Kanmani’s dilemma

Eleven years in the industry, and lead in at least a dozen hit films, Nithya Menen continues to go places. She tells Showtime she likes breezy films, but is often offered serious roles

The first thing that strikes you about Bengaluru girl Nithya Menen, whose Mission Mangal is now showing across India, is her smile. You then see her sparkling eyes, and hear her lively voice.
Nithya debuted as a child actor in the English film ‘The Monkey Who Knew Too Much’ (1998) and soon followed it up with her first supporting role in the Kannada film ‘7 O' Clock’. She is now a much-in-demand star in many languages.

Fluent in five languages, Nithya has developed a style of her own. She is choosy, and likes to work on light subjects written around comedy, romance and love, but is mostly offered serious subjects.

“I have rejected so many thriller and horror films. I think when you are a performer, filmmakers feel you can do and certain characters, and I get offered those,” Nithya tells Showtime.

She made her debut in Telugu with Ala Modalaindi and in Tamil with 180. Akasha Gopuram was her first Malayalam film.

Emotional intelligence

Nithya is not trained and says her acting does not come “from a place of intellect.”

“I would like to call myself a spontaneous actor. And to be spontaneous, you have to also have something in you for it to come out,” she says.

On a more philosophical note, she muses: “To be an extraordinary actor, you have to keep growing and learning as a human being. Acting is all about emotional intelligence. You have to be able to perceive and understand so many complicated emotions and for that you have to take time off work and spend an equal amount of time growing as a person. This is my way of looking at acting and the profession.”

Subtle emotions

On her hit film OK Kanmani with Mani Rathnam, she says, “He is a director who never misses a single emotion. Even the most subtle of expressions is noted and incorporated in his films.”

Nithya loves plain speaking, and is sometimes accused of arrogance. How does she handle negativity and trolls in this era of social media?

“Negativity is everywhere. But we can’t change the world and change people around us. My way of dealing with anything that disturbs me is to turn my attention inward. I go into a whole journey which is inward and try to decipher what went wrong with me and why it affected me so much. I deal with it internally and emerge more positive than ever before,” she says.

Mars Experience

In Mission Mangal, she plays one of the five women scientists launching a space mission. How was the experience?

“I enjoyed the dynamics we shared. Everybody felt secure and we were truly fond of one another. We gelled well as a team and that strong chemistry reflected on screen,” she says.
She sees it as a proud moment for India because “we are making films on our achievements in space just like other countries."Nithya has her hands full and is doing films in five languages. "I am working on a Malayalam film called ‘Aaram Thirukalpana’ directed by the talented Ajay. I am also working on a Telugu film with a mother-daughter subject,” she signs off.

Fluent in Kannada

Nithya was born in Bengaluru and has lived in the city for most of her life. She went to Poorna Prajna School and later to Mount Carmel College. “I am most comfortable in Kannada. I can fluently speak and write Kannada. In fact, the language is close to my heart,” says Nithya.

What are her fondest memories of the city? “A lot of my childhood was spent here. I  remember the tall Gulmohar trees lining the streets. The roads were wide. I deeply miss the Bengaluru I knew when I was growing up in the 1980s and ’90s.” she says  

Challenging solo act

Among her tough roles, Nithya lists the one in Praana, a multilingual psychological thriller directed by V K Prakash and written by Rajesh Jayaraman. “When we first read the script, we wondered how a film could be made with just one person. This one thought was enough to set the creative ball rolling. We can’t be creative unless we do something extraordinary. We were eager to discover how a film could be made around just one character,” says Nithya.

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