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Exclusive | The Kerala Story's Adah Sharma: I was NON-EXISTENT, it's only since last week, people started comparing me with others

OTTplay caught up with the ‘actress of the moment’ for an exclusive interview

Exclusive | The Kerala Story's Adah Sharma: I was NON-EXISTENT, it's only since last week, people started comparing me with others
PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma

Last Updated: 01.57 PM, May 15, 2023


The last few days, there has been majorly two names which has been playing on everyone's mind as well as trending on social media. These two names are ‘The Kerala Story’ and ‘Adah Sharma’. It's not just the film, but the film’s leading lady who have not just become the talk of the town... but the talk of the whole country! Thanks to the strong word of mouth from everyone who has seen the film, the film is sweeping the box-office collections and how! So much so that the film has touched the magical Rs. 100 crore mark. And in its journey to the prestigious Rs. 100 crore club, the film has not just beaten many Bollywood films, but also Hollywood films as well!

As for Adah Sharma, after having made her debut with the horror film '1920', Adah Sharma (whose real name is Chamundeshwari Iyer), went onto do films like 'Hasee Toh Phasee', 'Commando' and many others. Thanks to the mega success of the recently released film 'The Kerala Story', Adah Sharma has now become one of the most searched persons on the internet as well as one of the most sought-after actresses In Bollywood of late. 

OTTplay caught up with the actress for an exclusive interview. Over to you Adah...

To start with, the most eternal question that every media person is so eagerly wanting to ask! Even though Adah Sharma is seen on every possible silver screen, where on earth are you right now? Why are you so off media?
Arree... I'm not off media. Actually, when the film's trailer was out, everyone told me to do promotions since mine is the central character and that the story is based on me. But, when the film got released, I realized that who better than the audience as your PR because the audience had taken it up like a personal job. I think they were waiting for 100 years for a film like this since my film ‘1920’. The audience and the media actually have always been very kind to me. After that trailer was launched, the amount of support I got was very encouraging. And, post the film's release, people were writing very encouraging and moral-uplifting reviews. My social media handles were and still are on fire. My phone had got hung up three times! I'm so lucky and I feel like what else can I do, when the people all over are doing so much for me and the film! With full sincerity, I played my character... What more can I ask for when people are doing my PR for me!

PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma
PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma

The most important question... How are you feeling right now?
Everything seems so very unreal right now. But I am very happy. You know... I, as a person, have got very small dreams like that of playing with an elephant or a dog. I do want to do great roles and all of that, but... I am an outsider. So, I thought, this full lifetime will just pass away. And, then, one fine day, I will be taking rebirth like Shah Rukh Khan’s character in ‘Om Shanti Om’ and then, get born as someone from the industry and then, maybe I will get THE chance. But I think Iam very fortunate about whatever us happening with me. I feel that, it can only be the collective wishes of the whole nation which could make this possible. I really mean my words, because whatever is happening is not following any trend or anything like that.  It's not making any logical sense to anybody. It was just a film that many people saw and started recommending to others. I just couldn’t ask for anything else.

PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma
PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma

By now, have you got used to the hashtag ‘Adah Sharma’ on social media, something that’s trending since the release of the film’s trailer?
No, I think I can never get used to that. (smiles). It's not possible to get used to it like that. I think Iam very grateful to everyone who made it possible. I see this whole thing as nothing less than the collective wishes of all the people making my dream come true. The whole thing is simply magical. We all know that magic will always surprise us every time we would be in awe of it. The same thing is happening with me right now. Everything around me looks and feels so very surreal. Suddenly... so many good things are happening! Touch wood to that!

PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma
PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma

When a person describes the film ‘The Kerala Story’ to someone who is yet to see the film, the hearts and mind gets filled with various emotions like anger, frustration, sadness, and many such emotions. Did the same happen with you during the film's narration?
Yeah, totally. Because, I think getting someone who is innocent in order to cheat them and fall in love. And when you are so much in love, to deceive someone, cheat someone, and then have them drugged and impregnated and sent off to Syria and Yemen to become sex slaves for terrorists is obviously going to anger anyone who listens to this story. It did that to me as well when I heard the film’s narration.

What was the basic brief given to you by the director when you were offered the film?
Not basic actually... they narrated the whole film's story to me properly. And I was given a whole full bound script that I read thoroughly. But I also believe that they chose me... It wasn't the other way around. (smiles)

How long did it take for you to say yes to this film? Did you not have any apprehension?
There have been times when I have said no to certain things and then, there are people who say ‘Oh My God! How can you say no to THIS!’. But, sometimes if I don't feel it, I just say no, because, I feel that it's not right. And even if I sign up, there's no logical reason. It's just an intuition. I have a very strong gut feeling.

PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma
PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma

Adah, you are someone who gets into the skin of the character in whatever roles that you have done so far. It really takes a good director to channelize the actor in you. What about Sudipto Sen?
Let me cite the example of ‘1920’ here. I knew that it (the film as well as my character) was a fictitious thing, but people do get possessed in real life. Now I have not gotten possessed. I had to watch other videos and imagine how it was done. But, here, in ‘The Kerala Story’, it’s a real story. I felt like I was the advocate for the many girls to tell their story. I was like the voice of the voiceless. The role here was written so well. And also, the film’s director Sudipto Sen was so kind and nice on set every time. I just feel if a person is kind, it's easy to get a good performance.

What kind of preparation did you do for your role? Did you refer to any books or videos?
Yes...we saw a lot of videos, read books, met victims and all of that. There was one video wherein we just could not believe what we saw. The way we 'DUMP' all our clothes inside the washing machine, same way, we saw the children and women being dumped inside a tanker. In the film, its shown that I go by plane. But not everyone gets to go by the plane. They go by road from Pakistan to Syria, which takes 18 hours! And for the full 18 hour journey, the children and women are stuffed inside the tanker. And when they are taken out, many come out with broken bones, some dead. There is no air, no food, no loo and whatever it is, everything is within that tanker itself. The ones who are dead...are left to die. And the ones who are alive are thrown into prostitution for the rest of their lives or made suicide bombers. When we saw the video of the real footage of this, I was just numb for a whole day. And since all of this information is available on public domain, I think that’s why the film is getting the kind of support from everywhere. And the best part is that, not just India, we are also getting feedback from abroad as well!

PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma
PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma

It seems that you got so much involved into your character and also into this film, that you broke down in the middle of a panel discussion on television. What happened exactly?
I was very strong throughout this film. And yes, I have cried a lot in the film. But otherwise, I was really strong physically and mentally. There are some violent physical scenes like the rape scenes and others, throughout which, I was very strong during the shoot. Now... all those feelings are still in me, they're definitely not left. And I don't know how to get them out of my system. And on the shoot of that episode, we were called to be a part of the panel, in which there were also some of the mothers of a few victims. There was a lady who said that, her older daughter had been taken away and her younger daughter was being threatened everyday saying that they will kill her father and her brother. And I don't know how... but all of the feelings just rushed back on to me. I just got up from there and I went to the washroom and I cried like a lot inside. I just broke down there because it just took me back to a lot of the stuff we had seen and had gone through while making of the film.

PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma
PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma

How did your parents react to the whole ‘The Kerala Story’ episode? 
All the more they were very happy! Even my grandmother is from Kerala said that she was very happy and that we all are brave women. I am sure that, if my dad was alive, he also would have said the same thing. He was in the Navy and had always brought me up as a brave girl and as someone who will stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves. He always taught me to be the voice of people who don't have a voice. My mother also said that, it was really great if I got to be the voice.

Were there any threatening calls or anything to that effect while making the film or after the release of the film?
While shooting the film, no one knew what we were shooting for. I did not tell anyone... not for any safety reasons, but, because of my own superstitious beliefs. Post the trailer’s release and the film’s release, there were a few messages on social media. But trust me when I say that the kind of love and adulations that I have got from everyone for the film, there is hardly any time to even look into the hate messages. I am too busy absorbing the love given to me by the people around me that I have no time to even bother about the ones who hate me. (smiles)

PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma
PC: Instagram Account of Adah Sharma

Were you mentally prepared for the unprecedented success of your film ‘The Kerala Story’?
When you do a film like 'The Kerala Story', you just cannot think of the end result and then do the film. But, I did tell the film’s director Sudipto sir that, at a time when people are saying that I will be getting many awards for the film, my only dream was to have EVERYONE to see the film, which would be my biggest award. That dream is coming true now.

What is that one thing which ‘The Kerala Story’ gave you that other films did not?
This film gave me the reach and a place in the hearts of people. People have loved my characters in my other films like ‘Hasee Toh Phasee’, ‘1920’, ‘Commando’ etc..., but, with this film ('The Kerala Story'), I think people took it personally onto them.

In a world that’s infested by the term ‘nepotism’, how does it to be the ‘non-nepo’ kid to have done a film that has overtaken the collections of heavyweight films like the Salman Khan starrer ‘Kisi ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan’ and even the Hollywood biggie ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume three’ on the opening day?
I think that, I can be an example for all the other girls who come from outside and think whether all of this was ever going to be possible! With the success of my film ‘The Kerala Story’, they will all now know that anything is possible. They will feel that, if this magic can happen to one person who's an outsider, it can happen to them also. That's what I used to believe whenever I heard stories of people who are not from the industry, but have made it. I hope that, with the success of my film, I inspire many talented girls who wonder if they would ever get a chance this lifetime to make it big. I remember having read it somewhere that the most unlikely person actually ends up changing the course of history.

'The Kerala Story' got mixed reviews from the critics when the movie was released. Were you sad when you read the reviews that did not give the ratings it deserved?
Not really. I remember the first night I had read a few reviews which were excellent and encouraging. These were the ones wherein the headlines spoke about the film and my performance. After that, I also read a few reviews which looked like driven by political agenda. I feel that it’s a good thing to have an opinion as we live in a democratic country.

You mean to say that you detest/ stay away from the people who see the film with a pre-conceived notion?
Not really. I respect everyone. As I said, we live in a democratic country. Everyone is allowed to love or hate a film. For no reason also, you can hate me if you want to. After doing the film, I have become so very grateful for everything (smiles)

Do you think that the controversy surrounding the film has only helped the film in strengthening it hold at the box office?
I don't know. I'm always wanting to believe that people won't go to a film for any other reason unless the film is good.

Today is definitely lucky day for you because, ‘The Kerala Story’ is making history after having got an international debut in UK and France...
Yes! The film has just got released. The advance bookings are huge. After the success of the film in India, they have increased the total number of screens abroad also.

Has the film ‘The Kerala Story’s OTT rights been acquired by Zee 5? Thats what many reports state...
No, it's actually not sold yet to any of the OTT platforms. There was no selling that happened of the film to any OTT platform, as much as I know of it.

In the film ‘The Kerala Story’, you play the role of Fatima Ba, a role that comes to any heroine at least once in a lifetime. Do you think by doing this role exceptionally well, you have set the bar high for yourself for your forthcoming films?
Setting the bar high and all those are things... I have been dying to do since 100 years! There is so much that I can do. I have learnt dancing. I am waiting for a role that will entitle me to dance in the films. These ‘opportunities’, right now, have started looking like possibilities to me. But, I can assure you one thing that, my forthcoming films will surely see me exploring territories that I have never explored before! I feel there is no dearth of good roles when you keep setting the bar high and if you compete with yourself. And for me, it was and will always be about bettering myself. To be fair, I was never included in any other things. So, I couldn’t compete with anyone else. It's only in the last week or so, people are comparing me with others... otherwise, I was non-existent.

Today, when people are actually comparing your film’s collections to that of ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’, ‘The Kashmir Files’ and other ‘hit’ films, do you feel a sense of having ‘arrived’ in Bollywood or your prayers being answered?
But... these are not my prayers! (laughs). I feel happy because people are getting a chance to accept me. Whenever I used to meet people earlier, they were like, “We saw you doing this and doing that on Instagram. Why don’t you do the same in your feature film”. I am happy for such people whose dreams for me have finally come true. 

Did you ever expect the film 'The Kerala Story' to get snowballed into such a national debate? Or you just did your work in the film and then moved ahead? No. I thought if anyone would have a problem, then, it would be the terrorist organizations. Even the film’s trailer shows my character speaking about joining ISIS and stating before the cops to ask the reason behind joining ISIS. Ideally, I thought that we might have a problem with the terrorist organizations. I never thought about the film would become the topic of national discussions! 

Adah, with your newfound success, name and fame, are you planning to do something for the victims?
We already are actually. Let me tell you one thing that, even while doing the film, I was eagerly waiting for the review of the girl named Shruti, who happens to be one of the victims. She said that she and twelve other girls were going for the film. I had met her during the making of the film. Her review was everything for me. After hearing her review, I felt so fulfilled. She said that, “Those who were not listening to us earlier, all thanks to you, are listening to us now. You gave us a voice”. I just cannot tell you what those words meant to me. Before this film, there were very awkward and also inhuman questions which were asked to her. But, after the release of the film, people look upto her with respect and they give the respect that she rightly deserves. She told me, “You have done your job. Now, let us do ours”.

Did you, at any point, break down, while shooting for the film?
As I said, I was very strong throughout the film’s making. All the feelings and emotions while making the film are still dormant inside me. I really don’t know what will happen if I break down.

Now that you have reached ‘THAT’ position in your career, do you plan to ask for a share in the film’s profits, besides your remuneration of course!
Honestly, I have not thought about it so far. There have been projects in the past where I did not even know if I would even get paid! Things, right now, are changing every hour and every minute and every second! (smiles)

Which scene from the film had an everlasting impact on you ?
There is a telephone call that I have with my mother at the end of the film, whereby I am actually saying (read 'lying') that everything is fine and that I will be coming home soon. And when my mother asks me that if I will be coming home for Onam this year, I say yes. In addition to this, there is also one more scene, wherein it shows that the girls cannot have phones over there. A person has to send the message on the telegram app in less than 30 seconds, or else, that person would be tracked down and would be shot dead. That scene kind of freaked me out because I was just imagining me living in a place wherein I cannot talk to my mother, I will just die!

How did your mother react to the whole thing?
She just came back home after seeing the film and said that she was totally numb.

Now, for the most obvious question! What’s next on the plate for ‘THE’ Adah Sharma?
Before ‘The Kerala Story’, I had already shot for four films. All that I can say is that, my roles in these films are totally different from each other. I will surely talk about it when the time is right.

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