Joshiy sir treats every character like a hero: Nyla Usha
The actor talks about her character in Porinju Mariyam Jose, getting over the fear of working with director Joshiy and being a role model for women
After a break, the effervescent Nyla Usha is back in another lead role, in legendary director Joshiy’s film, no less. She plays Alapatt Mariyam, one of the three main characters of his eagerly awaited film Porinju Mariyam Jose, which arrives in theatres this Friday. In the film, she’ll be sharing the screen with Joju George and Chemban Vinod Jose, who play Porinju and Jose respectively.
An RJ by profession, Nyla still doesn’t take the ‘celebrity’ tag seriously. “You feel like a celebrity in the midst of a large crowd, but then the feeling slowly dissipates once you get in your car and leave. Everything is back to normal later,” she says.
What she really gets a kick out of, however, is the fact that she is seen as an inspirational figure by a lot of women. “Because I’m able to balance my family and professional life, which a lot of women are unable to do, I’m a role model for them,” she believes. “There are women who could be more talented than me but can’t pursue their passion due to family commitments. And when they see me do all these things, they feel maybe it’s not too late for them to start.”
How scary is it to be on the set of a Joshiy film? Because I’ve heard some stories.
(Laughs) Yes, I’ve heard them too. Since there was always this talk in the air that he is a very serious person, I came to the set slightly worried because I don’t rate myself as a great actor who is always fully prepared. I’m a clean slate. I just show up on set and do whatever I feel at that particular moment. I don’t know any techniques of acting at all. So the idea was to get through everything without making him furious. But when I met him for the first time before the shoot, I found him to be a simple man. He even introduced me to his family. So I thought maybe he’ll change his colours on the set.
But when filming began—and the first two scenes feature me—he still didn’t carry the airs of a master director. But, as you know, certain people command respect and, because of the volume of work he has done, as part of the respect, everyone is naturally scared. Personally, I think he is a very sweet person. He used to sit with us and recount his experiences of making his earlier classics like New Delhi, January Oru Orma, etc. And he has not shared those things in any interview. It’s a surreal feeling to hear about the films we grew up watching. I was never scared of him after the first day.
Could you give us a gist of what the film is about?
It’s set in 80s’ Thrissur, against the backdrop of the church festivals, the fights, and payback. It’s about the little fights eventually getting bigger and uglier and their consequences. There is love, death, hope, revenge... everything.
Are you into violent films generally?
No. I cannot see fights and bloodshed. I don’t mind violence if they’re part of the story but not when it’s present just for the sake of it. I love peace and quiet. I was in the last flight that landed in Kochi some days ago when the floods happened, and I was supposed to fly off to somewhere else but got stuck in the airport. And there I saw a group of people fighting, which got me very anxious. I can’t stand things like that.
My favourite of all your characters is Effy from Diwanjimoola Grand Prix. Is Mariyam, by any chance, a more potent version of her?
Yes, Mariyam is definitely a very powerful character. The speciality of any Joshiy film is that he treats every character like a hero. Mariyam is a hero, and she gets an introduction worthy of one. In her first scene itself, you get an idea of who she is. She is a firebrand. The difference between Effy and Mariyam is that the former is not very loud even though she is bold and a bit careless. Mariyam, on the other hand, is very statement-driven. There are a lot of layers to her—she goes through a lot of emotions—and she makes her presence known.
Is RJ-ing closer to you as a profession? Also, does it make you feel much closer to people as opposed to acting?
Absolutely. With acting, I’m playing somebody else. I have to look and be a certain way. With RJ-ing, I’m just being me. I switch on the mic and become myself. What better incentive than people liking you for what you are? I don’t think people listen to me because of my voice; it has to be the personality behind that voice. They know my likes and dislikes. For some, the radio is like a member of their family. For me, be it sad or happy days, when I switch on that mic, I forget everything else. It’s very rejuvenating for me. I’m on the air for five hours in the morning. Making people happy and spreading positive vibes is a very beautiful job, isn’t it?