Anna Ben: Kalki is in stark contrast to what I have done so far

Anna Ben discusses her role in Kalki 2898 AD, performing stunts in the film, returning to Malayalam cinema, Kottukkaali, and more
Kalki 2898 AD-Anna Ben
Anna Ben (L), a poster of her character in Kalki 2898 AD

Anna Ben has an extended cameo in the recently released big-budget sci-fi Kalki 2898 AD, a role she says is so different from the characters she has played so far. In the film, she is seen alongside some of the legends in Indian cinema like Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan, and Shobana, all of whom play characters tonally in stark contrast with Anna's playful Kyra. “Usually, filmmakers approach me for female-centric roles or characters who go through some sort of struggle. However, Kalki 2898 AD presented me with an opportunity to explore a new space: action. It is the first time I am doing stunts in a film,” reveals Anna Ben.

Kalki 2898 AD-Anna Ben
A poster of Anna Ben as Kyra from Kalki 2898 AD

The actor does not know the exact reason why director Nag Ashwin cast her in the role of Kyra, a chirpy rebel from the hidden city of Shambala. However, she shares, “I had asked director Nag Ashwin why he approached me for the role, and he told me that it is one of his favourite characters in the film and that he wanted a likeable face for it. He has seen most of my films and has identified that aspect in my earlier roles. It is a character with some humour who is unapologetically optimistic, very hyper, and talkative—a manic pixie dream girl type. My physicality also fits in with the concept of a smaller person doing big stunts, which probably explains why Nag sir approached me for the role,” says Anna with a smile.

One aspect that makes Kyra stand out from the rest of the rebels in the film is the sheer level of confidence she exudes. She is devoid of the baggage that some of the other rebels from Shambala carry with them as a consequence of years of oppression at the hands of Supreme Yaskin (Kamal Haasan). Talking about her awareness of the whole Kalki universe, she says, “Only director Nag Ashwin knows the universe fully. I know my character arc and that the film is about Kali Yuga. I also know something about the characters of Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, and Prabhas. I understood the whole story only after watching the film. There are plenty of stories in Indian mythology, and Kalki is a well-executed example of a large-scale production that draws from ancient literature and that could be proudly presented to an international audience.”

Speaking of which, Kalki 2898 AD also presented Anna with the opportunity to work with international talent, which she says helped her navigate the complexities of doing the stunts. “I was very happy and excited, because not always do you get to act in such a star-studded film. However, this also comes with a lot of responsibility. So the last thing you want in such a film is to pick up an injury and hinder the shoot. Thankfully, my action choreographer Nick Powell (The Bourne Identity) and director Nag Ashwin, reassured me of the backup options, even as they encouraged me to do the action sequences for practical reasons. And like a fool, I jumped ahead and did it, knowing the risk and reward involved,” quips Anna.

The actor then goes on to talk about Malayalam cinema, the industry where she started her career, with 2019’s Kumbalangi Nights. “Everyone seems to think that I am now acting in Telugu or Tamil cinema alone, but I have been waiting for good screenplays from Malayalam since last year's Thrishanku. I know it is a great phase for the industry here, with plenty of experimentation going on, and exploring something new and creative is what drives actors. I want to be an active part of Malayalam cinema again.”

Kottukkaali-Anna Ben
A still of Anna Ben from Kottukkaali

The actor also opens up about her upcoming theatrical release Kottukkaali (The Adamant Girl), which stars Soori in the lead and is directed by PS Vinothraj of Koozhangal-fame. “I play a character named Meena in the film, and it is a mostly silent role. I have very little dialogue in the film. The film explores many socio-political issues prevalent around India, and it shows the interesting dynamics between families and the caste system. It is structured in the form of a travel film and follows a number of characters and their interpersonal relationships. Soori plays an anti-hero in the film. It premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and won a special jury award at TIFF Romania. Vinoth sir is a brilliant director with a different narration and cinematic style. He is one to watch out for. We plan to release it theatrically in August. Kottukkaali is in stark contrast to what I have done in Kalki,” the actor signs off.

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