Working like a machine not my thing: Nithya Menen

Actor Nithya Menen on Thiruchitrambalam’s success, how she picks her projects, and what keeps her grounded
Actress Nithya Menen (Photo | Twitter)
Actress Nithya Menen (Photo | Twitter)

Nithya Menen was the quintessential girl-next-door in OK Kanmani and the feisty scientist in Mission Mangal, who executes her professional responsibilities despite a hostile environment at home. Her evocative portrayal of a differently abled person in Muni 3 touched the hearts of many, so did her act as a brave former police officer in Psycho. Nithya Menen slips into her character’s skin with effortless ease, and her latest performance as Shobana in Thiruchitrambalam is no exception. Starring opposite Dhanush, she plays his childhood friend, neighbour and eventually his lover in the superhit film that is inching closer to the `100-crore mark by the day (its budget was Rs 30 crore).

“When I start something, I don’t think about the end result. For me, it’s always in the moment. That said, I don’t think I could have predicted this kind of success for Thiruchitrambalam,” Nithya says. Currently, on a break, the Bengaluru-based actor attributes the success of the Tamil film and her character to her co-actor Dhanush.

“The idea of having me on board for this film was his. He can see an artist for who they are. It was wonderful to have someone tap into your potential successfully,” she says, adding, “Dhanush did say my character is the one that is going to be loved a lot, and his vision came true.”

Nithya has come a long way since she started her acting career back in 2006 with a supporting role in Kannada film 7 O’ Clock. She has delivered some laudable performances in southern cinema across all four languages, including Vikram Kumar’s Ishq and 24, Atlee’s Mersal, Santosh Sivan’s Urumi, and Jenuse Mohamed’s 100 Days of Love.

She also managed to stand out in her Bollywood debut, Mission Mangal (2019), in which she starred alongside Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan and Tapsee Pannu.  The following year she forayed into OTT with the Amazon Prime series Breathe: Into the Shadows (also starring Abhishek Bachchan and Amit Sadh), which was renewed for another season in 2021. Nithya has already started shooting for the third season.  

The 34-year-old actor has had four releases this year––Bheemla Nayak, 19(1)(a), Thiruchitrambalam, Modern Love Hyderabad—and there are a handful more to come in the next few months, but Nithya insists that she is not a workaholic.

“Because of Covid, projects were stalled and they are all winding up together, so I’m a bit overworked, but leveraging on success or working like a machine is not my thing. I don’t do that. Right now, I’m spending time recouping because every artist needs to recuperate,” she says, adding, “For me, my profession has always been an extension of who I am and you can see that in each of my films. I don’t view acting as an entertainment business, I view it as an art.”

Besides Breathe, she has a Telugu original titled Kumari Srimati,  two Malayalam films–– Aaram Thirukalpana and a yet-to-be-titled project with Bangalore Days director Anjali Menon––lined up.

Nithya’s versatility extends beyond her onscreen characters. Also a singer, she was recently a judge on Telugu Indian Idol. “I get bored quickly and always look for new experiences, and when it’s something I haven’t done before, my first response is to say yes,” she says.

The actor admits to being comfortable in her own skin, unlike many others who try out different things to fit into a certain image. “Honestly, I don’t know how to be any other way. It’s just who I am and this is my personality. As a person, I don’t put much value on the cosmetic aspects and things that are external or superficial,” she says.  

For someone who doesn’t have a godfather in the film industry, Nithya has proved her mettle and versatility with every unconventional role she has chosen. Is it because she is secure as an actor? “I’m secure as a person. I don’t feel the need to be a star,” she says.

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