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Sesham Mikeil Fathima star Kalyani Priyadarshan on why she’s more worried about the audience response than its box office numbers

Sesham Mikeil Fathima actress Kalyani Priyadarshan explains why the essence of the film of taking a chance on someone echoed with her and the team

Sesham Mikeil Fathima star Kalyani Priyadarshan on why she’s more worried about the audience response than its box office numbers
Kalyani Priyadarshan

Last Updated: 07.00 PM, Nov 16, 2023


If there’s one thing that you are guaranteed during a conversation with Thallumaala and Hridayam actress Kalyani Priyadarshan is that she will speak her mind. This also means she would be all nerves before the release of a movie, probably because of the very high expectations she has set for herself and, most importantly, because she wants to not let down the expectations that the audience has set for her.

While she’s into her seventh Malayalam film, Kalyani’s latest release, Sesham Mikeil Fathima, had her taking up her biggest challenge yet: being the solo lead. In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, the actress talks about how the film’s essence of believing in someone and taking a chance on them helped the team make the movie, how the film will give her answers to important questions in her career and more.


Sesham Mikeil Fathima was a script that you had heard after Varane Avashyamund. Right after Thallumaala, you told us about how nervous you were about the audience accepting your character, Beepathu, because the role needed you to speak in a particular slang. Did people loving your role give you more confidence to do Fathima in this movie?

The main difference is that people accepted my role because she wasn’t a Malabar girl; Beepathu was someone who had enough ‘jaada’, came from Dubai and wanted to show off. So, the audience was able to forgive the fact that I had an English accent and didn’t have perfect Malappuram slang. It also worked well for the character and in fact, we went a little overboard so that it suited Beepathu’s personality.

Kalyani Priyadarshan in a still from Thallumaala
Kalyani Priyadarshan in a still from Thallumaala

That wouldn’t actually work for Fathima and that’s why I have extra fear. She was born and brought up in Malappuram and is culturally involved in the area. So, I wouldn’t get away with a Dubai accent or anything of that sort. In fact, after Thallumaala, I knew I had a bigger task ahead when I decided to do this film.

Kalyani Priyadarshan in the poster of Shesham Mike-il Fathima
Kalyani Priyadarshan in the poster of Shesham Mike-il Fathima

You play a very lively character, who is also a sports announcer, in the film. Assuming your character needed to sustain that infectious energy throughout the movie, it would have also warranted that you be comfortable with what you are saying and your body language. How challenging was that?

This was my most challenging character so far, in terms of skill as well as body language. There are two reasons for that: one is getting the language right and the other half is maintaining the energy. One thing that I observed while interacting with a lot of Malabar girls is that they are very expressive; they really don’t know how to hide their emotions; it’s all there on their faces.

Fathima had to be a notch above that, and so I literally set the metre such that she seemed like a Malappuram girl but at the same time, she’s more eccentric than any Malappuram girl. So, there are moments of immaturity and eccentricity. Also, people get annoyed when a girl talks a lot, so all of those moments had to come across. I had to focus on all of that.

The energy had to come out through my body language and with these girls that I have observed, they move their hands a lot and I have tried to do the same. I hope all of that has come out in my performance.

A still from Sesham Mikeil Fathima
A still from Sesham Mikeil Fathima

The team of Sesham Mikeil Fathima, from its production and main cast to its direction team, are comparatively new, and so that must have felt safe. Was it all like all of you were learning on-the-go?

Yes, because all of us were like, ‘We don’t know what we were doing and so we have to figure it out together or this won’t happen’. It was a nice feeling. At the same time, it was also a script about someone taking a chance on a person. The spirit of the script was there in all of us.

It is funny because people have asked me about what I saw in a filmmaker who has never assisted anyone or directed a film before. People had asked Manu, ‘This girl doesn’t speak Malayalam; how is she going to do this?’ And enough people have asked our production team, who had worked predominantly in Tamil, about how they were going to pull it off in Malayalam. And this was the essence of the film — for all of us to trust each other and take a chance, believing we can do this.

In your previous films, you have worked with bigger actors and directors. This is your first film as the solo protagonist, and what do you think about the business side of things?

To be honest, in any other situation, I would have. But I have been lucky with my producers of this film because they came onboard, saying, ‘Ammu, this is going to be a film for you, a movie that will show you in a different light’. And at the same time, they said we know how to do our business and the film is safe right now. I usually get very tense before a film’s release. Our producer, two days ago, had called me to say that there was nothing to worry about and to take only the feedback that came my way and nothing else.

Kalyani Priyadarshan | Image: Kiransa
Kalyani Priyadarshan | Image: Kiransa

So, the ‘numbers’ tension is not there in my head anymore. What I am worried about is the acceptance of the people. For all the roles I have played, they have given me a lot of love. But the screen space in those films has obviously been low and it’s always been with great actors beside me.

Can I pull off the film on my own? Do I have the skills to not just pull off, but also to perform beyond what people think I am capable of? – These are all questions in my head and this movie might answer them. Maybe it will work out; maybe it won’t. But it’s a test for all of us.

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