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Kumbalangi Nights Taught Me Acting: Malayalam Cinema’s Latest Find Anna Ben Talks About Films, Fahadh Faasil And More!

She’s naturally talented!

The definition of stardom may vary from one celebrity to another but to Anna Ben, stardom is simplicity and spontaneity. She’s a star already, with the kind of roles she has donned; and now, she is en route to ultimate prominence. In conversation with Radhika Ramesh, Anna talks about life, films and a lot more.

When Anna played the role of Baby in Kumbalangi Nights, critics wondered if she was really only a debutante. She had already reached the depth of her character which reflected beautifully onscreen. But ask her about it, and she says she counts herself blessed to be where she is today. Anna is clear-minded and it reflects on her personality. It’s plain to see that there’s more to ‘Helen’ than just gifted acting. She loves her freedom, lives every moment consciously and honestly but above all, she believes in what she does – truly a one-of-a-kind, free-spirited woman.

Despite having no intention of pursuing acting, the career chose her. “Acting was something that just came to me,” she says. Before Kumbalangi Nights even happened, Anna happened to appear in her friend’s music video. However, that did not do much to influence her into taking it up as a profession. It was another usual day and Anna had seen director Aashiq Abu’s casting call on social media. “What impressed me the most was the beautiful painting on the poster. There were three men on a boat and it was tastefully captured. I had no idea what the role was, but there was a requirement for three women actors and male actors and I just applied for it. Unexpectedly, I received a call for a second audition and soon, the third too. By my fifth round, the director confirmed that I was very much a part of the film,” adds Anna.

 

 

Kumbalangi Nights gave me the most life-changing experience.

Anna may have landed a role in the film but she had no idea about her character. Anna recollects that she never informed anyone in her family and friends about her audition but waited till she was almost sure that it was going to happen for real. “When I told my sister that I landed a role in a major film, the first thing she said was “Are you sure that you’re a part of it? Do they know what you’re like? You’re the goofiest person I’ve met (laughs)”. Honestly, I was equally shocked too,” adds Anna on a reminiscent note.

Once confirmed as a cast member, it was revealed to Anna that she would play the role of Baby, Simmy’s (Grace Anthony) younger sister. “Grace is actually younger than me but the finesse with which she donned the role of Simmy was impeccable,” remarks Anna fondly, on her co-star.

Nailing the role of Baby was a long but exciting process.

Starring Soubin Shahir, Shane Nigam and Fahadh Faasil. Despite being a debutante, Anna’s debut role in Kumbalangi Nights garnered a lot of positive attention. When asked how she was able to perform so well in the film, she says, “The way this movie worked for me was very interesting. The way they approached this script was very intellectual. Syam Pushkaran is a brilliant writer. He has very crisp lines. I was told that Baby is a pampered, smart, outspoken and bubbly young lady. That’s it, that’s all I was told. Syam ettann (brother) briefed me about Baby and casually said ‘Okay, let’s see how Baby plays out’.”

Anna says that she was only briefed before every scene and that she wouldn’t receive any intimation on what the next few scenes would be. “The flow of Baby’s character you see throughout the movie from the beginning till the end is the way it was actually shot. When I watch the film I can see how I have developed my skills onscreen, with every scene because initially when I began shooting, I had no clue which character I was shooting so I had a few blank-face scenes. I can still point them out and I cringe whenever I watch that (laughs),” admits Anna. “However, during a theatre scene with Shane, my character would just crack and that’s when everyone said, ‘Aha, there’s Baby!’” After that, Anna says that she was able to discern the intricacies of the character and breathe life into it.

 

 

When I watched the film at the theatre, it hit home that this was a massive project.

“Initially I was only briefed about Baby, her family and what kind of situation she is in. I did not know what Soubin or Shane’s character was; I did not know what the relationship between these four brothers was and how it would end. When I watched the film in the theatre for the first time, halfway through, it hit home that this film was massive. I was tearing up and that’s when Soubin came to me and said “Now you know what this film is all about,” adds Anna further stating how it was an overwhelming experience overall. “It was a brilliant masterclass for me,” adds Anna.

 

My first scene with Fahadh was unsettling.

 Anna’s first scene with Fahadh in the film was the kitchen scene. “I have known Fahadh for a very long time, that is, even before my entry into films. Apart from the fact that he is a spectacular actor, Fahadh is probably one of the sweetest people I have met,” says Anna. Anna recollects her first scene with the actor who played the role of Shammy, a villainous depiction of a “perfect” man. “I remember shooting the kitchen scene with Fahadh. Syam had briefed the scene as two sisters just casually talking and Shammy would peep in to ask what they are talking about and they would just say it’s personal. However, when we began shooting the scene, I realised just how deeply Fahadh had immersed himself into character. It was an unsettling moment, seeing him like that. When we sat together and watched the scene I told him how strange that was and he simply laughed and said ‘That’s what I was going for’,” she recalls.

I did not have inhibitions when I did the romantic scenes.

 Anna says that when she gets into characters, there are no hesitations. “Honestly, when I embody a role, I cannot think of anything else except living the character. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have had the kind of co-stars like Shane, with whom I could strike an easy friendship with.”

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