Amala Paul’s ‘transformation’ as the actress would like to call it, can be largely attributed to a recent passion: her travels. In this interview, she tells us how her solo sojourns have influenced her growth as a person, and her career
There’s a chirpiness in Amala Paul’s voice when I call to speak to her about her latest film Thiruttuppayale 2, scheduled to hit theatres this Friday (November 30). It’s partly due to the character she plays and partly due to her short holiday in Ladakh with one of her stylists.
If you’ve scrolled through the actress’s Instagram feed, you’d see landscapes to die for, and a deeply contemplative line or two about life. The former is because of the picturesque beauty all around and the latter reflects the state of mind she is in these days. She’s at peace with herself, thanks to the mountains, and that shows in the work she’s taking up, too.
“Even though I had one film earlier this year (VIP2), I would call this my first release of the year. There are some films where you are completely fulfilled as an actor. There’s an amazing story, the film revolves around your character, and you get a director who’s also a good teacher. You get co-stars who are fantastic actors [Prasanna and Bobby Simma], and a production house like AGS to support you. This is that kind of film.”
The trailers of the film show the actors in roles unlike what they have been seen in so far. “It is refreshing for us to be a part of such a film, and will be refreshing for the audience to see us this way too,” assures Amala. “And so, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve gotten used to film releases and have learnt to keep the jitters at bay. The last time I felt it was for Amma Kanakku. Now, it’s back again, and I feel like a student waiting for the results. But, I’m confident I’ve done my exams well,” she laughs.
Another thing Amala particularly likes about TP2 is her look. “All credit to Susi Sir. When I heard the narration about a girl from Karaikudi, I was mentally prepared to play a middle class de-glam girl. But, when he told me the look over Skype when I was in Bali, I was pleasantly surprised. Because, after all these years, you’ve grown to accept that a woman-centric film can never have you looking great — it has to be de-glam, serious and espousing some moral. But, Agalvilakku, my character, is deeply individualistic, artistic, likes to do things differently, and has a view about how colourful her life should be.”
Speaking about her portrayal, she says: “After Mynaa, I think this is one film that focusses on my face, eyes… there are a lot of tight close-up shots. Susi Sir would go in for a retake if he felt the camera had not captured the essence of beauty as he’d envisioned it.”
After a long time, Amala has also worked with a director who invested time and effort in her character. “Sir held discussions with my stylist and I, and was particular there be no clichés. Agalvilakku is a lovely name, and he’s actually made a poem out of me in the film!”
In TP2, Amala plays a character who has to protect the light within her. “It’s one of the most honest characters I’ve done. Usually, the hero and heroine are all positive. But, in real life, we display various shades, from white to grey to dark, depending on the situation. I love that I’m no Sathi Leelavathi in the movie; I’m real.”
Speaking about her journey from 2009, Amala says she’s grown into a very different person. “I was practically a kid when I entered the industry. I don’t remember being excited about anything other than sleeping and eating. This is a new version of me. I’m super passionate about work, and super excited about the film that I’m being offered; these are roles that I can contribute to. I’m hoping this is the beginning of a great phase.”
Most of the transformation has taken place because of her solo sojourns to mountains. “When you take off alone, you start your inner growth. I now believe that is the only way to live. It has transformed me as a person,” she says.
What triggered the decision to travel? Amala speaks in a rush, like she’s waiting to tell the world what this really means to her. “As an actor, you’re surrounded by people. At some stage, it is entirely possible that all the attention gets to you, and you miss out on life. I realised I was dependent on others for everything; it grew suffocating. I know who I originally am — the girl from Aluva who spent her childhood fishing, swimming in the river and reveling in the wilderness. I wanted that joy back. Else, you work, come back home… where’s the excitement? I needed a passion outside of cinema. And so, I told my parents I needed to travel alone. I trekked when life was hard, I trekked when it got beautiful…Now, I concentrate on work better, and keep waiting to take a break every now and then.”
Helping her take frequent breaks is her manager Pradeep. “The minute a trek is open, I tell him to let me go, and he somehow manages to give me a few days off. As a result, I return ready to concentrate better on work.”
She needs that focus, considering there’s plenty on her platter. Amala is also doing the Tamil remake of Bhaskar The Rascal, Raakshasi with Vishnu Vishal, is the lead in the woman-centric Adho Andha Paravai Pola, besides some other films in Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada.
“I feel this is my best phase in a long time. I feel like a completely new person, and am all set to live my life in all possible ways,” she signs off.
The Amala Paul interview is a Silverscreen exclusive.