Momo in Dubai was released in theatres on February 3, 2022.
Malayalam theatrical release in the form of Momo in Dubai, a family entertainer directed by Ameen Aslam, and written by Zakariya and Ashif Kakkodi. The film, which released in theatres on February 3, saw Anu share the screen with Athreya Baiju, Aneesh Gopinathan, Anu Sithara and Johny Antony.
Anu’s last major role in a Malayalam film was in 2019’s Mamangam. Although 2021 and 2022 saw her star in Vanam and 12th Man, the former was a Tamil film and the latter marked her first direct to OTT release. As Anu prepares for her new movie, OTTplay caught up with the actress, who opened up about her role in Momo in Dubai, her experience working with director Ameen, her upcoming releases, and more.
Excerpts from the interview…
1.What made you say yes to Momo in Dubai?
The reason I said yes to Momo In Dubai is because I absolutely loved the film’s story and the character I am playing. Also the team behind the film is wonderful, and getting a chance to work with them was a great opportunity. Indeed I had a lovely experience working on the film, as I was able to learn a lot. If you see Zakaria’s past films, you would be able to understand the way the team works. It did not feel as if I was ‘acting’, it was like I was living the character, which was a new experience for me.I really enjoyed the experience.
2. Could you open up a bit about your character in the film? Did you have scope for improvisation/ did you try and bring your own flavour to the character or did you solely rely on the director's inputs?
My character’s name is Khadija, and she is an ordinary, traditional woman who has a deep understanding and love for those in her family. She understands the situations and mindsets of her husband, and her three children, and manages them all beautifully. She is a typical homemaker you see in small towns. She has a few chickens whose eggs she sells to make ends meet. But she is also someone who has her own opinions and is not afraid to voice them.
Khadija is the end result of the ideas and inputs of the entire team. The director, the writers and the associate director, they all used to clearly tell me how they conceptualised Khadija, and my inputs were considered as well. As I said before, since we were actually living the characters, the team did not insist on the script to be followed to the tee. They told me to behave as I would if I encountered such a similar situation, and go with the flow. It was a bit difficult for me in the initial few days, as it was not something I was used to. But then it started to become easier for me and I was given the freedom to improvise a lot.
3. How was your experience working with director Ameen Aslam?
After shooting for the film, I got to know that Ameen ikka was adamant that I should be the one to essay the role of Khadija. After knowing this, I told him how grateful I was when I saw him next. I’ve always felt that Ameen ikka was someone who had a deep love for cinema. As a director, he is very particular about his vision and makes us do the scene in a way that fits what he has envisioned. Despite that, he gives us the full freedom to ask questions and clear any doubts we have and even give our own inputs as well. It was great working with him.
4. In the film you and Athreya Baiju play a mother-son duo. How was your off screen dynamic with the young actor?
We still call Athreya Momo even now, since we got so used to it. He was even introduced to me as Momo, and I have to say, he is a great, smart kid. We shot in Dubai, and we did not have caravans, so we all sat in one single room. There were also two other children with us, named Shanamol and Dilu, who I also call by their character names. All of us, including Aneesh ettan, became really close. We always used to talk about one thing or the other, I used to tell them stories, and we used to play antakshari. I think the great chemistry we had off screen was translated on screen as well. Those three children hold a special place in my heart. We still keep in touch from time to time, and I’m happy that our bond is still there even after we finished filming the film.
5. The Malayalam film industry has recently seen the success of children-centred movies like Unni Mukundan’s Malikappuran. Do you think it bodes well for Momo in Dubai?
I would not call Momo in Dubai an out and out children’s entertainer. Although the film progresses through Momo’s point of view, his family and every other character in the film have their own importance. So it is a film one should see with their whole family. I think most of us love watching children’s films because it brings out the nostalgia in us as well, and we can relate to many of it as well.
6.The past 3 years saw you pick fewer projects, with one release each year, after witnessing success with a number of big ticket releases in 2019. What was the reason behind the same?
Actually it never felt to me that there had been a gap in my releases. Only thinking over it now, I feel like it is true. There’s no particular reason for it, other than the snags due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After that, my latest film was released on OTT.
Another reason why I did not feel like there was a gap is due to the fact that I was still continuously shooting. I was shooting for my films like Vathil, Santhosham, Anuradha, and a Tamil movie named Pathu Thala. And of course, Momo. So I was continuously shooting without taking a lot of gaps. But because of the delay of their release in theatres, it feels like a big gap. This February, Santhosham will be released, and Pathu Thala will be released on March 30.
7. You were last seen in 12th man. How was the experience of working with the ensemble team - especially after the lockdown when many actors were short of work.
It was a lovely experience working on 12th Man. Lalettan and Jeethu sir’s combination is something else. Since we shot during the pandemic, filming took place in a single location, and we stayed there as well. Since everyone was together, we used to chat, tell stories and laugh whenever we were free.So working on 12th Man was also an enjoyable experience.
8.The current year for you seems to be packed with a number of releases. Can you speak a bit about the same.
So Momo in Dubai, Santhosham and Pathu Thala’s release dates have been fixed. Talking about the latter, it is Simmbu’s film, and one of the things I am most happy about is the fact that A R Rahman has composed the music for the film. I absolutely love him, and the fact that I got a chance to perform in one of his songs is something I am really happy about.
Coming to Santhosham, the film will be released in February, and it is also a family movie as well.