Nivetha Thomas, the once Kerala State award-winning child actor who became the darling of Telugu audience with her films like ‘Gentleman’ and ‘Ninnukori’, and Pawan Kalyan’s Vakeel Saab, comes back with one of its kind films, ‘Saakini Daakini’ with Regina Cassandra. A Guru Production, directed by Sudheer Varma, the film brings back the discourse to the need for more stories and films which revolve around women protagonists, and normalizing films with female leads. Producer Sunita Tati and her team remodel the Korean film Midnight Runners to suit Telugu sensibilities.

While the original is all about bromance with two male leads, ‘Saakini Daakini’ is about two young women police trainees. Regina and Nivetha ace the show, and the latter says – she hopes the film will change the narrative of the so-called women-oriented films. That is ambitious perhaps – but to give credit where it’s due – the film managed to break stereotypes at many levels. Nivetha has once again shown that she will choose roles that are different, and bring value to the film. “I would rather be known for my meaningful roles than anything else.”

You take too much care to choose your films. Doesn’t it worry you when you have to wait for your next film to come your way because you’re so choosy?
It’s more of a worry now that the films we have done are not getting proper release date. With Covid everything had to take a halt, and got pushed and lot of things did not materialise. That said, yes, I am conscious about the films I choose. It is fortunate and also a little hard for me that people, who come to theatres to watch my films, expect certain kind of films from me, they enjoy them. They are on the same page as I am. I want to always reinvent myself, and want to see myself in something new. If you are typecasting me as a journalist, I want to be a different journalist.

If I am playing bold girl, then I want to know why she is bold. What made her so? And, for me bold doesn’t mean just someone who rides a bullet or a rebel. Bold is not a character; it is a characteristic; and is I find that unconvincing, there is nothing for me there, and it is easy to say no. But, it’s hard for stories to be written like that. There was this one time I panicked. But then, I thought I will not be able to live through that. If every actor is a little selfish about their work in a healthy manner, it will only make the film better.

Do you often get offers for so called women-oriented film?
When someone says women centric – I feel like correcting them. When we did ‘Saakini Daakini’ I wanted it to be the last time when someone would talk about female centric films. It is a story of two women taking the story forward, and by calling it female centric we are already planting this idea that it is a niche film. In fact, when we were training for the action sequences for the film, we were aware of the fact that when men fight and even when they do illogical things, audience claps, but as women we had to be convincing, or there will be questions. We had to make sure we worked hard; we followed strict diet regime and training to make it all convincing.

Right now, Telugu film industry has to be credited for putting Indian cinema on world map. In south we have always been doing great stuff, we had good stories and bigger hits. Malayalam industry has always made unapologetic cinema. But it is just that after Bahubali and OTT it could no longer be ignored. And, we need to ask questions. Why is it that we don’t say men-oriented films.
Raazi for example was a film on a women agent and an Alia Bhatt film. Gangu Bai was the central character and hence a woman has to be cast for it.

When we made ‘Saakini Daakini’ we had to stick to the original Korean film format of an action comedy, but the team decided that since the plot was about saving women, it would be interesting if women stood up for other women. And, that was the reason to have two female leads for the film. Physiologically women are built differently. But it is a matter of grit; if I make the decision to stand up for somebody – and that itself is empowering.

It was also amazing to watch you and Regina vibe so well for the film!
We had only briefly met once before meeting again for the table briefing. There was an instant level of comfort around her. And, we never crossed professional boundaries, and it was a big relief. We were both secure in our work and professional and we both believed in the film. Our characters in the film are starkly different. But there was no competition there. In fact, we had lot of fun. She is a very genuine and wonderful person to hang out as well. It was also wonderful to work with the team. Sunita Tati is a visionary, and when you work with the women on her team it’s amazing. I get to do a lot of comedy in the film – not my comfort zone. I even told Sudheer Varma garu in jest that if people won’t laugh, then I will go to Himalayas. He assured me he found me funny in the film.

So, what’s next?
My next release is going to be a Malayalam film that I am doing after many years. ‘Enthada Saji’ with Kunchacko and Jayasurya. The film is a fantasy comedy. It’s a crazy film. I am playing Sachi. She finds a buddy in someone whom you won’t expect. The film is about how their story affects many others. It’s a cute enjoyable Malayalam film directed by Godfy Babu. Who knows I may be doing one more film with him in Telugu/ We are already talking about it.

When will you do a film with Nani?
We both discussed about this. And, both of us decided that when we do a film it will be memorable for the fans.

You seem to be all set for a long innings in Telugu cinema!
I am here to stay. If like last year, something happens and I don’t find films that I like to work for – then, I may even bring a team and work on my own ideas. It will be interesting to see how that works out.