Lal Jose's 'Elsamma Enna Aankutty' that released in 2010, put the spotlight on a gifted youngster who played the title role in the film - Ann Augustine. Daughter of actor Augustine, Ann came up with a competent performance in her debut film that set the screens ablaze.
Here is Ann Augustine in a one-to-one with Veeyen of nowrunning.com, when the charming actress chatted about being the most talked about newcomer in recent times, and on her new film 'Arjunan Sakshi' that would hit the cinemas, come Jan.28.
Congratulations on winning the Prem Nazir Puraskaram for Best Debutante Actress of 2010. And what a confident debut! I know that you have been busy studying psychology, so why did you decide to do films all on a sudden?
Thank you. I was offered 'Elsamma Enna Aankutty' when I was doing my final year in college and when Lalu ettan (Lal Jose) suggested that I should do it, I was truly overwhelmed. I should say I wasn't sure if I could do justice to the role at all. Here I was, playing around and generally having a whale of a time, when I was asked to do a film. I had my reservations hence, and it's only because of Lalu ettan that I finally decided to give Elsamma a try. It turned out that everyone associated with the film, right from the spot boy to the director, made me feel that it was a worthwhile experience.
What was it that made you decide to take on the role in 'Arjunan Sakshi'? What's so special about Anjali Menon?
I should say I was lucky to have an out-of-the-world debut through 'Elsamma Enna Aankutty' and follow it up with an equally promising project - 'Arjunan Sakshi'. This was a film that had at its helm Ranjith Sankar who had left a distinct mark with 'Passenger', and in which I was being paired with Prithviraj. As an actress this was another dream venture for me, and it didn't take me long to say 'Yes' to it.
This might seem like a coincidence, but you had essayed the role of a very bold village girl in 'Elsamma Enna Aankutty', and now in your second film, you get to play another woman who is a go-getter; a journalist this time. Is there any overlapping between these two characters that you have donned, apart from the fact that both of them tend to tackle life daringly?
In fact, there is a whole lot of difference between the two characters. Probably the only similarity between them is the 'newspaper connection'! In 'Elsamma' the whole film revolved around the title role that I played; that of a newspaper agent who had a family to tend to. In 'Arjunan Sakshi', I am a part of a much larger scheme, and I play a city girl who gets posted as a journalist with a prominent newspaper. While 'Elsamma' was more of a light hearted entertainer, 'Arjunan Sakshi' is a much more serious film that focuses on some real grave social issues
I suppose people are going to remember you for a very long time as Elsamma, and do you think it's going to take you some time to break away from the Elsamma image?
To be honest, let me tell you that I never ever want to break away from the Elsamma image. Elsamma is so special to me, and would always remain so. As Elsamma, I spoke, dressed and behaved in ways that I wouldn't dream of in real life. I still have a couple of Elsamma costumes tucked away in my cabinet, since I hold the memories associated with the film real close to my heart and I would truly be glad if people remember me as Elsamma.
You have been lucky to work with two remarkable directors - Lal Jose who falls in the veteran league and Ranjith Shankar who is a representative of the new breed of directors who have been ushering in winds of change in Malayalam cinema. How would you compare the two?
Don't do this to me. (laughs) Lalu ettan is like family to me, and I should say I was so much pampered on the sets of 'Elsamma Enna Aankutty'. I literally knew nothing about acting and yet I did everything possible, only because Lalu ettan was around. He would scream and shout at me and at the same time be so considerate and gentle. He would show me how he wanted to get things done. For the 'Thozhi' song for instance, I told him how difficult it was for me to act coy and shy, and he literally guided me through it. I feel extremely confident when he is around and the kind of rapport that I share with him is brilliant.
Ranjith sir is quite different in that he let me get a grasp of my character in the film, and then asked me to go about doing it in my own characteristic style. I was handed over the reigns to my performance for the first time, and asked to take control. While I was treated like a kid on the sets of 'Elsamma Enna Aankutty', on the sets of 'Arjunan Sakshi' I was treated like an actress, both of which I enjoyed to the hilt.
I guess it's time now to speak about your co-star in 'Arjunan Sakshi' and this is the first time you are being paired with Prithviraj. How was it working with him?
I was slightly tense about working with Raju (Prithviraj) since I had heard that he could be temperamental on the sets. I was also told that he is a quick learner and that he delivers his dialogues in a flash. When I finally got to meet him, I went straight up to him and told him that I was a bit nervous about the shoot. To my surprise, Prithvi reassured me that everything would be fine, and that I had nothing to worry about. He is such a wonderful person and soon we got on like a haystack on fire, and had a terrific time on the sets. I was apprehensive about a chase sequence that was to be shot, and Prithvi was like a highly protective big brother to me, and was a huge support through out the shoot.
You have a very pleasant voice. Do you do the dubbing for your characters yourself?
(laughs) You are the first person to tell me that. I haven't done the dubbing for either of my films, since I wasn't confident at all. Vimmy Mariam George has dubbed for me in both 'Elsamma Enna Aankutty' and 'Arjunan Sakshi'. In my new film '3 Kings', I play a crack head character that is a far cry from both the characters that I have played before, and people have been telling me that I should probably give dubbing a try this time. Let's see.
I am not talking of a role model as such but I am sure there should be several actors who have probably inspired you. Could you pick a few favorites?
As you said, I don't have any role models as such, and I have never actually aspired to be like someone else. But there are several amazing actors like Manju Warrier, Sobhana and Revathy whom I have always admired, for the kind of fantastic work that they have done.
How far does it help to come from a family having an acting backdrop? Does it aid in anyway to be the daughter of an accomplished actor?
It does help, since that is how the Elsamma offer came my way. I don't know if acting is there in my genes, since I have never had an opportunity before 'Elsamma Enna Aankutty' to explore it. I have never acted in plays and haven't been part of a theater group or anything of the sort. The only reason I was somewhere around the college arts events was to bunk classes. (laughs)
What other things do you normally do when you are not shooting?
If I am not attending some programs or other events, I would be home mostly in my room, lazing around and having some time to myself. I love sleeping as well.
Post Elsamma and Arjunan Sakshi, how have you changed as a person? If I ask you if you are the same person as you were in 2009, what would you say?
I would say I am pretty much the same person as I was before. Life is just the same, and there haven't been any dramatic changes as far as I have noticed. I don't get mobbed on the streets like you suggested, because I feel very few people recognize me in real, as I am so much different from the Elsamma that they saw on screen. Of course, sometimes people do come up and ask if I am an actress, and kids approach me with cute requests, but that's it.
Could you tell me about your most memorable and most challenging moment so far in your career?
The most memorable day in my career so far is the very last day of the 'Elsamma Enna Aankutty' shoot, and when it was pack up time, I grew so emotional and was almost in tears. It has been sixty long days since I had been roaming around as Elsamma, and it was difficult to let her go. I was wondering what would happen to Elsamma and Paalunni, and wanted to know if they would ever get married. It was a very moving moment for me.
The most challenging moment was when I had to utter a dialogue that had the word 'Porunna Kozhi' in it. This scene had such veterans like KPAC Lalitha chechi in it, and no matter how hard I tried, I would fumble at it. This went on for some time, before I could finally get it right. I should also mention the chase sequences in 'Arjunan Sakshi'. I was lucky to be a part of it, and had some very exciting times canning those scenes.
Your new project is 'Three Kings' being directed by V K Prakash. This is going to be your third film, and could you let us take a sneak peek into the future? What are the other projects that you have in the pipeline?
As of now, I haven't signed up for any other project after '3 Kings'.
As an actress who has just started off in a very impressive manner, what do you think is the most satisfying thing about being in showbiz and what is the most trying thing about it?
The most rewarding thing would be that as a part of this amazing industry, I get to meet so many living legends in real. Also it wouldn't be right if I said that I don't enjoy all the love and adoration that is showered on me by people who like me. On the flipside, I would consider all those professional hazards that are associated with being in showbiz; like dieting for instance. I love chocolates, and wouldn't even think of giving them up for anything in the world. (laughs).
Thank you so much Ann, for the very interesting conversation. All the best for 'Arjunan Sakshi' and your other projects as well.