Being typecast in cinema is a privilege, says 'Chithha' actor Anjali Nair

Anjali’s role as the mother to the kidnapped kid in Chithha has won her laurels. She talks to us about delayed recognition, the unpredictability of cinema, and more.
Anjali Nair; a still from 'Chithha'
Anjali Nair; a still from 'Chithha'

Among the numerous metaphors that can be given to cinema, ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ would be the most appropriate term to reflect Anjali Nair’s career. The wheel of fortune is not a surety of opportunities but it still gives the player the hope of a better tomorrow. Probably why, even after 140-odd films to her credit, not many might know of the talents and potential of actor Anjali Nair.

Over the phone, Anjali, who has accompanied her daughter and child actor Avani for a shoot, ponders over “the luck” that has now made her Sundari’s (Sahasra Shree) Amma and Eeswaran’s (Siddharth) Anni in Chithha. And the same good fortune had previously granted her a significant role in the much-celebrated Mohanlal film Drishyam 2.

“Drishyam 2 paved my way for Chithha. After a look test, I was finalised for the role. When they mentioned the names of others being considered for the role, I felt honoured.”

Anjali’s role as the mother to the kidnapped kid in Chithha has won her laurels. In fact, this is not the first time Anjali has played the role of a mother.

“Given the history of my earlier films, many people mention me as a luck factor for the kids, who go on to win multiple awards. Some have already predicted that Sahasra will win all the top awards. However, I find all this talk about luck quite unlucky for me.”

The film industry is subject to unpredictability, and as Jean-Luc Godard once stated, it is a “beautiful fraud”. However, it is a fraud that entertains the people by creating different realities. Anjali points out how despite repeatedly playing a teacher or a mother, she has not yet been typecast.

“Being typecast is a privilege. For me, it is my profession that provides for my survival. When people question why a State Award winner opts for insignificant or repetitive roles for income, I am always aware that life awaits beyond these reels. However, I am not here to insist on what should have been given to me; I am here to do what I have been offered, and I’m grateful for whatever role comes my way.”

Even with repetitive roles, an actor can choose to play it differently. However, they might also have to account for unpredictable events. It was during the filming of Chithha that Anjali realised she was pregnant.

“On one of the shooting breaks, I came to know that I was carrying. That scene in Chithha where I fell on the road while chasing after Siddharth was all shot without me being aware that a heart was beating inside me.”

Explaining how she tapped into her own emotional turbulence to sail through Chithha, Anjali says, “Acting in Chithha was like a space for introspection and reflection. As  I have a daughter myself, I could easily relate to the role, but at the same time, the thought of what if I had a girl child again inside me and I had to bring her into a world that is not always fair to women was truly daunting.”

The magic of cinema ensures that the earnest performance of an actor is translated to the audience. But how long does it take for the actor to receive the audience recognition?

“I arrived in Chennai for a show and could only catch the film’s last few minutes. After the show, I waited outside the theatre, hoping someone would recognise me and give me feedback on my performance. However, no one approached me, and I was left waiting for real-time validation. Eventually, one of my acquaintances who happened to be at the theatre approached me, and we spoke. Other than that, no one else recognised me,” sighs Anjali. 

Cinema is indifferent to one’s struggles and often operates through chance, which often leaves actors like Anjali wondering why it took so long for them to get recognised.

“Despite my long tenure in the industry and collaboration with many notable personalities, I remain a stranger to many. I wonder if people could name more than five films that I have worked on,” she says.

Anjali excuses herself from the call to attend to her daughter Avani, who has completed a shot.

“I am a proud mother. I hope, at some point, I would be known as Avani’s mother...And I hope she will have films that people will remember,” she signs off by looking forward to a hopeful future.

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The New Indian Express