'Drishyam' actor Esther Anil takes on magical realism in her next film 'Olu'

The teenager, who made a name for herself as a child actor, now looks forward to her woman-centric fantasy film

When auteur Shaji N Karun gave actor Esther Anil the script of his film, Olu, to read, she was in two minds. While her parents were ecstatic about the opportunity to work with a filmmaker like Shaji, Esther wondered if she would able to step into the shoes of Maya, the lead character in Olu.

“It has been my most difficult role to enact. I was able to do it only because of Shaji sir’s patience and belief in me,” says the 18-year-old actor who has made her mark as one of the best child stars in Mollywood, especially with her standout role in Jeethu Joseph’s Mohanlal-starrer Drishyam. Esther became a familiar face for film buffs in South India as she went on to reprise her role in the Tamil and Telugu remakes of the film.

Speaking on phone from Mumbai, where she is an undergrad student of Economics at St Xavier’s College, Esther sounds confident even when she talks about the challenges of essaying Maya. Fantasy and magical realism coalesce in Olu, a woman-centric film set in the emerald backwaters of Kerala. Based on myths and folk tales that thrive on the rustic banks of the backwater, Olu (which means ‘she’ in Malayalam), gently explores ideas of romance and man-woman relationships even while trying to understand the interplay of creativity and commerce.

Esther in a still from ‘Olu’

Esther in a still from ‘Olu’  
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Special arrangement

“Although I had played the lead in Tamil film Kuzhali, this is my first role in a woman-centric film, in which the story revolves around my character. Some of the scenes depict Maya making the waters her home and I took time to get used to the idea of giving the impression of living under water without a drop of water being actually being there. CGI and special effects were used to create the scenes of Maya living among the denizens of the water,” she laughs.

Looking the part

She had to slow down her movements, speak slowly and pretend that she was moving in the depths of a lagoon. “Moreover, for some of the scenes, I had a brown tube filled with water wrapped all around me and once that was done, I could not even sit down. It was not easy. But once I saw the film, it was amazing to watch those scenes embellished with special effects and CGI,” adds Esther.

She has also acted as leading lady in the Telugu film Johar, directed by Teja Marni. She points out that though she had spoken her lines in Telugu for Drishyam, she had not really learnt the language. However, for Johar, Esther decided to pick up the language to help her emote and dub for her role. The actor has had her share of adulation and fan following since she romanced the screen as a television hostess of a children’s programme on Amrita TV.

Films came calling and soon Esther became a much-in-demand child artiste, holding her own even while sharing screen space with stars and thespians of the Malayalam film industry in a career spanning more than nine years. While offers continue to pour in, Esther says she wants to make the most of her college life in Mumbai.

“Attendance at my college is strict and so long breaks for shoots would be difficult. I will have to cherry-pick my roles from now on and make sure that I would be able to complete my acting schedules during my breaks,” she says.

Like any other millennial in cinema today, Esther wants to ensure that academics does not suffer on account of her work in cinema. “At the same time, I enjoy acting and would like to keep working in films as well,” she admits.

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