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‘I want to play a light-hearted role in Tamil’- Cinema express

‘I want to play a light-hearted role in Tamil’

Nikhila opens up about her character in the upcoming series, Mathagam, the narrative of women characters in cinema, the debate between screen time and scope for performance, and more

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Published: 16th August 2023

The taste of success hits differently for each of us. Some are content and move forward along the same road. Some are buoyed by it, and take the road less travelled. After the astounding success of Por Thozhil, Nikhila Vimal, who made a lasting impact with her performance in the crime thriller, is back again in Tamil with yet another crime thriller, Mathagam. Even as Nikhila is well aware that she is returning to a similar territory, she is clear about the workings of the industry and understands her scope to choose roles.

“I look out for both performance scope and commercial viability. Honestly, this combination is a rarity. It is very difficult to pick and choose roles that have both of these. But post Covid, the audiences’ tastes have changed and I am trying to take up roles that audiences will like,” says Nikhila, who accepts that the whole process of selecting a script can get tedious. However, a pragmatic Nikhila asserts that she can only choose from what comes her way. “We also have to look at how the business aspects of the film,  the performance scope, and the ability of the team to deliver what was promised. I think nurturing such instincts comes under the skillset of an actor."

In Mathagam, Nikhila plays Vaidehi, who is a lot more than just the wife of the protagonist cop played by Atharvaa. She is a working woman, a former dancer, a new mother, who is dealing with her own set of struggles, including an identity crisis, post-partum depression, and more. “When I was offered this role, it felt nice to play a character with so many layers. While the series focuses on the play between Atharvaa and Manikandan, my role will have a separate track,” says Nikhila. While the layers of a supporting role is fascinating for an actor to play, we have seen how these tracks often end up diluting the central premise of a story. However, Nikhila believes such facets in a series like Mathagam will push forward the need for conversations around such topics. “Even in Malayalam, I have received scripts about post-partum depression. But I am not sure if a theatre-going audience might feel comfortable watching it unfold on screen, especially considering the limited runtime. Instead, in a series like Mathagam, there is space for such issues to be augmented, and dealt with unhurriedly. It also helps the audience to consume it with more ease.”

Be it in Por Thozhil or Mathagam, there is the issue of Nikhila’s characters seemingly having limited screen time even if the impact is inversely proportional. “Honestly, I have no wish to act in limited screen space. In fact, even recently I had asked for a couple of scenes to be added for me to take up a particular role. But if I think there is scope for performance and recognition, I do take up roles that might not offer me a longer screentime,” says the Thambi actor, who remains tight-lipped about her upcoming films, Mari Selvaraj's Vaazhai, and Nivin Pauly-starrer Thaaram. "But yeah... I would love to play a light-hearted role in Tamil."

Even as we spoke about her choice of roles, runtime, etc... Nikhila always touched upon the importance of commercial viability, and the changing landscape of content after the advent of OTT. In fact, Nikhila sees these streamers as a revolutionised version of the small screen. “I enjoy watching web series, and unlike our regular TV serials where characters are often dragged out for an inconsiderably long time, I like how webseries keep this in check. I enjoy the nuances that come when characters get to be fleshed out.”

As a woman of this age, Nikhila also opines on what constitutes a well-written role. “Usually I get female-centric scripts, that are about struggles and the hard lives of women. But I feel showcasing a woman's struggle isn't the only way to make a female-centric film. Why can't it be about her life, her happiness, and more. I don’t think such facets are explored enough. To show a woman with a problem, and showcasing her survival to prove her strength is not the kind of script I'd navigate towards," says Nikhila. Having said this, the actor also stresses the importance that women get in hero-centric films. "It is not enough to just include us for commercial elements. Even proper commercial stories can be told through female perspectives, and having women off-screen as well helps too."

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