Amala Paul has come a very long way from her Mynaa days back in 2010. Having quickly made her mark as a performer, she went on to do commercial films with leading South stars and then took a short break due to personal reasons. She has now returned to acting and signed a line of films.
The actress is also an avid practitioner of yoga, a trekker who regularly goes on Himalayan expeditions, a restaurateur and a newly turned entrepreneur – she has her own company, Himalayan Yogi, which specializes in Ayurveda products. Having moved out of her familial home in Kerala, she now lives in Delhi with her friends and says she is in the South only when she is shooting for films. In another two years, she plans to move permanently to the base of the Himalayas, along with her family and friends, to be part of a self-sustainable community. She will soon begin shooting for her first Hindi film and also plans to get into theatre and film production.
We caught up with the multifaceted young actress after a long, tiring day at the shoot of Adho Andha Paravai Pola, a film in which she plays an action heroine with a purpose. The role is in complete contrast to the ‘girl next door’ image that she has cultivated. Amala doesn’t let fatigue come in the way of our conversation and is as animated and lively as she can be.
“After Mynaa, Adho Andha Paravai Pola is physically the most strenuous film that I’ve been a part of. I play Anita, who is mature and sensible. It is a ‘woman v/s the wild’ tale. As part of the audience, I like to watch such films. I really loved the narration and could visualize how it was going to be presented on screen. Since I’m a trekker, I was extra-kicked about the film, as it was to be shot extensively in jungles and exotic wild locations, where there is no access to network or other amenities. My recent Himalayan trekking experiences helped me feel comfortable in such a work environment. My portrayal will feel real and honest as I see this character as a reflection of my real self,” she said.
Amala added that the action-heavy film gave the athlete in her a lot to work with. “I was always active and free-spirited growing up. My yoga routines make sure that I’m flexible. After the initial scepticism, the unit members grew confident that I could pull off heavy-duty action scenes. I’m able to sense the respect with which they see me and talk to me. This film has empowered me in more ways than one. It shall always remain close to my heart.”
She told us a little more about the film’s action sequences. “I’ll fight like how a woman would and won’t look needlessly manly. I lost a bit of weight for the part; I didn’t put on any extra muscles or a six-pack. The stunt choreography was done to suit a woman’s body language. It’ll be realistic and based on strategy. There is nothing over the top about it. The action scenes will be driven by inner strength.”
Adho Andha Paravai Pola is one of those rare Tamil films in which a writer (in this case, Arun Rajagopalan) was closely involved in its making. Amala calls him her character’s ‘mother’.
“Director Vinoth is the father. Both are so involved in the film; they are a match made in heaven. Vinoth’s clarity and focus are exceptional, he knows what he wants. Arun created the story and its premise and he is involved hands-on in the explanation and execution of the scenes. There are a lot of hidden layers in his script and the film will be good for repeat viewings as well. We are enjoying the process every day and are confident of delivering a film we’ll feel happy about. We’ve also shed the usual excess baggage – choreographed songs and a romance track.”
Amala is equally kicked about one of her upcoming films, Aadai, to be directed by ‘Meyaadha Maan’ Rathna Kumar.
“Aadai is totally experimental. No heroine has taken up such a character so far and I’m not sure whether anyone would dare to take up such a role in the near future too. The first look poster will be quite a shocker and I’m looking forward to see how the audience reacts. Aadai will be another film in which I’ll be closely involved as part of the core team.”
Amala says that she has also picked a side in the ‘actor’ vs. ‘star’ debate.
“I’m a huge fan of Vijay Sethupathi. From where he was to where he is now, it has been an astounding journey. He gives his best in film after film, and works non-stop. I want to be an ‘actor’ like him. I don’t want to be a ‘star’. Being an actor is more fun, and I can explore more about life through the characters that I get to play. It was a moment of realisation when some stars refused to work with me just because of my separation (from director Vijay). The ‘star life’ is highly fickle and momentary. Acting is my strength; the film fraternity also believes so. I’m ready to put my life on the line for risky shots due to the passion and love that I have for my work.”