On A League of her Own !

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Anusree is on a path of self discovery, challenging herself and embracing makeovers 

With no roots in the industry or Godfathers to back her, this self made actress moulded her career in Malayalam Cinema with sheer hardwork and perseverance. Beginning with her very first film ‘Diamond Necklace’ opposite Fahadh Faasil, the audience adored her child like innocence and witty sense of humour. Soon she became the leading lady with seasoned actors like Dileep, Jayaram and Kunchacko Boban. Within a short span of time, she bagged the central character in the film ‘Autorsha’ that revolved around the story of a strong independent woman seeking revenge. The role though challenging won her much critical acclaim. Her last project before lockdown ‘Prathi Poovan Kozhi’ where she shared screen space with Manju Warrier is yet another role for which she has been applauded. With Covid and the subsequent lockdown restrictions, the entire world of Cinema has taken a beating. Ritz catches up with the beautiful actor, Anusree who opens up about how she constructively used the time to focus on fitness, shake off inhibitions and embrace stunning makeovers! 

Interview: Riya Sonny Datson

Photography: Shafi Shakkeer

Styling : Smiji KT

Costume: By hand

Makeup: Sajith & Sujith

As a child, did you always want to be an actress?

No, I don’t think being an actress has ever even crossed my mind. Glitz and glam is a far cry from the small, simple village in Kollam where I come from. It was just by chance that I got an opportunity to be a part of the reality show. Luckily for me, Lal Jose Sir was one of the judges and after the show, he signed me up for his film, ‘Diamond Necklace’. 

You were a natural right from your first movie. Was it intimidating to work with such a seasoned crew? 

During the reality show, we had training and workshops for six to eight months with theatre artists and other experts. I believe those sessions helped to improve my skills. After I signed up for Diamond Necklace, everything was completely new to me. I was traveling abroad for the first time and my familiarity with Lal Jose Sir was the only thought that soothed my nerves. The entire team of Diamond Necklace was very supportive of the fact that I was a newcomer and they guided me through the whole shoot. It was a wonderful learning experience.

You are a popular star now with a huge fan following. How has life changed? 

I don’t think Anusree as a person has changed but as an actor, yes, my lifestyle has changed a lot. But even this change is not something that has happened suddenly. It took me nine years and umpteen experiences to change my perceptions, face my fears and be more confident about myself. Earlier traveling to Cochin was a challenge for me and I would feel like a fish out of water but now, all that has changed. I understand that there are certain etiquettes to be followed even in Cinema and I know where to draw the line between my personal and professional life.

Have you had to face any uncomfortable or difficult situations when you first started out?

No, I have not. I think the fact that Lal Jose Sir introduced me to Cinema was a blessing for me. During the initial days when I was just learning the ropes, before I decided on a role, I would always consult Sir about the roles I got or the team that approached me.  So I don’t think I have ever had to face any negative situations. But when it comes to harassment, I would like to clarify that it is not just in Cinema, women face such situations in every field. My advice to young actors would be – always be guarded about the team you choose to do a film with. If you are with a reputed, good team of artistes, you are in safe hands and no harm will come to you. A lot depends upon the choices we make.

Each of your roles have left a lasting impression on the audience. How do you make your choices?

The most important criteria for me while selecting a role would be to check if there is any scope for performance. When I hear the script, I try to visualise the story and my role from the audience’s perspective. Of course, there are times when I have undertaken to do projects for my friends, but I don’t usually sign a film just for the sake of being on screen. 

Tell us about your experience while doing the film ‘Autorsha’. 

Autorsha is very special to me because that was one film that gave me a lot of satisfaction as an actor. It required me to put in a lot of effort that was both physical and emotional. Before filming, I had imagined that I would be driving the auto through smooth roads and that the rest would be simulation. But during the shoot, I actually had to drive through very difficult, rough terrain and even to this day, I joke about it to the director that if I run out of work, he has trained me well to make a living by driving an auto. I drove around so much that am confident about driving an auto during any time of the day or night or through any kind of road. But I do feel that the film could have reached a larger audience. The story required a strong Kannur slang, so much so that, even the humour involved colloquial jokes, which I am not sure the audience understood.  I had to use a dubbing artist for my dialogues which was again something, that I wouldn’t have chosen to do in a normal scenario. But on the whole, it was a memorable experience. 

What kind of genre excites you as an actor?

I believe that as an actor, it is exciting to try different genres. I feel that will keep the audience entertained as well. Emotional roles are challenging but so is comedy.  When it comes to humour, a lot depends on your timing, the team of actors around you and our coordination. But generally, I feel people enjoy seeing me in a humorous role.

You were the glimmer of sunshine in Prathi Poovan Kozhi, which was otherwise an intense film. What inspired you to take up the role? 

Even as Rosshan Andrews explained the role to me, I knew that while Manju Chechi would be portraying an emotionally heavy role, parallel to her, I would have to bring in the humorous element to maintain the balance. The character ‘Rose’ is a very light hearted person who juggles five different phones to romance her different boyfriends.  When I heard about Rose, I was so excited that I told the director that this wouldn’t require any acting and that I would just need to live my role. He laughed and agreed.  I have always wanted to work with Rosshan Andrews and Manju Chechi and I was confident about my character, so I didn’t even give it a second thought.  I knew people would notice my character in the film even before we started shoot. 

After having acted with Mohanlal you have had the opportunity to work with his son Pranav Mohanlal in Aadhi. How was he as a co actor?

When you think of Pranav, the first person that comes to your mind is Mohanlal. You are constantly aware that he is the son of a superstar. But Pranav is very down to earth and so humble that we often wonder how he can behave with absolutely no ego.  He is very casual on the sets and doesn’t hesitate to ask us doubts or discuss about the scene. He treats everyone with respect, especially his seniors. Even though its been a while since we worked together, I share a warm bond with him even today. 

Upcoming Projects? 

We are starting shoot for the Mohanlal starrer ‘12th Man’ to be directed by  Jeethu Joseph. 

How has the Lockdown treated you? 

Initially I was happy to be home and relaxing with my family without any pressures. I think the first two months were absolutely fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it but as the restrictions on Cinema continued, like every one else, I was worried too. It has been two years since my last release, some projects have been put on hold while others have been scrapped. To me, Cinema is my life and I want to pursue my career for as long as I can. I realised that people need to be happy and in good health to enjoy Cinema or any performance for that matter. So as artistes, I think we want the pandemic to end as soon as possible so that people can begin to enjoy entertainment and we can begin to perform for them.

What do you think of this shift from theatres to OTT platforms?

I feel there are two sides to it.  While it is true that we can enjoy films safely from the comfort of our homes, I am someone who thoroughly enjoys the theatre experience. So even while the OTT gives us artistes a wider audience and visibility, I still look forward to going to the theatre and enjoying a movie with the masses.

We have been watching stunning photoshoots and incredible make overs on your Insta page. Tell us about them. 

I think during the lockdown I have been the most active person on social media. I realised that it was a good time to focus on fitness and experiment with some fun photoshoots as we had the time to do it. I remember when I started my career in cinema, I was not comfortable wearing a sleeveless top but now, over a period of nine years, my confidence levels have improved and my comfort levels have changed. I am more open to experimenting new styles. I only wear what I am comfortable in and I am beginning to like the change.

Social media can be brutal sometimes, does it affect you?

Thankfully, I have not had to face many vulgar comments so far. Most people call me ‘Chechi’, so I joke about it to my family saying that I have a lot of online brothers and sisters. They are usually very polite with the comments, even if they don’t approve of my costumes always.  I have not had any bad experiences on Insta. I feel Facebook has a wider audience and so I am more careful. While posting updates, there are times when I turn off the comments option on Fb as I don’t like to put myself through negativity unnecessarily. 

Do you feel the pressure when you see a new release on OTT?

Not really, most films now showing on OTT are the ones that have been shot before lockdown and were waiting for a theatre release.  Very few films have been shot during lockdown. Besides there is no point in being tensed. It will happen in its own course. 

Over the last nine years, what is your learning from Cinema?

I realised that each film is a new experience. Even if you do 50 films, the 51st film will be a new experience as every team is a different set of people with different thinking. So one can never really say that you know it all, when it comes to Cinema. On a personal level, I have learnt that the world has different kinds of people and that you can’t really judge someone after your very first meeting. I have learnt to be more professional when it comes to work. 

Rapid fire: 

  • Dream Role: *Wonderwoman for super power, Kahani for range of emotions and Kill Bill for transformation
  • Proud Possession: Nobody can take away the credit from me for having lived through memorable characters that will last a life time like Kalamandalam Rajasree, Sushama in Chandrettan Evideya, Autorsha, Aadhi and so on.
  • My dream:  I want to get a life time achievement award (minimam 35years)
  • Am in love with : Julie(my pet) and Aadhi (nephew)
  • Favourite holiday spot: UK
  • I can’t do without : ”My crime partners team” that includes my brother, close friends and some of my cousins. My gang’s name is “Sree Raaja Raajeswary Adholakam”
  • I can’t wait to: Stand in front of the camera again for a movie
  • Life is : BEAUTIFUL 🥰
  • Cinema is : My LIfe🥰

 

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