There is no stopping her. Anu will certainly follow Esther Anil wherever she goes.
Anil was 12 when she played Anu — George Kutty’s little daughter in the critically-acclaimed Malayalam film ‘Drishyam.’
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And she won our hearts with her vulnerability as we watched Anu being intimidated by a cruel and spiteful police inspector Sahadevan.
‘Drishyam’ released way back in 2013 and was remade subsequently in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Hindi as well in Sinhalese and Chinese, Esther reprised her roles from the original in the threeٍSouth Indian remakes.
‘Drishyam’ gave the 12-year-old school kid an identity like no other continuing to follow her even to Mumbai where Anil is pursuing a degree.
“The reason to move to Mumbai was to experience a life of my own and be away from the public glare, but not a day passes without someone recognising me as Drishyam papa,” said Anil who travels by bus and train to college.
“I am often surprised that Mumbai residents recognise me and come up to me to confirm their doubt. It’s the same story in college,” she added, sharing another anecdote about her room-mate discussing Malayalam film, ‘Oolu.’
“She could not help wondering why she found my face was familiar. I then revealed to her that I played the lead in ‘Oolu,” smiled Anil.
Spending time now in Waynaad with grandparents, Anil is missing Mumbai life and college.
So is she active in college plays?
“I don’t participate in plays but enjoy working behind the scenes,” she said.
As she looks forward for the release of ‘Johaar’ — a film that marks her Telugu cinema debut — Anil recalled doing the shoot during the holidays after class 12 in 2018.
“Usually my parents make the decisions for me. They wondered if I should do this film which is controversial, but after listening to the story I was keen. It was a role I had not done earlier. My parents were happy that I made my own decision,” she said.
Anil plays Jyoti, the daughter of a sex worker from Varanasi, who wants her to follow her trade but Jyoti has her dreams. She escapes from her mother with a guy who loves her. Ankith Koya is paired opposite Anil.
“That was a new experience,” said Anil who dubbed in Telugu. “There is not much dialogue in the beginning as Jyoti is a shy girl but towards the end I had to deliver long lines and in one go for a shot. That was a nightmare but I think I nailed it.”
Little did the eight-year-old know then when she was called to host a chat show on Amrita TV, she would become Destiny’s favourite child. Cinema beckoned with ‘Nallavan.’ Anil remembers not being happy on the sets of ‘Nallavan.’
“Initially I was given a pretty dress to wear but after a while I had to wear dirty clothes as a servant girl. I didn’t want to do that and wanted to go home.”
Her next film was ‘Oru Naal Varum’ where she played Mohan Lal’s daughter. Though she shared her parent’s excitement at meeting Lal, the little girl did not like being roused up from sleep early to report to the sets.
“Lal uncle made it a fun experience”
And when ‘Drishyam’ came calling, the youngster was comfortable in Lal’s company although she was clueless about the story.
“I just followed the director’s instructions. It was only while watching the film in a theatre that I understood the story,” she said.
Today when Anil watches ‘Drishyam’ on television, she realises its enormous impact on her life. Having worked with senior directors earlier, she was eager to work with a young and new director in ‘Johaar.’
“It is different working with newcomers. There were moments when you wonder on the many retakes, but they are also learning, so it’s OK. Director Teja does not compromise on quality,” said Anil.
She is also a part of Santosh Sivan’s Malayalam film, ‘Jack and Jill’, led by Manju Warrier. On the anvil is Jeethu Joseph’s ‘Drishyam 2’.
“I have not read the script nor had any discussion with Jeethu uncle,” she said.
For now, Anil is content keeping busy in her world of Instagram and catching up with her friends.