It’s not very often that an artiste who’s predominantly known for her work in south Indian films is adored by audiences from across the country. Actress Nithya Menen is one-of-a-kind that way. Even before the actor made her Bollywood debut in Misson Mangal, film buffs from outside the south of India had been wowed by her performances. And now with Nithya making her web-series debut in Breathe Into The Shadows, she’s being noticed by audiences in and outside India.
Poised and extremely self-aware, Nithya is a delight to talk to and in this conversation with Silverscreen India, she gets candid about Breathe, cinema and more…
The actor begins with the response to the Amazon Original Series, Breathe, “It has been brilliant. People are loving it. Surprisingly, even before Breathe released, a lot of people who aren’t from south India had seen the dubbed versions of my films. When I’d go to Bombay, I’d have people coming up to me and talking to me. So more than a new set of audience, I feel like a lot of old viewers have watched me. I just felt like I was doing more for the Hindi-speaking audience.”
Working with Abhishek Bachchan, Amit Sadh and the rest of the Breathe team was a great experience she says. “It’s the kind of team I’ve always wanted to work in. It was an environment where an artiste’s emotional space was understood and respected. I really got along well with Mayank (director of Breathe) and others who were part of the series.”
The storyline of the series saw Nithya’s character do things that defied the law in order to save her daughter. The ending of the series was discussed by many viewers. Did she think what her character did on the show was justified? “I don’t think that as an actor I need to have a personal view on it. Of course, there are times when you make decisions based on your personal space, but content is content at the end of the day. We don’t have to necessarily agree with the characters and it’s not important to pass a judgement on any of it. Performance is what comes first,” she explains.
While doing a web-series wasn’t a conscious decision, she reveals that she’s being offered many scripts in the OTT space. “I’m reading a lot of scripts. And like I’ve done with my films, I’ll do the same thing here too. I’m going to make sure the script really talks to me and I’m connecting to it. I’ve okayed something in the regional space with Prime, but I can’t talk about it yet,” she reveals.
On the film front, her last cinematic outing was a Malayalam film called Kolambi. In Hindi, her debut Bollywood film Mission Mangal and now Breathe have both garnered her appreciation. So will we see her do more Hindi content? “Sure. I’d love to do more. But I’ve never thought of it as Bollywood or Kollywood. If it comes my way, I’ll do it,” and adds that though there has been a plethora of films that she’s looked upto in Hindi, she doesn’t have any individual favorites when it comes to filmmakers. “But there’s definitely a kind of cinema that I’d love to be part of,” says the actor. Despite having played many strong female characters in her films, Nithya states that she doesn’t see movies as women-oriented or male-oriented. “It’s the stories that are far more important to me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a man or woman in the center of it. I want to see good cinema being made and genuine stories being told,” she muses.
As for her upcoming projects, she’s doing the Jayalalithaa biopic directed by Priyadarshini and also has plenty of other projects lined up. “There are two Telugu films – one that’s almost finished and one that has to start. I’m looking forward to them as they’re different from what I’ve done before. I have a Tamil film with Dhanush, which we will start working on post the lockdown,” reveals Nithya, who also has the next season of Breathe lined up.
The actress is now quite active on Instagram and regularly posts stories, posts and videos to keep her fans engaged. Amidst all the buzz and noise, how does she manage to maintain a semblance of peace? “Thankfully, the number of negative comments I get are usually very less compared to the positive ones. I rarely get anything that shakes me up too much – I’m blessed that way. Whenever I see anything vile or vicious, I block the person and don’t think about it beyond that. If you get rid of the few people who do that, it helps. You have a right to decide who gets space on your page,” she says.
While she’s always been well-versed in Hindi and is fluent in the language, not many know that Nithya hails from Bengaluru. So apart from Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam, the actress can speak Kannada too. “It’s not like I’m choosing any language consciously. If it comes to me and speaks to me, I’ll do it. I have no projects in Kannada right now, but I’d love to do more in the language.”
During the lockdown, the actor has been doing a lot of productive stuff. But she’s also having her ‘calm time’ and good things have come out of it. “I won’t get this time again and I’m trying to make the best use of it. There has been introspection and personal realisations, but these are not things I’d talk about on a public platform. This is a time when everyone is faced with internal challenges and everyone has to face them,” she says.
With all the adulation and success that she’s seen over the years, Nithya’s managed to keep herself grounded. She’s very self-aware. Ask her how she balances her popularity with everything else in life and she replies, “To some extent, the fame is not what I’m searching for. I’m not really here to be validated or to be looked up to. If that was the point, then it would have made a huge impact on me and changed me in a lot of ways. To me, this is an art form and I enjoy collaborating with people. It’s more about the bunch of talented people I work with and that’s the thought process which I live with, so I don’t really have the problem of having to balance anything.”