Himika Bose, who entertained millennials with her hugely-popular fun sketches on digital platforms like TVF and Filter Copy, is excited about her first full-length Malayalam feature film Valiyaperunnal which hit screens today. In the movie, that revolves around dancing, Bose stars opposite Shane Nigam, one of Malayalam cinema’s gifted young actors. The actor, born in Kolkata and presently based in Mumbai, is also a trained professional dancer.
On the eve of the film’s release, indianexpress.com caught up with Himika Bose in Kochi to find out how she crossed daunting language hurdles to play the female lead in Valiyaperunnal.
You are back in Kerala for the release of Valiyaperunnal after spending almost five months shooting here. How do you feel?
It’s the fifth or sixth time that I am coming here (to Kerala). I am in love with this place. Kerala is more than a place. It’s a vibe. When you come from Mumbai, it’s a fresh change. I love Kerala.
This is the first time you are appearing in a Malayalam project. How did it come to you?
The role came to me at a very unexpected time. I had a friend who is a casting director in Mumbai. She called me up and asked me if I was interested in doing a Malayalam film. I told her I don’t know the language. But she said it’s a lead role and the character in the film is a dancer. Since I used to be a professional dancer so I thought to myself that I would get to play my old self. Also, I love challenges, so I thought why not. I sent my pictures and they had a proper audition format. They saw my photos and audition tape. Then I got the good news and I am here.
Tell us about your role in Valiyaperunnal.
My character’s name is Pooja. She is a Gujarati girl who stays in Mattancherry (a suburb of western Kochi). There is a big Gujarati community in Mattancherry. She is born and brought up there, and she is a dancer by profession. She is too young to have a proper profession, but she is focused on that. She is in love with Akkar (played by Shane Nigam) since school. He is also in the same troupe as her. My character is very emotional in a way. Whatever is in her head, she would say it. There is no filter. If she loves somebody, she will say it. If she hates somebody, she will make sure she would say it. So that’s also a point where Himika and Pooja come together. They are similar people.
Since you were a professional dancer, how did it feel to actually dance in front of the camera in a full-length feature film?
Honestly, I took up Valiyaperunnal because I thought I would get to dance in a film. It is hectic because for me I had to make sure I knew the dialogues and I had to be there for the rehearsals. You don’t get off days to rehearse. It’s like you finish shoot, and then you rehearse for two days while shooting for other scenes and then on the third day, you are shooting the sequence. It is hectic, but it didn’t feel like work because it is something that I love to do.
For a non-speaker, acting in a Malayalam film must have been very challenging. What was it like?
The language (laughs). engane…how do you guys even speak the language? I was here for five months. The schedule got stretched due to the floods last year. So instead of a 60-day schedule, we worked for 130 days. The first two months, I was mind-boggled. How am I supposed to understand what’s happening around me? Somehow, you literally feel like a foreigner in your own country because you don’t understand anything. Initially, I used to get worked up because I am a person who likes to know what’s happening on the set. Then I made sure to learn a few words. Little by little, I could understand. By the fourth or fifth month, I was ready. I was also very nervous. I didn’t want anyone to prompt me, so I had to mug up the lines. I had to learn the lines. I would write the meaning in Hindi and also how you pronounce it in Hindi. I also had to remember what the opposite actor’s dialogues mean for me to react to it. I had to do a lot of extra work, but I am not complaining.
You have worked previously in web projects for TVF and Filter Copy. Did the experience help in doing the film now?
The web space is very free. For example, if I am working with Filter Copy and if I have a script, since I have a way with the language, I can add to it. Just very small things. Why can’t we say this instead of that? Especially, in a Malayalam film, I felt like I was not able to add that much as I would in the web space. Because I didn’t have so much control over the language. You can’t really compare web with films because what you see on Filter Copy are one-day shoots. So you shoot for a day and it’s over. A film makes you stay in character for however long it goes on. For five months, I was literally a different person. I don’t think you give that much for a character for web as much as you would in a film. On the web, they say I can be me, but in a film, you have to be that person.
Describe your experience working with Shane Nigam, one of Malayalam industry’s leading young actors.
Shane is a really nice guy. Since all of my scenes were with him, we were shooting, dance and eating together. And that helped us form a nice bond. We had a nice chemistry. We were very comfortable with each other. There was no ego between us, as it may happen on sets. If he was not doing something right in a scene, I could tell him to fix it. And he will take that. He is not like how dare she say that. That’s very important. In that process, I learnt a lot from him. I think he is a tremendous actor. He is very consistent. If you ask him to give a second take, he will do it much better, not worse. It’s important to be very consistent. He showed me around Kochi a lot. He would also patiently translate to me what’s happening on the set. I had a lot of fun working with him. I am quite happy it was him in those shoes.
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