Unnimaya Prasad: Dileesh Pothan gives interesting inputs which make you think as an actor
The Malayalam actor discusses how director Dileesh Pothan’s brief helped her understand Bincy’s character in ‘Joji’
Bincy’s character, in Dileesh Pothan’s Joji, has a quiet presence even as she goes about doing household chores; she hides her disappointment and streak of cunning behind the quietness. Unnimaya Prasad, who essays Bincy, stands out for her understated, yet powerful performance.
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She credits it to director Dileesh Pothan and her familiarity with the team. Unnimaya had twin roles to play; she was also the executive producer. “I left that job outside the gate when I entered the house for the shoot. [Dileesh] Pothan told me to be there as Bincy and not as the producer,” she says, laughing; the team’s camaraderie is unmissable. Listening to Unnimaya talk gives a sense of how she became Bincy, and how Joji got made.
Her familiarity with filmmaking as an assistant director, helped her as an actor, “Having been on both sides of the camera definitely helps. I don’t know of any other way!” There is much more to Unnimaya than acting. She has been part of the creative team of Maheshinte Prathikaaram, Thondimuthalum, Driksakshiyum, Mayanadi and Kumbalangi Nights donning multiple hats including casting director and assistant director on some; she has also acted in some of these and others films such as 5 Sundarikal, Parava, Trance and Virus among others.
Edited excerpts from an interview:
How did Bincy’s character come to be? How much of it was in the script?
Everything was scripted. Fleshing out the character happens during the shoot. But we had a basic idea of how the character is going to be. When it comes to performance, certain evolutionary aspects [of the character] develop. Inputs from the technicians help make it better. [Dileesh] Pothan is open to discussions, we have that space to discuss with him, which enhances the quality.
With Fahadh Faasil in the film
Bincy conveyed so much, the performance was so understated…how did you do it?
The best part was I had been working with the team for so long, that I knew how they work and bring out the ‘product’. Being an assistant director, I know what they want in terms of an actor’s contribution. It was easier for me, than any other [outside] project.
What were your discussions about this character with Dileesh Pothan?
Since I was also the executive producer, a lot of the time was spent discussing the financial and production aspects of it…most of the time I would be reminding him about the budget. He would joke ‘you come to the set as Bincy and not the executive producer’. Jokes apart, I did enter the house as Bincy.
Pothan gave me interesting inputs, based on what exactly he wanted. For instance when Joji replaces the medicines the first time Bincy sees him, when he does it a second time she’s sitting on a chair and reading a magazine. Pothan’s input was ‘look like how you would if you are a security guard who sees but doesn’t say anything’. That is the kind of thing that makes you think as an actor and what you can contribute. Since I have assisted him, it was easy because I know what he needs from an actor.
What was Syam Pushkaran, ‘Joji’s’ scenarist and your husband’s input? Do you discuss work?
Generally we discuss all his scripts except but this one (laughs). We did discuss the first half, I also worked on it. We had to quarantine for 14 days after coming in contact with a COVID-19 patient in the initial stages of the project. That is when we worked on that particular portion. Syam and I didn’t get to discussing what happens after. That I found out later from Pothan.
‘Anjaam Pathiraa’s’ Catherine Maria is one your best roles yet. How would you rate your Bincy?
(Laughs) I would rate it very well…I’d give myself an 8.5 on 10.
How has been the response post-release?
The response has been amazing and rapid. After it released, we were checking our phones and searching the Net to gauge the response. It just grew and kept growing. It was nothing like the experience of watching the film release in a theatre where you can, literally, feel a wave of response.
Was acting ever part of your plan?
I have always wanted to act, right from when I was a kid. While in school, in Class 4 or so, I was selected to be on a pamphlet with other kids in my school. Each of us was dressed as different characters…I played a witch — a very happy one. I was probably the only kid happy to be a witch. I felt like an actor that day, and since then I believed I would be an actor and it happened.