In the right direction. Redha Malamchikkal with Shabu Kilithattil, writer and director of the short film Mashhad Image Credit: © xpress/ Javed Nawab

Dubai: Redha Malamchikkal is a 13-year-old with a vision. Never mind that she is autistic and visually impaired, she has set her sights on stardom.

The Dubai-based girl, who hails from Kerala in India, is a delight to talk to as she regales you with her rave role in a short film Mashhad, which if all goes well will be screened at some of the world’s best film festivals.

Ravages of war

Written and directed by Shabu Kilithattil, an Indian expat in Dubai, the film revolves round blind girl Fathima who is caught in the ravages of war in Iraq, but finds comfort in the lap of Mother Nature. Redha, who plays Fathima’s role with natural ease, does a brilliant job with her search for answers, even as she poses innocent, yet deeply significant, questions to her single mother Nadia. Inheriting her mother’s talent to paint, Fathima learns to see the world through her senses, whether it is through touch, smell or hearing.

A gifted singer and pianist, Redha says music is what gives her the utmost happiness. “I keep the radio on all day – from 6am to 10pm – and listen to all the different channels. I love the classics from old Malayalam films,” she says, breaking into a song that showcases her immense talent.

 It saddens me when I hear bad news on the radio.”

 - Redha Malamchikkal, actress, mashhad 

No stranger to the stage

Her father Abdul Rahim Malamchikkal says she is no stranger to the stage. With a measure of pride, he says Redha has won several accolades for her outstanding performance at youth festivals and also the Emirates Literature Festival where she recited a poem. She has also performed with some renowned Malayalam singers.

If that were not enough, Redha tells you she is also very good with dates and numbers. “Ask me about any date and I will tell you which day it is,” she urges. And sure enough, she can tell you the exact day on which the date falls, irrespective of the year in question. “I can also remember phone numbers very easily,” adds Redha, a product of the Special Needs Future Development Centre.

Pillars of support. Redha with her dad Abdul Rahim and mum Raziya

But what was it that drew her to the film? “I liked the story very much,” she says. “It saddens me when I hear bad news on the radio.”

Kilithattil says Redha was a perfect fit for the film. “Initially, I was not looking for someone who was actually visually impaired for Fathima’s role. But when I met Redha, I knew she would deliver. She is very talented.”

He says the 20-minute film was shot for 10 days in different locales in Dubai, including Jumeirah Park, Mamzar Beach and Mamzar Park.

The shooting was not without its share of challenges. “Redha won’t miss her favourite radio programme for anything. So she can be adamant and irritable if her schedule is disturbed. She also has her mood swings, so we had to work around them. But at the end of the day, Redha proved she is a fine actress,” says Kilithattil who got an Arab girl to do the dubbing for Fathima’s voice.