South Indian actress Mamta Mohandas has grown weary of playing innately good and unthreatening girl-next-door roles.
The Bahrain-bred Indian talent, who goes by her first name Mamta, is done pretending to be an understanding girlfriend of an all-conquering hero or a saccharine, all-sacrificial mother to a young child in films. She’s hungry for some unlikeable and violent roles and she’s not shy to say it loud.
Enter ‘Bhramam’, her latest Malayalam thriller in which she plays a diabolical and wicked woman Simi. In the South Indian adaptation of the 2018 Bollywood hit ‘Andhadhun’, Mamta steps into the shoes of National Award-winning actress Tabu, who played the original femme fatale to perfection.
In ‘Bhramam’, out in UAE cinemas now, Mamta plays a feisty woman who’s married to wealthy but fading actor (Shankar), but is caught philandering with her buffed-up lover (Unni Mukundan).
But cheating on her husband on their wedding anniversary is the least of her crimes. Her deception gets complicated when her emotional husband kills himself and she orchestrates a hasty cover-up of his death.
“You have heard of actors playing anti-heroes, but you rarely hear of an actress playing an anti-heroine. They don’t come easy and this role was so refreshing for me to play,” said Mamta in an interview with Gulf News.
The actress was in Dubai on October 6 for the world premiere of the film along with lead actors Prithviraj and Mukundan, and director Ravi K Chandran.
Mamta,35, also describes Simi as her career’s most challenging, complex and fascinating role.
“I am a big fan of Ayushmann [Khurrana] and the film ‘Andhadhun’, but I am also a huge fan of Tabu who played Simi so compellingly. As an actress, it’s always interesting to take on a role that an actor has outshone in … And Simi is unique and unpredictable,” said Mamta.
Her goal was to play her part in a ‘cunningly cute’ manner. Cunning may be an understatement for a woman who doesn’t blink twice about dealing with anyone who dares to cross her, but Mamta ran with it and had fun as she sprinted to the finish line.
“I have always been crazy about Tabu’s performance because she always brings something special and unique to her roles — the way her voice modulates or the way she gazes at her actors. Actress Rani Mukherjee is another talent who brings in an extra zing to any role that she plays. There’s a certain naivete that they bring to their evil performances and a certain quirkiness that makes them sometimes even likeable,” said Mamta.
When Mamta read the script, she got the distinct impression that Simi can be devious, but seem vulnerable too.
“For instance, she pretends to be vulnerable with her husband but when he realises she’s not so saintly then she switches to a complete different mode … She ends up covering a crime and then committing one crime after another…. But I played her with a tinge of innocence. Otherwise I knew I will come across as a complete fraud,” said Mamta.
Being bad but not grotesque seemed to be the goal for this thriller and in all fairness, she succeeded in towing that delicate line.
As a viewer if you are able to expunge the original Bollywood film from your mind and assess the Malayalam film independently without comparing it to the original, then Mamta and Prithviraj have done their jobs well.
But forgetting the original is the operative clause to enjoying ‘Bhramam’, which is relatively more bombastic and not-so-subtle when compared to ‘Andhadhun’.
Was there really a need to revisit a Bollywood film that was almost perfect?
“We don’t make remakes of a flop films and remakes are only made if the original was a good film. Remember Martin Scorsese made a remake of a film and got an Oscar… ‘The Departed’ was a remake of ‘Infernal Affairs’… In Hollywood, they remake French and other films … People remake because it’s a good script,” said director Ravi K Chandran.
Actor Prithviraj and son of late actor Sukumaran believes that ‘Andhadhun’ was near perfect, but since it was not in Malayalam it wasn’t perfect in his eyes. Around 2018, after the acclaimed Bollywood film released, Prithviraj even tried to purchase the rights of the original, but the deal fell through due to ‘technical issues’. Cut to 2021, he’s just happy that he’s a part of this ambitious project.
Mamta, like all her co-actors, also have experience acting in remakes.
“Let me give you a beauty reference of previous adaptation. Allow me to sound a bit cocky when I say ‘My Boss’ was the adaptation of the Hollywood film ‘The Proposal’ … It was such a massive success in Malayalam. Rewriting the material to our audience is where the challenge lies,” said Mamta.
Prithviraj, who is one of Malayalam cinema’s most versatile and talented actors, believes that ‘Andhadhun’ lends itself beautifully to being remade in Malayalam.
“Let’s all acknowledge the fact that ‘Andhadhun’ is a fantastic piece of art. It’s a brilliant film powered by brilliant performances and director Sriram Ragahavan is one my favourite modern filmmakers. We just hope we have done justice to the original,” said Prithviraj.
After watching ‘Bhramam’, it can be safely said that it’s a faithful, but louder adaptation of ‘Andhadhun’. The Malayalam crew wanted to make their update edgier, quirkier and funnier.
“Malayalam films lends itself so beautifully to black humour … Any Malayali gets those nuances beautifully … Malayalam cinema has its own quirks and I promise you that we have small little surprises in every nook and corner of the plot,” said Prithviraj. In this film, he plays a musician who pretends to be blind to get by in life, but becomes a reluctant witness to a crime cover-up orchestrated by Mohandas’ character.
“I don’t think anywhere in the film do we even give him a facade of being a nice guy. He fakes his own blindness and he’s not your typical nice guy … So it’s a performance within a performance. I had to play a blind person who is faking his blindness and I had to play a blind person who wasn’t born blind but claims to have woken up blind” said Prithviraj.
In ‘Bhramam’, every character has something sinful to hide and they will go to any lengths to protect their shameful hide.
“But isn’t that the real fun in being an actor,” said Mamta.
Don’t miss it!
‘Bhramam’ is out in the UAE cinemas now.
Box out 1:
What’s Mamta Mohandas and Prithviraj’s favourite thriller of all times?
Mamta: ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘A Simple Favour’
Prithviraj: ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’
Did you know?
Mamta Mohandas, who is a cancer survivor, launched the Department of Oncology at Aster Hospital in Al Qusais Dubai.
“The biggest awards in my life have been my rewards during my battle with cancer. I have lived with lymphoma for the last twelve year… Cancer disturbs your life in so many ways … But doctors who show that you care makes a lot of difference,” said Mamta at that event.