Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Stars

Mollywood child actors, like Esther Anil, Deni Emmanuel Jacklin and Baby Nayanthara, are thriving. They talk about how they got their breaks, their success stories and the reactions of friends and relatives

By Shevlin Sebastian

Photos: Esthel Anil; Deni Emmanuel Jacklin and Sanoop. 

Photo of Sanoop by Suresh Nampoothiri 

It was a tense scene in 'Drishyam'. Police constable Sahadevan hits Georgekutty (Mohanlal). And Georgekutty's daughter, Anu (Esther Anil), was supposed to shake in fear. After the first take, the director, Jeethu Joseph, told Esther she should shiver some more. That was when Mohanlal suggested that he would fall to the floor after being hit.

You observe me and react accordingly,” Mohanlal told Esther. And when Esther saw Mohanlal falling to the floor, she really got scared. Esther's performance was widely praised, and 'Drishyam' became a blockbuster hit. And recently, Esther finished shooting for the Tamil version, 'Papanasham', with Kamal Hasan, and with Venkatesh for the Telugu adaptation, 'Drushyam'.

Like most child artistes, Esther came into films through sheer accident. When a TV channel crew came to Wayanad (254 kms from Kochi) to do a segment on her mother Molly for a cooking programme, cameraman Biju Pazavila saw the bubbly Esther and was impressed. He suggested to her parents that a portfolio of her photos be taken.

The album did the rounds. Soon Esther got her first role in 'Nallavan'. And now, 21 films later, she is well known all over Kerala.

Asked how life has changed for her, Esther says, “My classmates [in the De Paul Public school] have asked for my autograph. Even my friends want to pose for photographs with me. When I go to the railway station, a crowd forms just to see me.”

A crowd of teachers and students of the Leo XIII Higher Secondary School in Allapuzha rushed to see the 3D film, 'Little Superman'. The reason: Class 8 student Deni Emmanuel Jacklin was playing the hero Villi.

Like Esther, Deni also got the role by chance. One day, a friend told Deni's mother, the actress Rani Larius, that there was an advertisement in the newspaper: the director Vinayan was looking for a boy-hero. So she sent an application. Soon, she got a call from Vinayan asking her to bring Deni to Kochi. There, the youngster danced and acted in front of the director. He was one among a few thousand aspirants. After a photo shoot, Deni was selected to play 'Superman'. “Deni showed self-confidence and poise,” says Vinayan. “I was impressed.”

The shoot lasted for 40 days, but Deni received a lot of support from the school. “My friends took down notes and send it to me,” says Deni. “And when I could not sit for some exams, I was allowed to do it at a different date.”

In recent times, several child actors have done well in Mollywood. Sanoop Santhosh was the Best Child Artist at the 2014 Kerala State Film Awards, for his role in 'Philips and the Monkey Pen'. The brothers Benson, Shebin and Nebish, performed competently in the recent hit, 'Iyobinte Pushthakam', while Baby Nayanthara has acted in several films, even though she is only a Class 7 student.

Asked the difference between the child actors of today and earlier, Vinayan says, “They have self-confidence, a positive attitude, and are exposed to a lot of children's films on TV, like the Harry Potter series. Deni had already seen the Superman films, so he knew what we wanted. So I am not surprised many directors are using children in their films.” 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)

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