Amala Paul: My life is whatever I define it to be

Actor Amala Paul, in discussing her latest release, Nandini Reddy’s short film in the Telugu Netflix anthology, Pitta Kathalu, throws a lot of light on her life and her evolution as a person

For most actors, the eponymous protagonist of Nandini Reddy’s Meera (in the Telugu anthology, Pitta Kathalu), a woman seeking liberation from her oppressive, abusive husband, would be a formidable character to enact—especially those portions in which Meera’s husband, played by Jagapathi Babu, throws vile insults at her. He’s a man we see being abusive, sexually and physically—at one point, he even clutches her neck in rage. When asked if such portions caused her any distress, Amala mulls over it, just for a brief second, before dismissing the idea. She then proceeds to answer the question with disarming transparency about her personal life. “I am not really troubled by such writing because I take inspiration from my own life,” she begins. “I have grown up watching domestic abuse and violence.” She recalls an incident that happened when she went on vacation with her family. “My father would expect my mother to perform all these chores even when she was on vacation. I would argue with him and point out that she deserves a break too. Just because a woman is your wife does not give you the right to treat her without respect,” she says. It was then that she asked her father an important question. “I asked him if he would find it acceptable if another man treated me, as he did my mother?” The answer disappointed her. “He said he didn’t think my husband would turn out to be such a man, but it seemed to me that he was not really thinking about our argument. Such is the way of life of families I have grown up in and around.” And this is among the few reasons that compelled her to be part of Nandini Reddy’s short film, Meera. “Being part of such films causes me happiness; it makes me feel strength and power. Such films have a sense of purpose; they make me recognise the responsibility I have as an artist.”

Another reason she accepted this film is her respect for director Nandini Reddy and the opportunity to work with her in making Netflix’s first Telugu anthology. Amala says she is perpetually driven by the urge to swim against the current. “And I have been screwed because of that,” she says, laughing. “People keep asking me why I insist on being such a rebel. But I am not… I don’t consider what I do rebellion. All I know is, I don’t want to be a ‘regular’. I know I am not in cinema to be ‘regular’.” Another motivation to join this film was the knowledge that an OTT platform like Netflix would bring in the relevant audience. “In such a platform, such unusual content meets an audience that is already looking for it.”

Which, of course, did not immediately happen for her last release, Aadai, a film which caused quite a bit of furore ahead of its theatre release. “Everyone was so judgmental about that film even before they had seen it. I was being attacked just for being an actor and doing what I thought was perfectly acceptable in my job,” she says. “It was not just the audience… it was the media too. My character in Aadai was used to assassinate my character. I remember that its very release was being held up.” It was only after the film came out in Amazon Prime Video, she says, did the positive responses pour forth. “It made me realise that the platform in which a film gets released is also important.” If she could make a request, a plea almost, to the media and audiences alike, it is that they desist from judging actors for the behaviour of their characters. “It is like judging a book based on its cover. I am glad that OTT platforms are changing this,” she says, and cites the case of Nandini Reddy as an example of how OTT content liberates filmmakers. “Nandini is known for a different type of cinema, but here, she, like other filmmakers, is able to expand her horizon and explore her abilities. Already, we can see a lot of change happening.”

For the remainder of this interview (and there’s a lot more left, I assure you), visit Amala Paul: My life is whatever I define it to be- Cinema express

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