Location Diaries: Abhirami - Dual challenge

This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week, actor Abhirami talks about her experience shooting for Eleven
Location Diaries: Abhirami - Dual challenge

While shooting for the Naveen Chandra-starrer Eleven, actor Abhirami had some novel experiences. "Eleven is my first truly bi-lingual movie, for which we shot in both Tamil and Telugu. We would shoot a scene in Tamil and then repeat it in Telugu. Even single shots, regardless of whether it was a close-up or a mid-range shot, were shot in both languages. Director Lokkesh Ajls did not believe in compromises like doing lip sync adjustments later in dubbing," says Abhirami.

Another challenge was getting the metre of acting in each language right. "Acting in Tamil is different from acting in Telugu. So to capture that change in expressions and body language was an exciting challenge for me. Also, since I grew up speaking Tamil, memorising the Telugu lines and reacting accordingly was a lot more work for me since I only picked up Telugu as an adult. But it was very interesting and I enjoyed the whole process."

She also got to play her character at two different ages. Abhirami says, "This was also a first for me. Approaching the same character at two different stages in life required a change in body language and pacing of the dialogue. To work on the maturity that sets in with age was an interesting dilemma to deal with for me." During the dubbing, too, she had to work on changing the pitch and texture of her voice according to her screen age. "We took a lot of time to revisit the scenes to ensure the voice change was significantly different for each age," reveals the actor.

She appreciates debut director Lokkesh's attention to detail and confidence in his work. "Lokkesh has written the dialogues too. Being a murder mystery, the lines he wrote were such that any word could contain a significant clue. So he insisted that we stick to the exact dialogue without improvising on sets." Though it was a challenge shooting this way, Abhirami says she actually enjoyed it. "Because I don't speak Telugu often, I couldn't improvise, so I memorised the lines and stuck to the dialogues given. But since I speak and think in Tamil, I had to make an extra effort to stick to the script and be careful to change even a single word, comma or pause. I really enjoyed this curve ball Lokkesh threw at me. Kudos to him for being so confident about his screenplay, which provided such an interesting challenge to me as an actor."

Working with Naveen Chandra, Abhirami observed his keen attention to detail on sets. "He's a brilliant actor. He is also a very astute observer. For one scene, we shot inside a beautiful bungalow with a certain colour scheme that was in tune with the story. However, I noticed a power outlet with a jarring colour palette that did not match the rest of the room's aesthetic. Naveen noticed it too and immediately suggested to the art department that a cupboard be moved forward to cover the outlet. Even the way he spoke about camera angles, emotions, pauses between dialogues, and the way he approached a scene, he had the approach of a keen storyteller. I told him he will make a good director someday!"

She also connected with Naveen on a personal level: "Both of us have children of the same age. So we had a lot of stories to share about parenting, being on sets and being away from family."

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