Oviya - Bold and Beautiful

Oviya - Bold and Beautiful

There is something unique about the Indian film industry in its way of re-christening actors once they’ve launched out in their careers. What started off as a gimmick to add marketability to actors across demographics has stuck as a practice, as in the case of Muhammad Yusuf Khan who became Dilip Kumar, Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia who turned into Akshay Kumar, and young Helen Nelson who transformed into Oviya.

But call her ‘Oviya’ and she’s quick to correct you – granting you the permission to call her by her original name – and perhaps, thereby have access to the personal side of the little girl who was always too big to be contained by the small town in which she was born.

The actress, who hails from Thrissur in Kerala, says it was an inherent need to become independent that had fuelled her ambition to become an actress. "I joined a women’s college for my undergrad degree, even when I’d actually wanted to join a co-ed one. While I was there, my friends and I wanted some money to go shopping for clothes and eating out, not wanting to depend on our parents for that. I don’t know what it is about girls who go to a women’s college; they are more conscious about what they wear and how they come across than those who go to co-ed colleges,” Helen says.

She began her stint in modelling and took up local advertisements when the director of ‘Kalavani’, A. Sargunam, spotted her picture and called her for a screen test. She had already won an award for her smile at a beauty pageant when she decided to make her trip to Chennai for the film, for what she calls her rite of passage she was met with opposition from her family.

"My mother, who had wanted to become an actress early on, was the only one who was understanding and supportive of my decision to enter movies. But my cousins and others were against the idea, especially since my cousins had chosen the more accepted professions of engineer and doctor. For them, cinema was a big bad world, having heard stories that reinforced this perception of the field. I wanted to become independent and call the shots myself,” Helen says.

Not hailing from a filmi background, she took the role that was offered in ‘Kalavani’, not knowing what to expect, but she says her director made her feel comfortable, playing the part of the cheerful village belle in the film. The film, which went to become a sleeper hit, quickly got her noticed. Yet after a few unsuccessful outings in Malayalam and Tamil, Tamil audiences got to see a completely new Oviya in the National Award winning film, ‘Marina’, directed by Pandiraj, in which she played the role of a bubbly city girl.She then acted in Sundar C’s ‘Kalalakalappu’, which left audiences confused about what to expect from the actress. "I had made a conscious effort to mix and match my characters in such a way that each time I came on screen, the audience would see me in a fresh role. I don’t know if this worked against me but I believe it is one of our primary duties as actors to remain open to new roles and experiments,” she points out.

The actress will be seen next in ‘Moodar Koodam’, a comedy caper that comes from the genetic pool of films by Guy Rtichie and Quentin Tarantino. Oviya had initially joined the sets of the film for 15 days of shooting, then gracefully extended her dates by 20 more days.

"The experience of acting in ‘Moodar Koodam’ was an unforgettable one. The film was made with much financial hardship. A group of youngsters had come together, putting everything on the line to make the film. I think it was equally my responsibility to support this project – and the result is there for all to see.”
After ‘Moodar Koodam’, Oviya will also be seen in a G.V. Prakash Kumar production, titled ‘Madha Yaanai Kootam’, in which she essays the role of a Malayali nursing student. She has also completed the filming of the remake of the controversial Malayalam film, ‘Chappa Kurishu’, which has been titled ‘Pulival’ inTamil.

‘Chappa Kurishu’, which had a two-minute-long kissing scene -a first for a Malayalam film – is expected to be just as controversial in its Tamil version as well. When asked about playing the lead in the film and also acting in such a crucial scene, Oviya says, "I act opposite Prasanna, and once people watch the film, they will understand how pivotal the scene is to the screenplay. I have heard of actors coming to the sets and complaining about the length of their sleeves. What I feel is that we are who we are because of our films and what our directors have asked us to do. I am here as an actor and acting in glamorous roles is not a problem for me, as I feel actors should be comfortable playing all kinds of roles once they trust the script.”

She says that in the three years of entering the industry, she has learnt to be bold and to take control of her life. Her mother, her source of courage and confidence, was diagnosed with cancer last year and doesn’t accompany her to the sets like she used to. Only getting stronger with each passing day, she says she has learnt to love life, the way it is with evident contentment.

"One thing I learnt very early on is to never think of oneself as a star. It is very difficult to remain a human being once you feel you’re a star. That is why I go back home to Kerala after shooting as I can be anybody there I enjoy the little things in life and I don’t want those things to be disturbed. Looking back though, I feel it’s odd how life has turned around, especially since modelling and acting began to impress friends with whom I am no longer in touch. But I’m happy and I sleep peacefully,” she says.


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