It is 10 p.m. in Mumbai. Isha Talwar is returning in a car to her home, near Juhu, after a 11-hour shoot for ‘Bacardi’, with Taha Shah, an upcoming Bollywood actor. But she is in good spirits. Because her debut film, ‘Thattathin Marayathu’ , has got a thumbs-up from the audience.
Isha plays Aisha, a Muslim girl, who has been living in Thalassery all her life. “She is a small-town girl whose mother passed away when Aisha was very young,” says Isha. “Aisha has a father [played by Sreenivasan], and an uncle [Ramu]. It is a protective, rather than a conservative Muslim family. The elders let Aisha go to college. Which is how she falls in love with Vinod [Nivin Pauly]. So, it is a campus love story,” she adds.
So how did a Mumbai-based model, who does not speak Malayalam, get a break in Mollywood? “I had been modelling for Dhathri Fairness Cream,” says Isha. “The cinematographer, Jomon T John, recommended my name to Vineeth [Sreenivasan].”
They met up at Kochi. Isha did a screen test, and passed. In order to prepare for the role, she learnt her dialogues from a Malayalam teacher, Brinda Nair, in Mumbai and got help from her Keralite friends. “I also had to learn how to do the namaaz, and play the guitar,” says Isha. “My voice was not much of a concern, because the dubbing was going to be done by actress Apoorva Bose.”
But in order that Isha could become comfortable, Vineeth asked her to come to the set at Thalassery a week prior to the shooting. “Initially, I felt jittery,” she says. “But I was made to feel so welcome by the other cast members and crew. When my own scenes were shot I felt at ease.”
Soon, she became friendly with the other actors like Aju Varghese. “Twenty days into the shoot, Aju told me that they were worried about whether a Mumbai model could come into the Malayalam film industry and be able to pull it off,” says Isha. Of course, she was able to pull it off because she got the biggest help from the director. “Much before I came to Thalassery, I had several telephonic conversations with Vineeth,” she says. “Aisha, the character, was very clear in his mind, but he gave me room to improvise. There were times when Vineeth made me hear a particular music and say, ‘Isha, when I was writing this scene, I was thinking of this song.’”
Isha also liked the fact that Vineeth is a cool and laid-back guy. “He is so motivating all the time,” she says. “If there is something that is not working during a particular scene Vineeth will tell me it is good, but there is a little bit more that he needs. He looks happy all the time.”
And in her first film itself, Isha got a chance to act opposite Sreenivasan, who plays her father.
“Sreenivasan Sir’s persona is electrifying on the sets,” she says. “In spite of being a legend, he made me feel relaxed. I have scenes where I break down and hug him. He helps you so much that you end up performing better. In short, he is a consummate professional.”
And clearly, the film has touched a chord, especially among the Muslim girls of Thalassery. “They told me the film is so true to life,” says Isha. “It is a Hindu-Muslim love story. That has had an impact, because it is so difficult to have such a relationship in India now. A lot of people have to sacrifice their love, because of the barriers caused by religion.”
On the other hand, Isha is jumping barriers. This busy model has done a music video with Hrithik Roshan for the ‘Just Dance’ competition, a Dulux paint advertisement with Shahid Kapoor and Boman Irani, as well as a VIP Skybags promotion with John Abraham. “So far, I have done about 40 advertisements,” she says. At present, Isha has received a few offers from Mollywood as well as Bollywood, and is mulling over it.
But clearly cinema is in her blood. Her father, Vinod Talwar, who works for producer Boney Kapoor, has been in Bollywood for the past 30 years, directing and producing films. “My dad is proud of my performance in ‘Thattathin Marayathu’,” says Isha. And the father gave one valuable acting tip to the daughter. “Find the moment of truth in every scene and perform accordingly,” says Isha.