‘Whatever I’ve learned in life, I owe it to movies’

‘Thanks to OTT, our work is now seen by all.’
‘Every movie is getting recognition from not just India, but from all over the world.’

While it is common for actors to dabble their career in multiple languages, very few can truly make space for themselves in other places than their home turf.

Nikhila Vimal has carved a niche for herself in Tamil cinema alongside her stable career in Malayalam films.

Her steadily rising career in Tamil got a big boost with Por Thozhil, a crime thriller headlined by R Sarathkumar and Ashok Selvan, which turned out to be a major box office success.

Nikhila plays a data analyst named Veena who works along with investigating officers to solve a complex murder case.

“I have been a part of this industry for over 15 years,” Nikhila tells Mayur Sanap/Rediff.com. “I would never choose a project if my role is not important enough in it.”

Por Thozhil is the most celebrated Tamil film of your career. The response must have been encouraging.

Oh, yes. This was like a re-entry for me in Tamil. My last Tamil film had come out four years ago.

I am very grateful for the positive response from the audience.

This was Vignesh Raja’s debut film. What made you trust his vision as a first-time director?

I have done films with first-time directors before in Malayalam.

The thing about first-time directors is that they have a very strong vision because they have been working on that script for a very long time. Their first script is very precious to them.

When he narrated this script to me, I knew he worked really hard on the story.

How were R Sarathkumar and Ashok Selvan to work with?

I had very few days of shooting with them, just 15 days. It was mostly night shoots and very tiring.

We did not connect much during the film shoot, but had a lot of fun during the promotions. Now there is a WhatsApp group between us that helps us stay connected.

Whenever I come to Chennai, I meet them. We are like a family.

What do you remember from the film’s shoot?

The night shoot affected my sleep and my overall health.

I am an early sleeper. I generally go to sleep by 10 pm.

For this film, we used to start by 6 pm and continue till 6 am. It was hard for me because I couldn’t sleep after that.

During the first schedule break, I was hospitalised for two-three days but I didn’t tell this to anyone.

My director once noticed that I was unwell, but I didn’t tell him anything.

Most of the people on the crew were not keeping well, but we all worked through our sickness to finish the schedule.

The film ends with a hint of a sequel. Where do you see your character heading?

No idea. I think they planned a sequel after the success. I have to check with the director. (Laughs)

How do you pick your roles?

I have been a part of this industry for over 15 years and have done only 20 movies. Or maybe less.

I would never choose a project if my role is not important enough in it.

I first take the narration and read the script.

Sometimes I pick roles on the basis of how big the production house or the cast is. But my role has to be good.

What has been your valuable lessons from this long journey in films?

Whatever I have learned in my life, I owe it to movies.

I am grateful to all the movies that I have done and the people attached to them for many learning experiences.

You have worked with many senior actors in your career. What did that experience teach you?

Their passion for cinema is truly inspirational to me.

Nothing comes easy, and these stars have achieved everything through their hard work.

What has changed about the industry in all these years?

The process of film-making is still the same, but the way films are commercialised has changed. Especially this pan-India phenomenon.

People now recognise actors from other industries.

Thanks to OTT, our work is now seen by all.

Every movie is getting recognition from not just India, but also from all over the world.

With so much talent exchange happening between industries, would you like to make inroads into Bollywood?

Maybe in the future.

Who would like to collaborate with? Any favourite directors and actors? 

I like Imtiaz Ali. I liked all his movies.

Among the actors, I like Shah Rukh Khan and Rajkummar Rao

What can you tell us about your next Tamil project with Mari Selavraj? There is so much hype about that film.

I can’t talk about it as we haven’t started promotions for it yet. It is an OTT original, that’s all I can say.

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