I don't create comfort zones because they hinder spontaneity

In a candid interview, popular actress Lena talks to Deepa Antony about her successful transition into an entrepreneur with Aakruti, her slimming centre in Kochi and her film journey.

A formidable actor who has constantly reinvented herself playing any role that comes her way- be it a naïve village belle, an independent and bold working woman, a young IPS officer or a elderly conservative Muslim woman, trust Lena to give it her 200%! Now, she has successfully transitioned into an entrepreneur with Aakruti, her slimming centre in Kochi, all the while juggling with her ongoing acting assignments. Lena speaks to us about what keeps her going from Kollam, at the sets of Ira, directed by Saiju SS and starring Unni Mukundan.

You’ve been a staple in Malayalam movie industry for quite some time now. How and where did it all start?

I was studying in my 11th standard when I was selected for the movie Sneham, directed by Jayaraj sir. The movie has Jayaram ettan and Biju Menon. It was all very exciting acting and all. But after a few movies I went back to my studies. I then did my graduation in clinical psychology and did my internship in the same at Mumbai. Then I came back and then back to acting as well.

Acting involves observing people and their behaviors. So, do you think your psychology background has helped you in your acting?

Of course, it definitely helps me in my acting. I won’t be able to tell you how exactly it helps my acting. But there’s no doubt in my mind that it helps.

You’ve taken special care in not being stereotyped. If I may, you are even the queen of breaking boundaries…

(Smiles) See, I easily get bored by monotony and I hate getting stereotyped. I’m constantly in search of roles that defy these stereotypes. I don’t create comfort zones around me because I think it hinders spontaneity. And I never let my boundaries be small. I try and bring a lot of change in each role I undertake.

You’ve played a lot of characters, many actors your age may be hesitant to take on. Which role of yours do you consider the most challenging, physically and emotionally?

Mostly, I don’t do a lot of preparation before playing a character. My homework before reaching the location for a character is limited to putting thought into the costume and make-up of the character. But in terms of physical and emotional exertion I’ve had to put in, I have to say it’s Pathumma from Ennum Ninte Moideen. Though I’ve played many Muslim characters before this movie, Pathumma was different and challenging, both physically and emotionally. For one, Pathumma is based on a real-life character. So I had to meet the expectations of many people. Also, I had to bring in a certain body language and mannerism to suit the age and other factors of the character.

So, what is your process for getting into a character? Do you have a homework routine?

Frankly, no, I don’t do any homework. But I do hone any technical skills my character might need. Of course there is an internal thought process that keeps churning in me every single minute. But, acting comes to me naturally. I consider it God’s gift to me! There’s really no recipe to it! But, yes, there is a lot of hard work. But the hard work is in the material things, like waking up in the morning after a 10-12 hour shoot the previous day, the travelling and waiting for those 2-3 scenes we shoot in the hot sun in the whole day.

You are practically the go-to actor for bold and resilient characters, I feel. Anitha Roy (from Left Right Left) was one such character…

Anitha Roy is one of my favorite characters too. To me she is and will always be the heroine of the story. I cannot perceive it any other way. But as luck would have it, and I don’t know why, I was awarded as the Best Supporting Actress for the movie! Personally, to me, Anitha is the heroine.

As an artist, do you identify with your characters and do they haunt you after you’ve played the role?

Most often than not I’m detached to the characters I portray once I’m off the sets. After the schedule I look at the movies that I’ve worked in with a viewer’s third-person perspective. It’s not a conscious thing I necessarily do. But this modus operandi helps me look at my work objectively so I stick to it.

We see you in reinvent your look yet again. What’s the secret behind that?

I was constantly working and wasn’t paying attention at the way I looked. So, after Adam Joan I thought I looked fat! And, I decided to lose weight and lost 9kgs through my new slimming process venture Aakruti.I I am quite happy with my transformation. I think I look quite good in Jeethu Joseph’s Aadi. You’ll even see the new me in the upcoming Grihalakshmi issue.

Tell us about your new business venture, Aakruti.

Well, Aakruti is my new business venture that I’ve started partnered with my childhood friend who is also our physiotherapist. At Aakruti our weight loss methods aren’t like any other. We use physiotherapy machines and methods that target your muscles to facilitate weight loss. These methods make the muscles stronger. Apart from that we have no severe diets and there will be no side-effects. So, once you lose your desired weight using our methods you won’t regain the kilos under you heavily over-eat.

Are you a foodie?

I am a foodie, but I like food for the taste. So, I eat for the taste and I eat in moderation. I strongly believe that one must eat whatever they want, and only when they want, but in moderation.

What are your other interests?

I read when I have time. But, I only read non-fiction and also, I don’t exactly read for fun, but to gain knowledge. So, I mostly read spiritual books, psychology books and travelogues.

Tell us about your upcoming releases.

I just finished dubbing for Jeethu Joseph’s Aadi. Paviyettante madhurachooral is another project I’m really excited about. It’s a typical Srinivasan script. I play a teacher’s role opposite Srini ettan. I’m excited about this role as it’s a ‘naadan’ role and I’m once again wearing sarees. It’s a wonderful shift and I enjoyed it! I just joined the sets of Ira, directed by debutant Saiju S. It is an interesting role, but I can’t tell you much about it as I just joined them this week. A prompt and professional actor, Lena signs off as her lunch recess between her shoot at Kollam comes to an end. With carefully picked roles and well chosen films, a thinkers’ actor is what Lena has turned herself into. Her sense of adventure in re-inventing and re-discovering herself is finally paying off as she hops from one movie to another, playing meaty roles in her stride.