(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Many of youmay not recognise her by her face, but by the beautiful cadence of her voice. It is after all the first thing we hear in the morning. RJ Nyla Usha has been gracing us with her breakfast show on Hit 96.7 FM for over a decade now.
But she is among the rare breed of artists who can say she's been on both ends of the spectrum; she has interviewed countless celebrities and artists as an RJ and since she entered the Malayalam film industry in 2013, she has been interviewed just as many times.
She debuted with Kunjananthante Kada opposite South superstar Mammootty and went on to appear in blockbusters like Punyalan Agarbattis, Gangster, Lucifer and more.
We caught up with the actress to discuss her colourful career and the role she plays in Porinju Mariam Jose, during the film's press meet held at the Armani Hotel in Burj Khalifa last week.
In Porinju Mariam Jose, Nyla plays one of the lead characters, Mariam. The movie set in the eighties revolves around the lives of three people, Porinju, Mariam and Jose, through the unique rituals followed by the people of Thrissur in Kerala. Nyla plays a bold Christian woman who holds power in her community and isn't afraid to show it. "It's all a faade, however. She's very strong, she's a money lender, she lives alone, she fights, but deep inside that's not her. She's very emotional and there's a reason why she does all this," says Nyla about her role.
Directed by the man behind mass entertainers like No. 20 Madras Mail, Dhruvam, Lelam, Naran, and Run Baby Run, this is a comeback film of sorts for veteran director Joshi after a 4-year sabbatical. And judging from the trailer of Porinju Mariam Jose he is back with a bang. "What attracted me to the movie was the director. I wanted to do a film with Joshi. I have grown up watching his movies; that's the kind of legend he is and I wanted to be a part of his film. Joshi has made so many powerful movies in the span of 41 years. All of them big mass hits," praises Nyla.
"If I had not done this movie I would have killed myself because it would have been such a big miss. But I did it and I think that was the best decision I made last year."
Phases of Malayalam cinema
The industry is going through a golden phase currently where it's straying away from being solely entertainment focused and putting out character driven stories. "Every era is very clear in Malayalam films. If you see a movie you would know that this is a movie of the eighties, not based on the actors who've done that but based on the storytelling. During that era it was all about the husband, wife and the kid; then it moved on to a story of friends and then it moved onto entertainment and fights and today it's more realistic. You don't actually go to the theatre to watch a good story. You want to leave the theatre and feel like you've been part of a journey just because it was so real. So that is how movies in Malayalam is made now," Nyla says.
"Porinju Mariam Jose is a fictionalised tale, an entertainer. There's a realistic approach to the film but I would say this is more of a cinematic film." Nyla thinks it's the best time to be in the Malayalam film industry today. "Especially for me because I walked into films much later than people usually do. I started doing films in my late twenties. But when I was approached with good characters and films I did them. I feel like this is the right age for people to walk in. You hear a lot of people saying that cinema is not a great place for women to be in but I have never faced any threats. It was all a good experience and I've been treated with a lot of respect."
Cherry picking her roles
Nyla picks her projects after much deliberation. Also, being an RJ doesn't give her the luxury to do too many movies. So what's the criteria for choosing her films? "Firstly, the character. Is this something meaty? Does the film really need me? Do I just go there and be part of the frames or do I have something to perform? Secondly, the director. I believe a lot in the director. No matter how great the cinematographer is or how great the actor is or the rest of the art department, unless you have a strong director nothing really works out. He's the captain. So, I check on who the captain is. Of course, there are new directors you should also give opportunities to as well. If it is a new director I look at who the co-actors are, who the scriptwriter is and how well he's planned the cinema," Nyla elaborates.
As much as she loves everything she does Nyla finds it hard to strike a balance between her two careers. "It's very difficult. I haven't taken a break in 5 or 6 years. Every time I'm away from Dubai it's almost always for work. I'm also a TV presenter and an MC. But I love radio, I think that's where my best self is. Movies are something which I'm only learning. I'm not yet there, I still have to watch Porinju Mariam Jose to rate me as an actor. But radio and stage is where I feel like it's my area, my cup of tea."
Nyla's two pillars - Joju George and chemban vinod
National Award honoree Joju George plays the wild rowdy Porinju and Chemban Vinod essays Jose in Porinju Mariam Jose. Joju, who is best known for his breakthrough movie Joseph says he views his life in two parts; before Joseph and after Joseph. "After Joseph I started getting good films," says the actor who has been in the industry for over 20 years.
Joju says the film is essentially about the emotions of the three characters Porinju, Mariam and Jose.
"Now in our industry movies are becoming more realistic. While movies from the olden days were realistic they were also very emotional. And that's what we see in Porinju Mariam Jose," Joju says.
Chemban Vinod of 5 Sundarikal, Urumbukal Urangarilla, Kohinoor, Ee. Ma. Yau and other standout movies says that he has never chased a character or role but that of Jose. "I kept calling and checking for updates about the project and finally I said, 'even if I'm not acting in it, you have to make the movie.' I still can't figure out why I chased this role."
Joju is all praise for his costar and says that he couldn't imagine anyone other than Chemban playing Jose. "I can easily find someone else to play my character of Porinju. But I don't think anyone else can do justice to Jose because Jose is Chemban. Nobody can replace him."
Malayalam movies no longer need a superstar like Mammootty or Mohanlal to do well. Today actors are given free reign and the slice-of-life scripts enable each and every movie to stand out. "We see movies like Angamaly Diaries, Joseph, and Thanneer Mathan Dinangal, being hits and all of them have almost all new faces. People now will watch a brilliant movie because it is brilliant. Regardless of who the cast is. At the end of the day it only matters who is making the characters and who is writing it. Today it is the director and the writer who makes the movie," says Chemban Vinod.
Both the talented actors feel that Malayalam movies are going back to the golden age and are today on par with Hollywood movies. "Almost 70% of movies that are being made now can be held against any Hollywood movie and it can hold its own. They can be shown in front of an international audience," asserts Chemban Vinod.