‘I learnt acting and Malayalam on the sets of Tharangam’
The Mumbai-based RJ-turned-actor Neha Iyer gets chatty about the challenges of playing Omana Varghese
It was an advertisement wherein she starred with Mohanlal that paved her way into the Malayalam film industry. Exactly, one year after she appeared in it, Neha Iyer got a call from the Launch Pad Casting Company asking whether she would be interested in playing Omana Varghese in the Tovino Thomas-starrer Tharangam.
"I didn't need to think much. When they briefed me on the character, I knew this was it," says Neha, who is a familiar face in many advertisements, including Pears. As she braces up to make her debut, Neha opens up about learning Malayalam and getting under the skin of Omana Varghese.
In love with the stage
I have always been drawn to performance art and was active in theatre during and after my college days. After being a radio jockey for some time, the acting bug bit me. That's when I started doing theatre with Makarand Deshpande. I was also modelling at that time. One advertisement led to another until the one with Mohanlal happened. The people at Launch Pad told me that they had me in mind for another project, but it failed to materialise. That's when Tharangam came along. I was thrilled to bits when chosen.
Malayalam is all Greek to me
Born and raised in Mumbai, Malayalam was alien to me. But, I never considered language as an impediment to chasing my dreams. Though I had a tough time learning the dialogues, the support the crew gave me soothed my fraying nerves. In fact, after a month, I even started talking in Malayalam.
Nevertheless, it was a strenuous effort considering that I had to give the right expressions, plus memorise the lengthy dialogues. We shot in April when the temperature was peaking in Kerala and I almost fell ill as it was unbearably hot. The work culture in Mollywood was different, too, as I was used to a strict shift system. But, again my biggest blessing was the crew. They were a bunch of amazing people. Director Arun Dominic was of immense support as he gave me the creative freedom to improvise and work on my scenes.
Omana Varghese and me
Yes, Omana Varghese, a middle-aged woman, and I might have nothing in common, including her catering service, but she wasn't entirely unrelatable. In fact, what makes Omana stand apart is her independent streak. Being in a profession that is very competitive has made me acquire the same qualities. So, I could easily get under her skin. In fact, I was living as Omana throughout the shoot. The crew has given me a positive feedback and I am waiting for the movie to be released.