Two minutes into a conversation, you are bowled over by Malavika Nair’s joie de vivre. Expressive and jaunty, she has essayed contrasting roles in Kollywood and Tollywood. Four years after debuting as a child artiste in ‘Ustad Hotel’ (Malayalam), she is sure of one thing – she wants to act. In a cool chat over cups of lemon tea with Sashidhar Adivi, the Kerala-born and Delhi raised actress let slip interesting things.
How is the transformation being an actress?
I never wanted to act. Even after debuting, I didn’t know how to act. I was 13, was good at studies. But my dad wanted me to get the exposure and as such he asked me to try my luck in acting. We have no filmi background. My grandpa was into theatre, so as a child, my dad was always amused by watching films all the time. In the beginning, I used to be very camera-conscious. Everybody noticed that I was not at all good. After ‘Cuckoo’ (Tamil film), dad was very surprised. He is proud that he took the right decision. But I am not very serious about it. I am not ambitious; I don’t want to beat anybody here. Acting is a different ball game compared to print modeling. Initially, it was hard to step out of the comfort zone but now I realized acting merely as a part of life.
Wasn’t it difficult juggling between acting and studies?
There was a time when marks did matter. But now, I realize that academics or doing well in life is not defined by your education or salary. There is nothing much to look forward to in the scores. If I can’t score 90, I will score 80 and that’s OK,” she says. Her best experiences have been in the field of cinema. “When I watched
‘Cuckoo’, I realized that I didn’t have a clue of what I was capable of. I was the lead in it and when I was told that I would be playing a visually-impaired girl, I was shocked. Certain preconceived notions could constrain you. Till ‘Evade Subramanyam’, I was half-hearted and it was only mid way in the shooting, I actually started enjoying acting whole-heartedly. It’s an amazing experience trying to figure out how my character would react, etc.
How did you change as a person over the years?
I was detached to the film-making process initially. As a person, I have changed. I don’t know whether it’s because of the creative people that I get to meet. Back then, I could predict what exactly I wanted in life. I was not open to new ideas. I like the way I am changing now. I love myself more for all my faults. The definition of perfection doesn’t exist.” I definitely I see myself as an actor. But I will do other things as well. I am very much interested in anthropology and doing sketching. I will take a year’s break after 12th and decide what I will do.
How do your teachers see you in Delhi?
Initially, my teachers did tell me that it’s too much of a risk to do cinema at an early age. But after the Filmfare Award (for ‘Cuckoo’), they have started respecting me a lot for sailing on both the boats. They go the extra mile to teach me. Those who have seen me in my movies think that it’s not the person they see in the school. In fact, my teachers were surprised to see me in the role of bride in the Telugu film ‘Kalyana Vaibhogame’. They said, ‘Is this our Malavika’? (she chuckles).
Any puppy love?
Yes! Teachers would introduce me as an actor in Delhi. So, guys would come to me. It was fun. But after the Filmfare Award (in Class 11), they think that I am off the limit. They are like, ‘let’s not go to her…she’s gonna say no’ (laughs). But when I was Kerala, I was the most sought-after in Class 7. It was the transition phase and I started feeling ‘that guy looks good’, etc. I did have a fling in Class 8. I had a crush on a guy. We were in different sections. I used to wait for him to come to the combined classes. We used to look at each other (blushes) and e ven went home walking. He asked me ‘will you be my girlfriend? We hung out, and it was crazy. But my teachers were upset with my low scores. Till Class 7 I was doing well but after falling for him I could not give time for studies. Boyfriends are such a distraction (winks). Later, he went to UAE and we used to interact over phone. But one day, I lied to my dad and he came to know about that guy, but I can never lie to my mom. A couple of years later, I found it to be stupid, so it did not last long but we are still friends.
Are you game for glamour roles?
If there is something that I haven’t done till now, I will do. It’s not like commercial cinema is wrong. I totally respect people who do that. But my taste is not just that. It’s not like I will never do a movie like that. But as I am not comfortable in revealing attires, I may not do it. It depends on whether I am mature enough at that time to distance my personal space from what I feel about the character.