“Ippo enikku kurachu kurachu Malayalam ariyaam…Njaan sramikkum… (Now I know a little bit of Malayalam…I try…),” says Himika Bose flaunting her command over Malayalam with a laugh. Kolkata-born, Mumbai-based Himika is playing the lead in debutant Dimal Dennis’ Shane Nigam-starrer Valiyaperunnal, slated to release next month.
A familiar face in television commercials, Himika connected with millennial audiences with her sketches on FilterCopy, a digital platform. One of the popular episodes was ‘Every curly haired girl’. “I was surprised when, while shooting in Kerala, people walked up to me asking, ‘Are you the FilterCopy girl?,’” says Himika over phone from Mumbai.
A trained dancer, Himika says the film offer came out of the blue. “A friend who was working in the film called me up to say that they were looking for a girl who could dance. I had never thought about working in a language I wasn’t familiar with. But two things piqued my interest — dance and being the lead. I was also bowled over by the story. It was raw…something you rarely find in Hindi films,” says Himika, who debuted in Padman.
In Valiyaperunnal she plays Pooja, a Gujarati girl, born and brought up in Mattanchery. She spent five months in Mattanchery and Fort Kochi while shooting for the film. “Pooja is a dancer and Shane is Akkar, also a dancer. But there is more to the film than just dance. It is also about the place, the culture, the people, their emotions…,” she adds.
The 23-year-old admits that it was tough to speak and understand Malayalam. “To be honest, I had never really heard Malayalam in my life. Since I didn’t know it, all South Indian languages sounded the same!” she says.
Since most of her dialogues were in Malayalam she had to figure out a way to learn it. “I wrote down the meaning of every word and learnt how to pronounce them. Then I would think about what I was trying to convey (laughs)! I didn’t want to make a fool of myself and I was stressed about not understanding what was happening around me,” she says.
She cannot stop gushing about the people and the location. “People were so warm. Some of them even took me to their houses for lunch. Getting to know a new culture was refreshing. The place is so beautiful and one day, I would like to have a house there…,” she says, adding: “I gained weight by the time I finished the shoot because I was eating so much porotta and beef!” Himika points out that the director gave her the space to enact the character in her own way.
She also makes special note of her co-actor, Asha Sreekanth [Suraj Venjaramoodu’s character’s wife in Kuttanpillayude Sivarathri], who plays Shane’s mother. “There were days when I felt I was not giving my best. But she was always encouraging. As for Shane, he is a fabulous actor and it was fun working with him,” she adds.
- Trained in ballet, contemporary and jazz, Himika’s favourite dance style is contemporary. The dancers who’ve inspired her include ballet dancers Misty Copeland and Daniil Simkin. She also follows choreographers Yanis Marshall, Brian Friedman, and Kyle Hanagami
The film has several surprises in store. Kings United, the Mumbai-based hip-hop team that won NBC’s ‘World of Dance’ title earlier this year, has choreographed the dance numbers composed by Rex Vijayan.
Himika says that she has been dancing for as long as she can remember. She started out with Indian classical and later moved on to ballet, contemporary and jazz. “The funny thing is that I started learning dance professionally hoping I could be part of a reality show. Later I realised that there is more to dance than being on a show,” she says. She worked with Indian-Australian choreographer Ashley Lobo’s academy for over a year before she got her first acting assignment.
She began with ads prior to moving on to the digital platform. Her first web show was The Insiders for Viral Fever (TVF). “It was a leap of faith because acting was not in my scheme of things. I wanted to be a dancer or a doctor. So, on the sets, I was like Alice in Wonderland. When it came to choosing between dance and acting, I opted for the latter because something new had come into my life and I thought I might as well embrace it and see where it takes me. I am having fun,” she says.
Spurt of ideas
Having worked with several web portals such as Blush, ScoopWhoop and Buzzfeed, Himika says that the best part about these spaces is the fact that they have young people working behind the scenes.
“There is no dearth of ideas. I’ve found comfort in humour. The only criteria on such shows is that you have to be as real as you can,” she laughs.
Looking ahead, Himika says that she wants to be associated with any initiative that creates awareness and opportunities about art forms. “Thanks to Internet, at least a few people have come to understand that you can make a living out of dance, music or any other art form. I could do it because my parents were supportive. Still, we have a long way to go when compared to the West where you have artistes who’ve set high standards as performers. But we can also do it provided our artistes also get the same kind of support. Nobody works as hard as we Indians do. Some of my fellow dancers working in dance troupes abroad are killing it because of their hard work,” she says.
Now, as she waits for Valiyaperunnal to reach theatres, Himika plans to watch a few Malayalam movies.
“I saw Kumbalangi Nights in the theatre. I also watched Ishq and Malayalam version of OK Kanmani to brush up my Malayalam. The crew has given me a list of must-watch films, starting with Premam and Bangalore Days. But it is so long that I don’t know how I am going to do it…” she signs off.
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