The web series that received 1 million views features Archana Kavi, Arun Kurian and Vaishnavi Venugopal!
She came, she conquered the silver screen but to everyone’s dismay, left abruptly. It didn’t take long for this young, bubbly diva to return; but it was not where she had left off. She was about to experiment with a new medium, one that was fresh and ready to be explored! Her Vlog got everyone’s attention and then came, ‘Talk with Archie’ on YouTube, which was an instant hit! Later, she launched her first web series called ‘Toofan Mail’ that had her entire family donning different roles. It gathered more steam than was expected and soon she was ready with her next big project, ‘MeenAviyal’. The trending web series featured the enterprising young lady behind it all, Archana Kavi along with the dashing young star Arun Kurian and the lovable Vaishnavi Venugopal in lead roles.
Interview: Riya Sonny Datson
Photography: Nitheesh Ayyod
You were so young when you debuted in ‘Neelathamara’. Without any background in Cinema, how did you handle it?
Yes, being from Delhi and without having any background or experience in Cinema, everything was completely new for me. I felt as though I was doing a theatre workshop and as a bonus, had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of Cinema. Lal Jose Sir had warned me that things would be very different after the movie’s release but I didn’t really understand and wasn’t prepared for it either. I thought to myself, ‘What changes can it possibly bring?’ I just enjoyed working and exploring acting with a wonderful team. I didn’t even realise that there were so many elements to celebrate ‘Neelathamara’ especially since it was the very first ‘remake’ of a Malayalam classic.
Your first couple of movies were instant hits but things started to change after that, what went wrong?
Acting is just a part of a career in Cinema. A lot depends on networking, your knowledge of the industry, the language and understanding of Malayalam Cinema’s rich history. That is my understanding and I could be wrong. But honestly, I just took up roles that were given to me. I didn’t have any strategy and one must have it, if you are in this field. I just enjoyed acting and didn’t really pay attention to any of the other aspects. I was young and on my own. So I had my own fears about stepping out and networking as things were very different back then. We were literally stuck in the transition period of Malayalam Cinema when people were still very conservative and yet there were others who were willing to experiment. I think I couldn’t wrap myself around everything as it was all very overwhelming for me. Being an actor, you were expected to look a certain way, talk a certain way and all that was very unreal and confusing as I couldn’t be myself!
Do you think things changed post marriage?
Yes, things definitely change. I think it is because our seniors set the precedence. They never got back to Cinema post marriage and so, it has become like an unspoken norm that married women don’t return to work unless there is a family issue. Even if you choose to, you would be given roles that might be uncomfortable. The gender bias is really unfair. Things are changing now and industry is more open to change but it would still take time.
Do you have any regrets about your career in Cinema?
No, I genuinely enjoyed it. The best part is that people haven’t forgotten me and the success of my online projects is proof of the same. Post marriage, I was offered roles that I felt didn’t do justice to the actor in me. It was literally a full stop. But I am not someone who can sit at home and not be creative. I wanted to create my own work, on my own terms, without being worried about the audience. Yes, initially people discouraged me saying being an actor, I was downplaying myself. But having the power to have the product in your hand, the complete freedom to handle all aspects of my work was what I enjoyed the most. Surprisingly, the response I got was very overwhelming and I have grown as a creative person – from writing to creating content to working as team, it has been an enriching experience.
Your dad was the star in Toofan mail, how did it work out?
Toofan Mail was like a home production in terms of its cast as it featured my dad along with my cousins playing different roles. I didn’t have to work too hard to rope them in as they were all game for it instantly. In fact I felt like a spoilt child. It was a pleasant surprise to discover the actor in my dad as we never expected him to act the way he did. He completely transforms in front of the camera. We were thrilled with the response we got.
Tell us about MeenAviyal, your latest web series that has hit the jackpot! How did it happen?
I was going through a difficult phase in my life and I felt being creative was the best way to get over it. When we pitched the idea to Eastern, they got on board immediately as they were aware of the popularity of Toofan Mail. I had wanted MeenAviyal to be a project inspired by a sibling love – hate bond. I also wanted to add in more elements, just in case we decided to take it to the second season. The response has been awesome and people are already asking for a Season 2.
It was a pleasant surprise to see the new avatar of Arun Kurian in the series.
This is the real avatar of Arun (laughs). I wasn’t sure about getting Arun on board initially, as he is a very shy guy who doesn’t talk much and I had seen him doing only serious roles. Though my friends suggested him, I wasn’t convinced as the character in MeenAviyal is so open and blatant. But they asked me to wait it out and on the third day, the cat was out of the bag. We knew he fit the bill perfectly! We also had a casting company called Launchpad that did a wonderful job and it was pleasure seeing everyone come together on screen.
What was the main challenge in MeenAviyal?
Getting a producer for a web series, especially in Malayalam was not easy. We had our own limitations when it came to setting up the team. It was just a team of 20 people figuring out everything from costumes to makeup to food to every little detail. The entire team believed in the project whole heartedly, which was just amazing. There were absolutely no star tantrums on the sets.
Your take away from the project?
The belief that I still have it in me to entertain people. I learnt patience, switching roles – Getting people on board, team work, working on budgets, being an actor and just staying motivated. I discovered various aspects of film making and more importantly, I made good friends. The success of MeenAviyal proves that people love good content no matter what the medium.
- Archana is: Shy, confident and creative
- Life is: A rollercoaster
- Success is: Sweet and Bitter
- In My Bag: Phone and a Red lipstick
- Quick Makeup: Red lipstick and Mascara
- Fitness Regime: Love and Hate relationship
- My go to person: My cousin, Deepak Sabin
- Favourite Meal: I love food, can’t choose!!
- Rejuvenation is: Creating my own content
- Favourite Holiday destination: Gokarna
- Dream Holiday: Amsterdam
- One thing I would change about myself: Would like to be more diplomatic!
- Favourite Web series: F.R.I.E.N.D.S
- On My bucket list: My wish is to write a feature!