By Neelima Menon
She made her debut as a lead in 2015, then went on to do Tamil and Telugu cinema for the next three years. In 2018 she was seen in two of the top films from the year and 2019 is looking no less happening.
Excerpts from a quick chat with Nikhila Vimal…
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When I tell Nikhila Vimal that most of her dedicated fans are boys in their mid and late 20s, she is shocked. “Really? This is news for me,” followed by a delightful laugh. In fact, if you happen to follow social media, her photographs are shared with love reactions, with the boys proclaiming that “she is the kind of girl they want to take to their moms” (however ancient and traditional that sounds!).
She made an impressive debut as a lead in Sreebala K Menon’s Love 24/7(2015) where she played this trainee journalist who works her way up and prioritises her life with clarity (doesn’t let go of her ambitions for her boyfriend’s career growth). “I don’t think in every cinema I would get such characters. And I am not fussy about being part of women-centric films or that I should play the lead. As long as my character gets some space in the narrative, I do it.”
During her first film, she admits she was starstruck as every day an experienced actor would enter the sets and knock her socks off. Besides, her director left no stone unturned in raising her anxiety level— “You realise they are all fabulous actors?” she would remind me.
But Nikhila didn’t immediately get a leeway in Malayalam. It was the Tamil and Telugu filmmakers who sought her out. After Vetrivel(set in the backdrop of village centred around family rivalries and relationships) and Kidaari (an action mystery drama) both co-starring M Sasikumar, she did a Telugu film, MedaMeedaAbbayi(remake of OruVadakkanSelfie) and Gayathri, where she played Mohan Babu’s daughter. “Only language was the problem. I wasn’t even aware of Mohan Babu’s superstardom or that most of his blockbusters were remakes of Mohanlal hits.”
In 2018, she came back with AravindanteAdhithikal, a feel-good film with a talented ensemble cast. She still can’t get over the experience of sharing screen with Urvashi who played her mother in the film. “She is so motherly. She would pull me up if I didn’t apply kajal or bhindi. And I don’t know how she pulls up such acts. She was so good that very often our preparation would go for a toss. There is a scene where I cry plonked over the bed and she gets a phone call. Instead of saying “Ayyo Prabhetta” she says “Ayyo Kalanetta” and I burst into laughter. Her spontaneity can catch you off guard.” She admits comedy is difficult to pull off, it’s a combination of timing, expressions and dialogues.
Last year she also had Sathyan Anthikad’s NjanPrakashan, in which she played a nurse who, after being cheated by her boyfriend, decides to pay him back with the same coin.
A trained Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam dancer, she wants to be part of films where the male and female characters get equal space. “Even in a romantic film, it’s always from a man’s point of view. What about our emotions? Usually women are shown as naggers in such films. You don’t need to really cry and be emotional to show that you are a strong woman. In MazhavilKavadi, Urvashi had a brief role, but we remember her more than Sithara. We have a part in making our character strong. Fahadh is a villain in KumbalangiNights, but we see it more as a great performance. In NjanPrakasanhe cheats me, and I cheat him back, but people sympathise with him because of his performance. That space, we have to make it.”
Even in a romantic film, it’s always from a man’s point of view. What about our emotions? Usually women are shown as naggers in such films. You don’t need to really cry and be emotional to show that you are a strong woman.Nikhila Vimal
She loved Parvathy’s character in Take–off, Nimisha Sajayan’s character in Eeda, Urvashi’s inMichael Madana Kamarajan andThalayanamanthram and, of course Shobana’s in Manichithrathazhu.
Her process definitely doesn’t include homework—“I always hated doing homework (laughs). If you ask me, I will deliver. I like to be trained, taken to the monitor and the mistakes pointed out.”
Her immediate release is Nadirsha’s Mera Naam Shajiwhere she pairs with Asif Ali and she is also going to be seen in Dulquer Salman’s Oru Yamandan Premakatha. “Don’t ask me about the Dulquer film. I am not at liberty to talk about it.”