A hit Malayalam film, Jacobinte Swargarajyam (called Jacob’s Kingdom of Heaven in the UAE) isn’t just set in Dubai — it features two UAE residents making their feature film debuts.
A trained western and classical dancer, Dubai’s Aima Rosmy Sebastian plays Ammu Jacob, the daughter of Jacob. UAE businessman Ashwin Kumar plays the antagonist, Murali, in this family drama based on the life of a UAE businessman.
Sebastian has performed in a number of dance shows. She was also part of a troupe run by Asha Sharath, the Malayali actress of Drishyam fame, but didn’t consider film until choreographer Mythili Roy suggested she audition for Jacobinte Swargarajyam.
“It’s gone beyond my imagination,” Sebastian says of the success of the film, adding that Malayalam actor Jayasurya called to congratulate her on her acting.
Sebastian says it was a blessing to work under director Vineeth Sreenivasan. “He is a down to earth person,” she says in an email.
The set of Jacobinte Swargarajyam was always filled with laughter and “it was an energetic team”.
Sharing the screen with Nivin Pauly, she got lots of acting tips. With director Lakshmi Ramakrishnan playing her onscreen mother, Sebastian learnt to improvise; as for Renji Panicker, who is her onscreen father, she found a concerned parent who also kept her laughing with his imitation of her voice.
“Bhasi [who plays Ammu’s brother] is the cool type. One guitar was more than enough for him and he entertained the unit with his songs,” she says.
After the film was done, she says she missed Stacen Varghese, who played Ammu’s younger brother, and their friendly quarrels.
“Stacen was our secret cameraman when Reba [the heroine of the story] and I choreographed dance moves together,” she adds.
Kumar, who was born in Chennai and raised in Dubai, has an MBA from the University of Wales. Unlike Sebastian, the acting bug bit him while in high school. An ardent fan of Tamil actors Kamal Haasan and Vikram, Kumar is a self-taught actor who found joy in mimicking actors from Tamil, Hindi and English cinema and posting the videos online.
His prized moment came when, during a UAE stage performance, Haasan was in the audience to watch him deliver lines from his films. Kumar, who assists his father in managing the family automotive business in Dubai, worked in few a short films before Jacobinte Swargarajyam.
Kumar’s performance as an anti-hero defied stereotypes and in the midst of a cast that included seasoned actors, this debutante stood out with his riveting performance.
Jacobinte Swargarajyam is currently out in UAE cinemas.