If alive, my dad would have patted me for The Kerala Story: Adah

Actress retells her The Kerala Story journey as she speaks about how her late father’s words of encouragement as a child helped her pick up one of the most challenging roles that are fraught with danger

MUMBAI | Updated: 01 May, 2023 5:39 pm IST

When the final draft of the soon-to-be-released The Kerala Story was ready on the table, acclaimed producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah was convinced of one thing: No actress would actually become Shalini Unnikrishnan, who was made to transform into Fatima Ba.

Though the film focused on the suffering of women who were tricked and trafficked as ‘ISIS brides’, Shah, with all his experience in Bollywood, knew very well that very few would like to take up the role that is fraught with many challenges owing to the overtones.

Born into a Palakkad Iyer family from Mumbai, Adah Sharma grew up in an atmosphere where she faced no discrimination as a girl. She was born into a family that always let her express herself and stand up for what she believed was right.

Adah had earlier worked with Shah in Commando 2 and she had no second thought about working with him again on a film that not only connected her to her Kerala roots but was also demanding in terms of the toil the body and mind took.

“When we wrote the film, we had a feeling that no actor would actually agree to talk to us. No girl is going to accept the role because of the scare and threat that comes with it. But she accepted it and she had done a terrific job,” Shah told The New Indian in an exclusive interview.

“My mom was very happy and proud of my role. My dad is no more. He was in the navy and I know if he were alive, he would have been proud of me, he would have been very proud,” Adah said.

“I was brought up in a house where there is no division between boys and girls. He (her father) had always said that I had to be strong. He would often say, If not you, then who will do it? If you don’t stand up for someone, then who will,” she added.

It was this confidence that had helped Adah face the physical as well as mental challenges that came while doing some draining scenes that highlighted the pain and trauma suffered by the girls who had been trafficked.

“I almost felt like her (the girls who have been trafficked) lawyer through the film. I am the one who is getting to speak for them. I am the medium between the wonderful script that they had written, and the wonderful character that they had edged out with all these qualities that I try to get on screen. Hopefully, I do justice to that,” she said.

“Yes, there were some difficult scenes. I don’t think I can compare how difficult the scenes are because every time I face any difficulty, I also think about what she (the trafficked girl) must have gone through in real life,” Adah said.

While she has featured in 17 films so far in her career, Adah is excited to play a Kerala girl for the first time. Recalling her times in Kerala, during the family visits, Adah said, “There was a time when I used to dislike things like applying oil to hair, tying braids, putting flowers on, and applying bindis.”

“But as I grew older, I started enjoying it. Now, I will ask my relatives to apply oil, tie braids and put flowers on my hair. And I love bindis now,” she added.

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