Carving Her Own Niche – Aparna Balamurali Opens Up!

She talks of her journey as a child artist to being a popular star and playback singer!

She grew up amidst ardent artists, her mom being a professional singer and her dad being a renowned music director. So it comes as no surprise that dance and music were an indispensable part of her life; which is also why expressing art comes naturally and effortlessly to this young starlet. As a child artist, her rendezvous with the cinema started when she was just 13 and soon, quite unexpectedly, she got a golden opportunity to work with Fahadh Faasil in ‘Maheshinte Prathikaram’. The movie went on to become a super hit and her character, ‘Jimsy’ became so popular that to this day, people recognise her by that name. She won accolades not just for her debut performance but also for her melodious playback singing in the movie. RITZ catches up with the young, chirpy and very talented, Aparna Balamurali, who is busy juggling projects in Malayalam and Tamil.

Interview: Riya Sonny Datson

Photography: Shafi Shakkeer

Costume Courtesy: Arshiya Naina

Jewellery: Sanchi by Ann Benjamin

Makeup: Subi Ganesh

Location: Ginger House Museum Hotel, Mattancherry

“I am a huge fan of Vikram! Right from childhood, he has been my hero…”

‘Minnal Jimsy’ definitely didn’t seem like your first outing as a heroine – you seemed so confident. How close is that character to you in real life?

As a child, I did so many performances on stage that I lost most of my stage fear.  So though it was my first project, I didn’t have any inhibitions or tensions while facing the camera, it felt like another performance. The director, Dilesh Pothen was very clear that he wanted my acting to be spontaneous, so even the dialogues were given to me just before each scene. I think that added to the natural feel. As far as the character Jimsy is concerned, I don’t think I am as bold as her in real life.  In fact, whenever I meet someone for the first time, I am very conscious. I guess you could call it a ‘starting trouble’! (she grins). But once I am comfortable and settled, I am very conversational and open about my opinions.

Has the character pushed you into a stereotype? You seem to be doing a lot of strong female characters…

I must admit that ‘Jimsy’ paved the way for a bold element in most of my roles. But all the characters I portrayed were very different from each other. Be it a journalist, an auto driver or a working professional – I could relate to each of these characters; so while there has been variety, it’s been comfortable too.  Only for my role as an auto driver, I had to do some homework, as it was a character that was totally different from what I had seen or experienced. But yes, moving away from ‘bold’, I just completed a project in Tamil where I am playing a simple village belle. So you will be seeing me in a different avatar soon.

What has been the most memorable Compliment you have received so far?

That would be the message from Lalettan (Mohanlal)! He texted me congratulating me for the success of the movie, ‘Maheshinte Prathikaram’ and also for my performance in the movie. When you receive a compliment from a legend like him, it’s beyond a dream come true. I couldn’t have asked for anything more!

You have mentioned earlier that it is your dream to work with Vikram…?

I am a huge fan of Vikram! Right from childhood, he has been my hero – probably because of the kind of roles he does. Even before I got into movies, it’s always been my dream to act with Vikram.  He is my all-time favourite!

Your melodious singing has brought a lot of commendation. Which do you cherish more – acting or singing?

It is hard to choose between the two. I enjoy both and since it is not very difficult to handle it together, I would like to do both. But the opportunity to do playback singing is definitely something I value a lot because that is not an opportunity that comes to everyone. I am really happy and thrilled beyond words when I am given an opportunity to sing.

How has the experience been working in the Tamil industry?

It is different from Mollywood but I enjoy it all the same. My first Tamil movie, 8 Thottaakal was well received by the audience which has been really encouraging.  The movie was of a thriller genre in which I play the role of a journalist. Am glad that it did really well. My next Tamil release is with director Rasu Ranjith where I play a simple village belle. I am looking forward to its release as it’s quite different from what I have done so far. There was a lot of scope for performance as I had to portray the character in various stages of her life.

We have often heard that the film script is not fully revealed to the actor and you are forced to blindly trust the director’s instincts which sometimes backfires. Have you experienced that?

Honestly, I don’t always read the entire script of the projects I undertake. I mostly have a good idea about the story outline and my role. So far I have not had any regrets.  I am satisfied with all the characters I have portrayed.

“On a personal note, I have always felt safe and comfortable working in the film industry.”

How do you choose your roles?

I watch out for performance oriented roles. The relevance of the character more than its duration or screen time is what appeals to me. The role should have an impact on the story.

How do you prepare for a role?

Like I said, I could relate to most of the roles I portrayed so far, so I haven’t had to really do much research. Except for the young auto driver who seemed to be very different from who I am (in real life) or what I have seen…. I had to really prepare for that role. I had to learn how to drive an auto and watch similar characters and movies to get an idea. But I have always felt that the more I prepare, the more conscious my acting becomes so a spontaneous performance is the strategy I go by.

What do you think is your biggest Strength?

Dance stages are not new to me so I have no fear to perform. Neither do I prepare too much for a role as I feel spontaneity works well for me. My family and my college have always been very supportive of my film career so I think that helps me to be stress free.

Talking of college, we hear you are an Architecture student…

Yes, I am pursuing my third year in architecture. That is something I love as it is also a stream that is very creative. So I intend to finish my degree even while pursuing a career in acting.

How safe are women in the film industry?

On a personal note, I have always felt safe and comfortable working in the film industry. I have never had any bad experiences. As far as women’s safety is concerned, I don’t think it is the film industry alone that is to be blamed. Women are generally not safe anywhere today. When something negative happens within the industry, the actress comes under the spot light because of their profession. But harassment happens everywhere.

You have acted with stars like Fahad Faasil, Vineeth Srinivasan, Asif Ali and Anoop Menon, how has the experience been?

Most of the time we have pre conceived notions about our seniors but when you start working with them, it is nothing like that at all! They are all very cool and friendly.  They give us our space and I know I can be myself and perform without any tension while working with them.

What do you think is the most difficult area of acting for you?

Romancing on screen! I am very conscious when I have to enact a romantic scene because its not like how you see it on screen. Behind the scene, the entire crew is watching you – which can be very embarrassing at times. I think comedy and romance are probably most difficult to perform. But I am getting better and hopefully, with more movies, I should tide over my weakness.

What are your interests outside of movies?

Architecture, dance and music.

What is your Fashion Mantra?

The truth is I have never been fashion conscious at all. But now, since I am in the industry, I try to be more conscious. I should give credit to my designer Pooja Dev of ‘Origin and Few’ (Kochi) for igniting my fashion sense.  But more than anything, ‘Comfort’ would be my fashion mantra.

“Dance stages are not new to me so I have no fear to perform.”

What has been your biggest learning?

I have learnt that Team work and Communication are vital!  When you are working with such a big crew, even if one person has a problem or an ego, the whole team gets distracted. I have learnt that communication is very important and we need to be empathetic when we work as a team.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

My next project in Malayalam titled ‘Kamuki’ opposite Asif Ali’s brother, Askar Ali is in its post-production stage. Other main characters in the movie are being portrayed by Kavya Suresh and Dain Davis. This role is special to me because the character, ‘Achama’ is strikingly similar to who I am in real life. The Tamil movie that I mentioned earlier with director Rasu Ranjith, is also in its post-production stage and will be releasing soon. There are two other projects in the pipeline but it’s too early to disclose the details.

Rapid Fire:

  • Zodiac: Virgo
  • Favourite Colour: Black
  • I can’t do without: My Parents!
  • Always In my handbag: My Phone!
  • Favourite Music Artist: A R Rahman
  • Memorable Movie: 22 Female Kottayam
  • Memorable Role: My first role as a heroine, ‘Jimsy’!