Zoya Hussain: Ridiculous to limit yourself to one language
The actor on making her trilingual debut with Kaadan and shooting with elephants
Linguistic challenges and Zoya Hussain go hand in hand. For her debut film, Mukkabaaz (2017), she learnt to sign as a mute girl who falls for a boxer. In Laal Kaptaan (2019), her nameless widow spoke in a rough, ancient tongue. And now she turns up in Kaadan, speaking not just Tamil but also Telugu (Aranya) and Hindi (Haathi Mere Saathi) in the other versions.
“It took some adjusting because I had to do everything thrice,” the actor shares. “Moreover, every language has its own rhythm and nuances. So with each take, my body language and expressions had to be different.”
Zoya confirms that she actively sought out a trilingual project. “I think it’s ridiculous to be limited by one language or kind of cinema. Today, more than ever, actors are crossing over and working in all industries. It’s a hugely enriching experience for any performer.”
In the film, Zoya essays Aruvi, a tribal girl at odds with forest encroachers. Orphaned at birth, she’s joined by her brother in her quest for justice. They prove a strong ally for Kaadan (Rana Daggubati), a jungle dweller protecting his beloved elephants from greedy developers.
“I hope a film like Kaadan opens up the discussion on conservation,” Zoya says. “If 2020 taught us anything, it was that we must give back to nature. I wish more films are made that emphasise the synergy between humans and animals.”
Shooting in an actual forest reserve turned out to be an exhilarating experience for her. “Just walking in that mud and interacting with the elephants contributed so much to our characters,” shares Zoya, who grew up on a farm and feels an elemental connect to nature.
It also helped that the elephants were benign co-stars. “There was no need for any extra prep because they are super chilled out. They are calm creatures, with an amazing memory. All we need to do is relax and learn to adapt to their company.”
Relax and adapt... how hard could that be?