These five actors and filmmakers are rediscovering the joy of leading a minimal life
Amidst the chaos of being on film sets, these actors and filmmakers have found their balance, courtesy the pandemic
The last time Anil Abraham was on the big screen, it was for Parvathy-starrer Uyare. While there were other projects in the offing, the pandemic put them on hold. But this didn’t stop the city-based dermatologist and actor from experimenting with his creativity. During the lockdown, the doctor donned his actor’s cap and started creating funny Instagram Reels inspired by real-life events. “I felt there was a need to be happy and to make people happy. There was also an immense need to simplify scientific things and to cheer people up. All the news items that depressed me made good scrap material for my Reels,” explains Anil who revived Uncle Appukuttan, his character that was once popular on radio during the ’90s.
Uncle Appukuttan presents his take on topics from politics and family issues to insights about COVID, but with a dash of humour. “The short videos were quite effective — people who watched said it cheered them up. In the process of making people happy, I felt happy too. I realised how little I need to be happy. All the things that we were chasing, receded to the background,” says the artiste. Although he couldn’t take up any Malayalam film projects because it required him to quarantine in Kerala for long periods, he says this time helped him realise the power of the Internet and virtual shows. “Through these shows I even reached out to friends I had lost touch with,” he adds. Even as he continues to make Reels, creating new characters constantly, Anil is looking forward to a simple Christmas celebration at home. “I will be with my close family members at home. The focus is going to be on conversations around the table,” he concludes.
During the first lockdown, a short film titled, COVIDiot POSITIVE went viral. The scenes were shot by actors on their phones at their respective homes and the film was edited to look like it was all shot together. Written and directed by city-based filmmaker Saad Khan, this lockdown film was a new experiment that seem to have worked. With minimal cost and no equipment, this experiment paved way for many such short films by other Indian filmmakers too. It was a moment of realisation for Saad who had previously made the hit Kannada film Humble Politician Nograj. “Simplicity has always been the key element in my work, whether it is filmmaking or doing improv shows (Saad was the first to start improv shows in Bengaluru). But now I’ve realised that we need to make content that is even more simpler and relatable,” he explains.
Saad says it’s this simplicity of thought that has perhaps worked for his movies. For example, Humble Politician Nograj was such a success that it has now been adapted to the OTT space as a web series. “My approach to direction is to keep it to the point. I think this further evolved when I made shorts films during the lockdown,” says Saad who is inspired by the master filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee. While the web series will release soon, Saad is working on his next big project — a romantic comedy in Telugu that he has written and will direct.
Rajeev Ravindranathan, a creative head at an ad agency and a familiar face in Bengaluru’s theatre circuit, is more popularly known as the actor from films such as 3 Idiots, English Vinglish and Waiting. For someone who has always either been in front of the camera or behind the camera directing ad films, the pandemic came as an abrupt break. But Rajeev says this sudden change helped him prioritise things better. “I am looking at simplifying my work. I want to do more of it, but not be madly and blindly driven by it. I have become more discerning in choosing the work I want to do — be it films or the brands I associate with,” he explains. Rajeev, who has acted with the biggest stars of the country such as Aamir Khan and the late Sridevi, will next be seen Rocketry - The Nambi Effect alongside R Madhavan and in Chup with Sunny Deol, Dulquer Salman, Shreya Dhanawanthary and Pooja Bhat. While his work keeps him in glamorous company, Rajeev says he has started focusing on building long-lasting relationships. “I think even when we go on sets, now it’s more about making friends for life and maintaining those friendships,” he says, adding, “I am 45, and I feel after the lockdown, I had to uncomplicate my life and I have a much better understanding of what I want.”
While his work is keeping him busy now, during the lockdown, Rajeev and his family adopted two dogs, and have been feeding strays. So this is another reason for the father of two young girls to ensure he is at home more often. Christmas, he says, will be a quiet affair with his family. “My Christmas will be simple, with gifts under the tree, and cooking at home. In fact, more than ever, we’re determined to preserve our family rituals and not let the chaos around us affect the familiar warmth of the season,” says the actor who is also shooting with Manoj Bajpayee, Konkana Sen and Nasser for Abhishek Chaubey’s new series for Netflix
Her family went through a tough time recently, after her uncle Puneeth Rajkumar’s unexpected demise in October. At a time when the world is still facing the uncertainty of the pandemic, the Rajkumar family had to deal with this tragedy, and Dhanya was among the close relatives impacted by it. “We are still in a stoic state of mind,” says the actress who debuted in the Kannada film industry this year with Ninna Sanihake. While she shot for the movie in 2019, the film eventually released this October owing to the pandemic. This delay didn’t hamper its success. But what Dhanya missed the most was not being on the sets as much as she wanted to be. The only one plus point for her was being close to family. She says, “I got closer to my family. I started checking up on them more often and I also started doing more video calls with my friends. I think the pandemic taught me to be more caring than before.”
Though she comes from an illustrious and famous family, Dhanya has always been an approachable and affable individual. She says it’s something that she’s imbibed from her parents, grandfather and uncles. The pandemic has changed things for her just like it did for other people. She says, “Going out in fear and with restrictions isn’t something I enjoy. The charm of hanging out in public places is no longer the same. But I think this way of living, and the lockdown, helped us get back to our roots and lead a simple lifestyle.” Keeping in tune with this thought, Dhanya says her Christmas celebrations are going to be low-key. She may stay at home or visit her friend’s house to keep up the tradition. But since there has been a tragedy in the family, she says there’s no real celebration.
At a time when the world is seeking a silver lining, filmmaker Ashvin Matthew has won quite a few accolades. His yet-to-bereleased feature film 3 Devi won four awards at Silk Road Film Awards Cannes. The film is also an official selection at the Austria International Film Festival 2021. But this recognition hasn’t come easy for the stand-up comedian-theatre artiste-turned-filmmaker. “We had just completed 12 days of shooting, and the pandemic hit us. So throughout the lockdown period, I edited what we had shot and then I just planned what we had to do next,” explains Ashvin. The filmmaker reveals that during this period, he planned the rest of the shoot down to the smallest detail and took this up as a challenge to finish the journey he started. “I shot with the smallest crew and the credit goes to this amazing group of people who worked through the most challenging times. We even took the help of locals in a village close by. They cooked for us because there were no restaurants anywhere close to our location, and we paid them. All of this in a way was a learning experience of how simple things can be if we put our minds to it,” he says.
Although on stage Ashvin appears to be an outgoing person, in real life he is extremely private. In a way, the lockdown didn’t really impact his lifestyle. “I have to talk for a living and I like attention only when I am on stage. My friends don’t expect me to talk. There was a phase when I didn’t take up any work, I only participated in workshops, I read and performed by myself. I always remember what Mohanlal had once told me, that all this attention is fleeting.” For Christmas too, Ashvin will keep the celebrations minimal. “Also, the fact that many people have lost their loved ones is another reason to keep it quiet,” he says.