Nithya Menen began her career as a child artiste 21 years ago in an Indo-English film and later made her mark in the south Indian film industry. However, the actor never really dreamt of a Bollywood debut.
That’s the reason she took her own time and rejected many offers before venturing into Hindi films with upcoming sci-fi drama Mission Mangal. Menen said, “There always comes a time in one’s life when we want to expand, do something different. For me, doing the same things over and over again makes me a little bored. The stagnation gets to me. That was the time when Balki (R Balki, co-producer of Mission Mangal) sir called me and said, ‘I am doing this film which has a very interesting subject. It has a lot of actors but what I want you to play is this specific scientist.’ It sounded very interesting to me.”
“I was offered Hindi films earlier but I never felt it was a match for me. There was a mismatch. But this I felt was a nice one. So, I heard the whole narration and the director (Jagan Shakti) was a South Indian. He has seen all my films. So, they knew why they were approaching me. That was important. It wasn’t because, ‘Oh there is a South Indian actress. So, let’s cast her.’ They knew why they wanted me in the film,” Nithya Menen said in a group interaction ahead of the film’s release on August 15.
Speaking about the offers that did not work out, the actor said either the films were too commercial or the characters did no suit her sensibilities.
“There are different things that don’t work for you. I have had big production houses (approaching me) but those were just not my kind of films. At times, the character just doesn’t work for me. A lot of times I have told them, ‘Have you seen my previous films? This doesn’t work for me. There are certain things I don’t do.’ Somehow with Mission Mangal everything came together,” Menen said.
An actor runs the risk of getting lost in the crowd when he or she makes a debut in another language film with an ensemble cast, but that does not concern Menen. The Mersal star said she has never considered herself bigger than a film so it does not matter if she is alone or sharing screen space with many actors.
The actor said, “Never has it ever been so important to me to be the centre of attention, that only I should be seen. Never has that ever crossed my mind. I only see myself as an actor. A film is bigger than an actor. It has to be. That’s the only way we can make good films. We make mediocre films when an actor becomes bigger than the film. That’s when everything goes unbalanced. So as actors, we should always understand that a film is bigger than us. I am an actor. I do a character and I have to do it well.”
Artistes from different states in the South often find themselves at the receiving end of North Indian ignorance – from the assumption that they all speak the same language to the prejudice that they don’t know Hindi. Nithya Menen said she did experience such ignorance while working on Mission Mangal but she had fun with it because “it was not vindictive.”
“Yeah. But it’s not in a very vindictive way. It’s done from ignorance. But then they are very friendly. I feel in Bombay they were much more accepting. I felt less gap. On set, I was the South Indian representative of everything. Like, something would be happening and Akshay sir would point towards me, and I would be like, ‘Why are you pointing at me? So regarding anything South, they would point at me. It was a fun thing. Not something serious. I had fun with it. I would ask, ‘Why are you pointing at me?’ They would say, ‘Aap hi na. South Indian aap hi’. I would reply, ‘I have nothing to do with that film’,” the actor concluded.