From Kumbalangi Nights and Helen to Kappela, Anna Ben has slipped into her characters with ease, taking the viewers along on her character’s journey. What’s her process like? Excerpts from a conversation between Anna Ben, Anupama Chopra and Baradwaj Rangan.
Anupama Chopra: What makes you who you are? What is the one thing that allows you to take the risks that you have, and deliver the performances that you have in this very, very difficult year?
I started last year, so I have a blank slate. I can experiment and take up whatever I’m interested in, so I don’t know about the risk as much. Since I’m new, nobody expects anything from me, so I think I took that as an advantage and played with it, and had fun essaying all the characters I did.
Baradwaj Rangan: You mentioned no fear of failure. How far do you take that? Are you really never scared when attempting anything or if this role would work or not, how do you define fearlessness? When you go on a set you’re not scared, is that what it is?
Personally, I’ve never been the kind to think too much and be scared and get into something. If that’s the case, I would have never auditioned for Kumbalangi Nights. It just happened on a whim, and, honestly, after the movie got out, that’s when I started getting scared. So the scary part comes after the movie’s out. My process is upside down, it’s always been like that, not just with the movies but with everything in my life. So, that’s worked well for me.
Baradwaj Rangan: Everyone keeps talking about Malayalam cinema now and how it’s changed over the past 10 to 15 years. Has the Malayalam film heroine changed? What’s the difference between, let’s say the general heroine space that Manju Warrier occupied versus what you see today?
During Manju ma’am’s period, there have been wonderful movies. If you look further back, there have been strong female characters, and so many senior actors have done wonderful work. Somewhere, there was a shift towards commercial movies, where it’s all about the business and making money, and we realised that that’s not what we’re looking for. There are so many different mediums constantly making money, but movies are for us and we really appreciate them and we want to make wonderful movies. I think everybody realises that’s what it’s all about, and we’ve been fortunate to be in spaces to experiment and take up different characters. Manju ma’am’s work is something I look up to, because I’ve watched all her movies growing up. She inspires most of us to create our own space and wait until we get something where we can prove ourselves and where there is a space for us as well.
I think it’s constantly changing and evolving. There are strong characters here and there, and, right now, the platform that we have is accessible to everybody. Everyone is watching our movies. It’s a small industry, but it’s reach is tremendous.
I’m so excited about the fact that people all over are watching our movies and giving feedback. My dad is also from the industry, and during his time, he never had this conversation with someone from abroad where they watch our movies and rave about the hero. He was telling me my generation is fortunate to have platforms such as Netflix and Amazon, where everybody can watch movies, without any language barrier, because of subtitles.