Two days ago, Anumol shared a photo on her social media handle where she, draped in saree and wearing a spectacle, is seen immersed in reading. Unveiling the first-look poster of her first Bengali film Walking Over Water, directed by National Award-winning director Josh Joshy Joseph, she, in her post said, “I literally had to pinch myself when I saw my name along with Deedi (Mahasweta Devi), someone I’ve admired and respected for years. So, to see my name along with hers is nothing short of a dream come true. The experience of making this film will forever remain a personal high for me.”
Elaborating on the same, Anu says, “I play a complicated character in the film that touches upon various social issues.” It depicts a son’s search for the reason behind the never-ending quarrels between his parents. He is in his early twenties, and the movie narrates the story through different stages in his life. Anu says the movie has been an enriching experience. “I was given the utmost freedom to be the character, a Malayali woman married to a Bengali and settled there, in front of the camera.” Language has never been a barrier to her as the character has fewer dialogues. “Also, as she is a Malayali, my accent is justified,” she smiles. “It is the first time I have used spectacles for a character. So, I was curious.”
Besides the character, Anu was intrigued by the days she spent at an old age home there. “The location was a few hours’ drive from the Kolkata city, and had no hotels. Hence, we stayed in an old age home with their permission. It let me have a closer look at people from various strata of society,” says Anu who, in Malayalam, portrayed the revolutionary life of eminent painter T.K. Padmini on screen with writer Susmesh Chandroth’s directorial Padmini: A Life in Bold Sketches.
Anu says when Sushmesh narrated the thread to her, she had no clue about Padmini. “While he briefed, I surfed the internet about her in another phone. Yes, like many of us, I too was ignorant about her contributions,” she confesses. Anu started collecting information about Padmini through interactions with the artist’s family members. She even learnt painting under artist T. Kaladharan in Kochi. “Because, I wanted to know how an artist holds a brush and paints. Also, I had to paint Padmini’s last work Pattam Parathunna Penkutti in the film,” says Anu, adding that the more she understood Padmini, closer she became to her. The bond was so deep that when Padmini’s uncle Divakara Menon passed away, Anu felt empty and grieved a lot. “It was he who supported Padmini when the rest of the world stood against her dream,” recalls Anu, who had known Menon from the shooting days. Padmini’s family has been quite supportive throughout the venture. “Sharika, who plays little Padmini, is the artist’s close relative. I was a tad tense to be Padmini in their presence, but when the family members said I had Padmini’s characteristics, my confidence boosted.”
Being Padmini also urged her to think of the lack of encouragement artists face in our society. “Even now, there will be talented artists like her who are not appreciated or discouraged from pursing the field of art. Why do we hesitate to motivate them?” asks Anu, who is known for her realistic and strong portrayals on screen.
Ask her about the nature of her characters, smiling she says, “The fact is such characters find me most of the time. For me, cinema is an art form. More than a momentary entertainment, I want my characters to be cherished forever, even after my death. I want my characters to be valued. I think hence such roles keep coming to me.”
She does not hide the fact that such strong decisions come with a cost. “The biggest challenge is lack of money. Movies like this are made on a shoestring budget, and artistes don’t get paid much. The saddest part is that viewers don’t prefer such movies in theatres, which makes survival of artistes and technicians more difficult.” She cites that even after doing 30 movies in nine years, audience still ask her only about Vedivazhipadu. “I did Vedivazhipadu as I liked the script, and I believe it will stand the test of time. But, I have done other movies like Ivan Megharoopan and Njan, too. But, people just don’t remember them.” But, Anu is hopeful to see that the situation changing, although people watch off-beat movies mostly on OTT platforms.
Apart from movies, dance and travel are two of Anu’s passions. Last year, she started a vlog Anuyathra on YouTube where she talks about places she has visited. “It has been on my mind for years. Last year, I forced myself to start the project to inspire myself. I love meeting people, listening to their stories and exploring new cultures and cuisines. I clubbed all my interests into Anuyathra.” Wherever she goes — be it a personal or professional journey — she captures the moments. “I have industry friends who help me with cinematography and editing. Sometimes, I shoot on my phone. The Kolkata episode is an instance. I feel audience relate easily to videos shot on phone,” says Anu, who never dares to say her stance.
According to her, everything she does in life is her life’s politics, including the decision to learn Kathakali. “Even now, organisations like Kalamandalam do not encourage women to learn Kathakali,” says Anu who learns the artform under the tutelage of Kalamandalam Venkitaraman at Kathakali Gramam in Kallekulangara, Palakkad. “Last year, we set a Guinness record by 66 women from different walks of life performing kathakali (Sampoorna Ramayanam) for 14 hours.” Along with Kathakali, she also pursues Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam.
Ask her about her future plans, she says, she has two movies Thaamara and Papam Cheyyathavar Kalleriyatte in the pipeline. And, she is pondering over streamlining her passions....