South Indian Star Navya Nair is back to face the camera after a hiatus of eight years!
As a child, she was always under the limelight for her amazing performances at the Kerala Youth Festival. It came as no surprise that her very first film offer came from Sibi Malayil for Ishtam opposite Dileep. Though her parents were reluctant initially, with a little coaxing from her uncle, Director K Madhu, they agreed to let her chase her dreams and ever since, there has been no looking back for this beautiful actress. Her memorable performances during the early stages of her career in films like Nandanam, Kalyanaraman and Kunjikoonan made her one of the most sought after actresses in Mollywood. With close to 50 films to her credit in Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada, she is the recipient of two Kerala state film awards. Ritz is in conversation with the South Indian Star, Navya Nair, who after a hiatus of eight years, is making a comeback to Mollywood with her much awaited film, Oruthee!
Interview: Riya Sonny Datson
Photography: Shafi Shakkeer
Costume: Label Pallavi Namdev
Jewelry: CJ Artisan Boutique
Styling: Smiji KT
Makeup: Renju Renjimar
Venue: Four Points By Sheraton Kochi Infopark
You started when you were just 15 years old, was films something that you always wanted to do?
After watching my performance at the youth festivals, I got many offers to act in television serials but my parents were very apprehensive and they were never keen on it. When I insisted, my father promised me that if I got an opportunity as a lead heroine in a movie, then he will think about letting me take it up. That seemed impossible at the time as we lived in a small town in Kerala and for a film director to come and see me perform, and then offer me a role as a heroine was literally unthinkable. There was no social media back then and things seemed too bleak for me. Since I was studious, I focussed on my studies and didn’t think too much about a career in films.
But deep down, I remember while standing at the bus stop or waiting for a cup of coffee at the coffee shop, I would hope that a film director would pass by and notice me. I would fantasise that he would consider me for a role in his film and that I would finally make it to Cinema. I guess such thoughts were always there but I never believed that it would ever happen.
Your performance in your first movie, Ishtam was very natural and you seemed so confident. What are your memories about the movie?
When director Sibi Malayil approached my parents for the movie, they were reluctant initially. My mother was almost in tears and she wouldn’t even let me do the screen test. But my uncle, Director K Madhu eventually convinced my father to give it a try. We had three shooting schedules and the first one was in Trivandrum, immediately after my tenth exam and I was very conscious. But after every schedule, I was getting more confident and even my director noticed the change. I remember there was a lot of delay in the film’s release and my friends used to tease me asking if I was really the heroine in a film. Soon, my tenth standard results were out and I decided to pursue science and math as a major as I wanted to pursue medicine after school. Once I started school, the trailer of Ishtam was launched which happened to be inspired by a Bollywood film. It became a rage and finally, my class mates and friends were convinced that I was an actor. But even before the release of Ishtam, I started acting in my second film opposite Dileep and it was during its shoot that ‘Ishtam’ released. Immediately after that ‘Nandanam’ happened and then there was no looking back.
How was your first experience as a heroine?
It was very uncomfortable as I was supposed to be playing the role of a modern girl who wears jeans, tube top, jacket, goggles and heels! I was not used to such dressing and it was extremely difficult for me but somehow I was able to pull it off! I had to cut my hair for the role which was also a big disappointment but then I just went with the flow. I was excited to be a part of the film.
Looking back, what has been your biggest learning?
When I started out in Cinema, there was no social media and the use of mobile phones were also limited. I used to go to the location, perform and return home. I am not an extrovert or a socially active personality so I had limited network of friends. There came a time when I met with an accident on the sets of a film and I had to be on bed rest for 3-4 months. It was during that time that I realised the unconditional love of my parents. I don’t think any one can offer that kind of unconditional affection and love. The bond that you share with your parents is something very special and irreplaceable.
Can you call this as your comeback? Somehow it always felt like you were always around maybe because you are active on social media and television.
It has been eight years since my last movie and that’s definitely been a good long break. I must admit that it was not intentional and I never wanted to take such a long break but it just happened. I was also waiting for the right script to come my way as I wasn’t getting scripts that excited me. I had decided that if I were to come back it would be for a good script, I didn’t want to do it for the sake of my fans and spoil my reputation. So I waited till the right script came along.
How has life changed after your marriage? Were you getting offers post marriage as well?
Yes, I did continue to get offers to do strong characters and films that were women centric. I think I had done enough films in the past to prove my mettle and so people wouldn’t call me unless my role was important. But somehow, the scripts never excited me enough to take it up. I was also doing a lot of TV shows and dance programs during the time, so I never really went out of sight. I haven’t changed much physically either post marriage so there was no dearth of offers.
Tell us about what attracted you to Oruthee?
Oruthee has a beautiful screen play that is natural and realistic. It portrays a series of unexpected incidents that happen in a woman’s life during a period of three days. It is very engaging and I am sure the average Malayali housewife will be able to relate to my character. The film has been produced by Benzy productions and I am really happy that they trusted me with the character. I must also mention the script writer Suresh Babu, who has done a wonderful job. Director V K Prakash has been an absolute joy to work with. From the second day of shoot, I realised that we are going to make a wonderful film. He lets the actor improvise each scene before taking the final shot and we are completely involved in it as a team. It was a beautiful experience.
Any special preparation for your role?
I had to brush up my swimming skills. The movie required me to ride a scooter and I have never done that before. So I had to learn how to ride one. I also worked out and slimmed down a bit for the character.
Am sure there are a lot of changes when it comes to the various aspects of Cinema. How challenging was it for you?
When it comes to films, I have done my homework! Through the years, I have never missed watching a single Malayalam movie and I think that is the biggest homework any artiste can do. We have to be aware of the trends and patterns in Cinema. Technically there are a lot of changes, but when it comes to acting, it really depends on the screenplay. If it is a realistic screenplay, the actor will perform realistically too. I believe once you are an actor, you are always an actor. There is no ‘before’ and ‘after’. Once you get into the character, it comes naturally to you and you just perform. It is team work at the end of the day. The cinematographer, Jimshi Khalid has also done a brilliant job.
How do you balance work and home?
I have seen my mother balance the duties of a wife, mother and a working woman without the luxuries that we enjoy today. She did a wonderful job raising me, managing home and work. When compared to her, I don’t think I am doing anything extraordinary. There is a responsibility quotient that comes with each role and it is not necessary that you have to excel in every role. Cinema is probably the only profession where you can take your family with you to your work location. After one film, you have a choice to take break before the next project. It is a profession that gives me all the luxuries one needs irrespective of marriage or motherhood.
What keeps you inspired?
I have my own share of ups and downs but I take things as it comes. There is no escape from issues and negativities in life so you just face it as it comes.
Do you get affected by strong emotions that you have to portray in Cinema?
Yes, I do get affected by the character and what she goes through. I believe I am very honest when it comes to my work and I get stressed when the character goes through a lot of strong emotions. I take it personally and by the end of the day, I am drained. Sleep is my rejuvenation and once I get my sleep, I am ready for the next round of shoot. Sometimes, when there are continuous scenes to be taken, I don’t take a nap in between because I want to be in the character and experience the stress. That’s just how I work. Thankfully, this film was shot in continuity, we have done the sequence of shoots just as as you would view it on screen. So that helped me quite a bit.
You have worked in Tamil and Kannada earlier. Are you open to them now?
Yes for sure. In fact I got a very promising role in a Tamil film but unfortunately, the dates clashed with Oruthee and so I couldn’t take it up. If something interesting comes my way, I will definitely take it up. I have always been comfortable with languages. I believe in spontaneous acting irrespective of the language.
How do you think the industry has changed when it comes to safety of women?
I think it has always been a safe place to work. I have never felt unsafe as I have always travelled with my parents. Yes, when I started out in films, there were no caravans but towards the time when I took a break, I remember having a caravan and I still have one, which is important especially for a female artiste.
Do you think there is a necessity for organisations like Women’s Collective in Cinema?
Yes, organisations are always good. When there is an organisation by women, I feel we can stand up and speak for our rights without any inhibitions. At the end of the day, the stigma is very real when it comes to standing up and talking about your rights in a male dominated organisation. So it definitely helps to have an organisation of women.
Do you plan to continue dance along with films?
Yes, of course, dance is my biggest passion and I am still learning the Tanjore style of Bharatnatyam and my dream is to be a graceful dancer. A dance school is definitely on the cards and I really want to hand over this beautiful tradition of classical art in its purest form to the future generations. I am not against western styles of dance but we have a rich heritage and culture that we should cherish and be proud of.