Meatier acting roles and the producer’s hat have given Nazriya Nazim a renewed sense of purpose in her career, and the effervescent Malayalam actor is charting a new course for herself.

Grey is not a shade one would associate with the sunny Nazriya Nazim. But the cute, bubbly Malayalam actor makes one sit up and take notice of her Esther Lopez in Trance (2020). As the pot-smoking, hard-liquor drinking troubled prostitute with a sleek, ombre-dyed bob, she is far removed from the worlds of the Poojas, Divyas, and the Jennys she has played so far.

“In my career, I always played the roles that are related to my real life. Most of the characters were fun-loving and naughty. I think each of the characters had at least one element that is similar to my personality. But, in Trance, my character is very different,” she told Mathrubhumi. The role itself is not never-seen-before, but it certainly is Nazriya like we’ve never seen her before. She plays the perfect foil to her real-life husband Fahadh Faasil’s zany godman character in the movie.

“Though Esther has no similarity to my character, I never made any preparations to adapt myself into the role. But I observed a lot of things that connect. I was worried that if I get more conscious about the role, I will be in trouble when I start shooting,” she said in the same interview. Nazriya has said that the only preparation she did, was to make the character’s smoking and drinking habits look as authentic as possible, calling it a pretty easy role to pull off. It’s all thanks to director Anwar Rasheed, who envisioned her in a role like Esther’s. “Frankly, it’s also the first time that someone has approached me to do a character like this. It’s not like I took a decision that I won’t play such roles,” she said, in an interview to JFW.

By her own admission, Nazriya is trying to be more serious about her career. “I think it is high time to stop being childish,” she told Mathrubhumi. Armed with more clarity about the kind of roles she wants to play, it sure does seem like she has entered new innings in her career. The actor took a break after marrying Fahadh in 2014. She returned to play sister to Prithviraj Sukumaran in 2018’s Koode, reuniting with her Bangalore Days director Anjali Menon. In her new avatar, she has turned a lot pickier, only accepting roles that truly excite her, even if it means being absent from the screen for a few years on end. Trance came after a two-year break after Koode.

2020 has been pretty eventful for Nazriya. Apart from Trance, she also appeared in a cameo role in Maniyarayile Ashokan. The film, a maiden production venture by actor Dulquer Salmaan, was released on Netflix due to the pandemic, and earned rave reviews. As Malayalam films are going through a resurgence of exemplary storytelling, she has also produced Varathan (2018), Kumbalangi Nights (2019), and C U Soon (2020), starring her husband. “I realise that there has been a gap between my films only when people tell me that. That’s because we are either producing a film, or listening to scripts. So, I have always thought that I have been a part of cinema,” she told JFW.

In an interview to The Hindu, she said the decision to produce films was one that she made jointly with Fahadh, as he wanted to concentrate only on his acting when he is shooting. “I decided to join hands with him, listen to stories, and so on. It was an organic process. There has to be someone to look into the nitty-gritty, and that is how I turned producer. I plan to produce more films if I come across interesting stories.” But, she finds acting more challenging than production. “You have to make a character look real.” Trance also paired her with her husband after the successful Bangalore Days, during the filming of which they fell in love with each other. The couple has said Trance was the only movie so far that they were offered together, which excited them both.

“Fahadh has always been supportive. There has never been a discussion on whether I should or shouldn’t do films. There was a time after our wedding when I had lazy days and he would say, ‘You should listen to scripts. Entha madiyaayo (Have you become lazy)?’” she told JFW. The actor, who acted in successful films in Tamil as well, is now all set to make her Telugu debut with actor Nani in a film likely to be released next year.

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