Days or Sheela of 100 Days of Love, she has left her signature on all these roles. Malayalis have been missing her for a while and now Nithya is back with the V.K. Prakash directorial Praana, which is being made in four languages — Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu and Hindi. “VKP told me that there is a nice script. He said it is a one character cinema and I didn’t understand that. Then, he explained the concept to me. Later, I listened to the script written by Rajesh Jayaraman. As soon as I heard it, I realised it was a good one. It is beautifully written,” says Nithya.
It was the writing style that drew her to the movie. “I liked its language and the ways through which Rajesh had expressed certain ideas,” adds Nithya, who feels happy to be back through the powerful character Thara, the only character in the whole movie. “Her name is Thara Anuradha. She is a novelist. A progressive thinking woman, she has chosen her mother’s name as her last name,” says Nithya.“Thara doesn’t believe in superstitions and any kind of backward beliefs. Also, she feels that, as a writer, she is responsible towards society. She is brave and never budges on her decision due to opposition.”
It seems to be a character that’s quite significant at this point of time when writers are attacked for their words. “I think a character like this is always relevant,” she says. “There has always been opposition to progressive thinkers,” opines Nithya, who also likes to write. As a child, she used to write poems. “Writing is not alien to me. Right now it is mostly in the form of scripts and screenplays,” she smiles.
And writing has been one of the areas she developed in the last two years, a time when she wasn’t quite active on screen. Besides writing, music is another area that she tried exploring during that time. It was because, as an artiste, she got this feeling she should satiate her other creative sides.
“I was creatively active during this time,” she says. “Acting is not the only thing I can do. I can write, sing and do a lot of things. In the last two years, I branched out and focused on the other talents I have. Writing is something that I did very seriously,” adds Nithya. And soon one could see her wearing the director’s hat and bringing her efforts on screen. “As of now, I have something very interesting in hand. Hopefully, soon you would be able to hear something solid about it,” she says. “I have finished writing. Now, I will have to work on the execution part.” But that doesn’t mean she is going to stay away from acting. “Of course, I will continue acting because I am an actor and I enjoy doing it. There is no question of stopping it,” she asserts.
A person who loves to write and plays a writer’s role on screen, ask her what kind of a writer she is in real life, pat comes the reply. “I am a very different writer from all these,” she says. She is not that kind of a writer who gets vocal about subjects like politics. “I purposefully keep myself away from it because I feel it is very noisy. As a writer, one thing I feel responsible for is that whatever I write or if I make a film in the future, I want it to impact people in a very positive way. I want people to smile and laugh. I want to spread happiness,” says Nithya. Interestingly, Nithya has helped with the dialogue-writing process of Praana. It is because she is the only one who is well-versed in all four languages. And, she has been quite careful about it. “The Malayalam dialogues were to be translated to other languages. I loved the Malayalam script and I didn’t want its beauty and essence to get lost in translation. So I involved myself very intensely in the process,” she explains.
And, that was the challenge to her — to do both at a time. “When I was not acting, I was back in the room writing, discussing with the writer and making corrections. I didn’t have free time on the set,” she smiles. But, being the only actor on the set has been a differnet experience for Nithya “Acting, I really enjoyed. I had my own pace. In that way, it was independent.” Besides the ‘one character’ element, what makes Praana unique is its technnical side. It has used the surround sync sound system, a process that captures every sound. “It is a new concept. We all were excited,” says Nithya.
The movie is shot by P.C. Sreeram, one of the best cinematographers in the country. The sound designing is by Oscar-winning sound desinger Resul Pookutty. “Usually, we do sync sound in movies where we record the dialogue on spot and add ambience later. But, in Praana, all sounds, including the ambience, you are going to listen to on the screen were recorded at that particular moment. That is the strength of surround sync sound,” she sounds excited.
Since Nithya is fluent in all languages, it was easy for them to capture the moments. They could finish the shooting in 23 days as she was able to do it quickly “I had to do each language one after another, simultaneously,” says Nithya, who is currently on the sets of her Telugu film. She has a few more projects starting next month in Tamil and Telugu. A Malayalam project is in the pipeline. “It may take a few months. It is an interesting one. I find Malayalam scripts genuine and I love to do Malayalam films,” she signs off.