Navya Nair is an actress who predominantly worked in Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada films. After a break, she makes a comeback in the Malayalam Industry with her latest film Oruthee. In this conversation with Vishal Menon, she shares about her break phase and the uniqueness of Oruthee.
Edited Excerpts Below:
When you hear people say 'It is your comeback', what do you genuinely feel?
It is a burden actually, because it is a responsibility for us. Instead of saying come back, it would be good if people say, 'she is doing films after a break'. When people are saying 'comeback with Oruthee' or 'coming back with a bang' – I get super tense.
It is an opportunity to reinvent, right? We get more clarity when we watch a movie while not working for it. It's basically how there is more clarity watching from outside than being a part of it. So when you were making a comeback, did you have any plans about the kind of scripts you will be choosing?
Yes, I had a plan like I don't want to be a shadow in a film, I have never wanted to. I have done many films as per my wish and then I got married. After that, I did a film but it didn't click well. Since then, I have decided that if at all I am going to do a film, it should be a good film and the character should have good content. I think I have selected a good one.
If you were acting now, would you have decided to stop acting after marriage?
I wouldn't have decided like that. Things have changed now. Now, there is nothing like before marriage and after marriage. There is no discrimination of that sort. Also, the girls have become bold. If I had been born in this era or had come to cinema in this decade, I would have also made a decision like marriage is not going to matter in my career. It's my career and my profession and I will continue to do it.
When you were watching Malayalam films from outside, did you ever compare this decade and feel like you didn't get such scripts back in the day?
Every era demands a kind of film. The audience is the judge. If any film is a success or has been talked about, it means it has some kind of value in it. Every 5 to 10 years, things are changing. So we cannot compare the 2000s film with this decade. Whatever was the demand of the people then, that demand was served at that time.
Right now, there are a lot more realistic films, but it is like a wheel. The mysterious kind of films might come back again and realistic things might fade. I have always been lucky enough to do good projects and my characters are still celebrated. During the corona lockdown, my films would have been on the list of the most-watched films, to come out of boredom and all. I like films that are very hilarious and people like me definitely watch light-hearted movies. I am really missing films like Kalyanaraman and Pandippada.
I was watching an infamous cooking show that went viral and when the host said what she said, I was expecting you to obviously feel something but nicely change the topic. However, you went back to it and you stood by it. I was like, 'Oh my God! What she said is so solid'. Can you tell about that?
(Laughs) Actually, even before that, I used to answer straightforwardly. My answers were always upfront. I never used to give any diplomatic or polished answers. I say genuinely, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. This was also a very genuine question because I cook well. After the interview, many people think that I cannot cook. I can cook, but I understood.
My sister-in-law cannot cook and initially, I wondered why she couldn't cook. However, later on, I understood that she is good at many other things, but why we are insisting that just because she can't cook, she is not a good homemaker. It was a realisation within me. We are conditioned to think so but it is actually a choice. If it is mandatory, then every school should have cooking classes like drawing, music and needle classes.
From the age of 15, you were working 10-15 hours per day for 10 years and then there was suddenly a drop, so how was that phase?
It was a very difficult phase for me. Even deciding to get married was a very difficult decision for me. My parents wanted to get me married at 24. Right now, I tell others you shouldn't get married when your parents want you to get married. For that matter, you shouldn't marry just because your friends are married or because you don't have anything else to do.
In Kerala, we are used to living in houses. Suddenly, when I shifted to a flat in Bombay, that itself was a little disturbing for me. Adding to it, I wasn't very fluent in Hindi initially. I generally don't become friends with people easily, so that also didn't work.
As you said, so many people, crowds, appreciations, limelight, functions, inaugurations, dance programs, gulf tours, abroad shootings…all these things suddenly stopped and I was just in one single room. It was very difficult but I can adapt to situations well.
Before getting married, I thought about all these and I was mentally prepared as well, so I could face those things without much depression and all. I also immediately got pregnant and got my kid. Once your kid is born, you are left with no choice other than to take care of the kid. It is a 24*7 job, I was occupied and years went on like that with him.
What about the scripts that came your way? From the looks of it, Oruthee is about a woman who understands her problem and fights it. Can you tell about that?
She is a survivor. It is all about your own decisions. Even when you don't think about gender, whatever situation of injustice is happening in the society, we have the attitude of 'let it go'. We don't have the time or energy to fight for it. We are scared of society, what others would say and finally that we are alone in facing this. All these things usually scare us, so whatever injustice happens around us, we just keep quiet.
But if we are really in a position where we are insulted a lot and are facing all the shames under the sun, we finally reach a point where fear of society will disappear. From there onwards, you will have the courage to fight. This is what Oruthee is all about. In the film, Radha Mani is a very normal middle-class woman, she will never interfere in anything.
She will also let go of things because she can't fight. Radha Mani and her husband believe that they cannot fight with the big people and that they can only sit and cry about it. But finally, she is realising the fire in herself. Once the fear is gone, she gets the courage to fight. That is where Oruthee ends, with a fire to fight.