Ithihasa, the surprise hit of the season now playing at theatres in the UAE, might have little in terms of an original one-liner but director Binu and writer Aneesh have sprung a surprise on audiences with an intelligently crafted script that takes the improbabilities of this fantasy movie to a new high.
And riding the wave of success is Anusree, who gets one of the most challenging roles to date, as an IT professional who finds herself transforming into a man.
The role, in fact, surprised audiences who had been used to seeing Anusree in the village belle, rustic, innocent, good-wife-and-friend roles. Even more surprising was the fact that she does what many Malayalam heroines are yet to get their hand on – out-and-out action with the daredevil thrill of being suspended on ropes and whacking the ‘goons’ from stunt-master Run Ravi’s team.
“While they had said there would be fights in the movie, the scale of it was totally unexpected,” says Anusree. “Only the day before the shoot did they say about the scenes so there was not really much of being mentally prepared.”
The unsuspecting Anusree got the jitters seeing the location – an abandoned warehouse where Run Ravi and his team were waiting. “It was all so much fun and at the same time quite tense, especially having to do the full heavy duty fights that a hero would have been doing.”
What came in handy was Anusree’s own experience of training to be an athlete having studied at the GV Raja Sports School in Thiruvananthapuram for two years. “Not many people know that I was more into sports than arts,” says Anusree.
They cannot be blamed either: Debuting in director Lal Jose’s Diamond Necklace, shot in Dubai, Anusree played the role of Kalamandalam Rajasree, a rather naïve girl, trained in classical dance who is carried away by the sudden leap into modernity. That image sort of stuck with Anusree.
“People think I am a trained dancer but I have no background in arts at all,” says Anusree, who bagged her debut role after winning a reality show. Since then, she has been careful to select roles that give her room to perform and leave behind an impression. “What I look for is a character that stays in the minds of viewers,” she says.
With Ithihasa, she took a bold step. The film about two petty thieves (played by Shine Tom Chacko and Balu Varghese) chancing upon a find that will have one of them change into a girl was different from the regular Malayalam fare. “The entire team was new so I was confident they would have done their homework and prepared well for the movie,” says Anusree.
“Being a fantasy, we had no idea how the audiences would have responded to it, and for me the role offered the chance to break away from being typecast,” she says.
The response to the film has surprised the industry. “I have got calls from practically everyone who worked with me. I was touched when veteran cinematographer Vipin Mohan called me to say it was surprising to see me in the action role,” smiles Anusree.
She did not make any elaborate preparation to do the role. “In fact, I didn’t know what to expect and it was from the second day on that the role sunk in.”
Anusree says the biggest confidence came from the team. “There was such camaraderie with Shine and Balu; there were no egos involved. This helped all three of us to really enjoy the work we did.”
For Anusree and Shine one of the challenges was to ensure they got each other’s body language right. “Binu, the director, had instructed us to be on the sets to watch the other performing, even when we did not have a scene. This helped a lot. Also, Shine would point out if I was not doing something right.”
Anusree says she is not in the number game and wants to do films that will be remembered. She is a huge fan of Manju Warrier and is delighted that the actress has made her comeback. As an actress per se, she says her role model is Lena. “Any film you look at, Lena makes an impression. She does not hesitate to take on any role – be it a wife, mother, social worker. I am really inspired by her,” says Anusree.
Ithihasa has indeed been a turning point for Anusree who will now move on to a solo heroine lead in actor-director Siddharth Bharathan’s new movie with Dileep. “It is a family entertainer and I play Dileep’s wife in the movie,” says Anusree.
Originally from Pathanapuram, Anusree has indeed defined her place in the industry without film connections. And with Ithihasa, the athlete who trained to be a long-jumper has taken one big impressive stride in Malayalam cinema.