Resilient, intuitive and sincere. That is how Carol Andrea Kevichusa, a model from Nagaland, who is all set to make her Bollywood debut opposite Ayushmann Khurrana in the socio-political drama, Anek, describes herself. Her entry as the female lead is Bollywood’s first step towards normalising the presence of northeast actors in mainstream cinema, a welcome change indeed.
The 21-year-old has been receiving massive support from actors like Taapsee Pannu and Huma Qureshi. Welcoming her into Bollywood with much warmth and plaudits, Pannu wrote, “Diversity is beautiful! Just like our country. Let’s welcome this beautiful entrant into our world of films! Be kind everyone! Say hello to Andrea Kevichusa from Nagaland! Watch out for ‘Aido’ from #ANEK.” The Gangs Of Wasseypur actress wrote, “Welcome dear Andrea to the Indian Film Industry… cannot wait to see you in #ANEK. Introducing you all to Andrea Kevichusa. Let’s show her some love, everyone!!”’.
In an exclusive tête-à-tête with us, Kevichusa got candid about her challenging role as a boxer, dealing with racial discrimination after she moved from Nagaland to Mumbai, and much more.
Excerpts from the interview:
1. Did you take up acting classes for your Bollywood debut?
Bollywood and acting are things that were completely unfamiliar to me and hence, when the the opportunity to act in Anek came to me, I was flabbergasted. I had never tried my hand at acting before so I was excited to give it a shot and learn new skills. I did have to attend several acting classes and workshops at MCCC (Mukesh Chhabra Casting
Company) while preparing for my role.
2. How did you land the role in Anek? Tell us more about your character.
I had moved to Mumbai just a few months prior to being cast for Anek. I was told by my agent that I had to attend a meeting for a role in a film but neither of us had any further information because it was confidential at that time, and I had assumed the role to be a minor one. I remember being excited to go to the meeting because being 18, I was thrilled to experience new things.
When I met Anubhav Sinha, the writer and director of Anek, he told me that he wanted to cast me in his next film as the female lead. I was completely taken aback because it was so unexpected. I was quiet on the fence about it initially because I knew what a huge challenge it would be. I didn’t know if I was ready to make such a big decision but I considered the many other factors that were in the picture, such as the space it would give me to grow as a person and also all the new skills I would get to learn. I received the script much later and was happy to find that Aido, my character in the film, was an empowered three-dimensional character that I could explore extensively. She embodies a strong, liberated female-lead and I hope I did her justice.
3. Was it challenging to play a boxer? Did you train for it?
I had to completely get out of my comfort zone and push myself as hard as possible to train for Anek. It was initially very difficult for me to do so because growing up, I was never an athletic person and I seldom did any physical training. But I soon began to enjoy the process of learning how to box. Besides that, my trainer, Rohit Nair, also had me do a lot of weight training in order to look the part. I started spending most of my time at the gym and it was refreshing because it felt like I was a completely different person. Besides that, I had to work on a lot of other things such as my Hindi, learning how to ride a 2-wheeler, and since it is an action movie, we needed to make the fights look as real as possible. To achieve that, I also had action training on the side.
4. Casting northeast actors in mainstream Bollywood movies is like looking for a needle in a haystack. In fact, northeast language movies and web shows are almost absent in the OTT space. You think that has changed with time?
With the development of more and more OTTplatforms, I hope the time has arrived for the
people from the northeast region to be better represented. The northeastern region has eight states, each being extremely unique in their own cultures. The region is rich with diversity and possesses gripping stories and voices that are yet to be told. Being from Nagaland, I know that there is a lot of untapped talent there-in many spheres-and I cannot wait for it to come to light.
5. The casting for Northeast actors is quite stereotypical in Bollywood, what are your thoughts on this?
I feel that things are changing in this industry, slowly but surely, because more roles are being provided to actors from the northeastern region as compared to the past. But there is still a lot of room for improvement that needs to be made. The people from my region are extremely unique and as interesting as the rest of the country, and that is something I would like to see being more explored. Three dimensional roles in films that do not require their ethnicity to be the focal factor of their character would be a cool and fresh perspective on it.
6. A lot has been said about the decision of casting Priyanka Chopra in Mary Kom instead of a face from the northeast. The actress herself admitted the role should have gone to a northeast actress. Do you feel that happens because films are made with a commercial aspect in mind?
Yes of course. I think most films are made with a commercial aspect in mind. But that doesn’t excuse the under-representation and misrepresentation the people from minority communities are subjected to.
7. Did you face any racial discrimination when you moved from Nagaland to Mumbai? Did you have any of such personal experiences which highlights the struggles a person from the northeast is subjected to?
I have had my share of being called racial slurs and having my accent made fun of, or sometimes, people are blatantly ignorant. But I think there are a lot of layers when it comes to discrimination. It could be the stereotype people have of our characters based on our appearance, or even how dismissive people could be in a work environment. The stereotypical boxes we are placed into, across several different fields, is in many cases also a product of racism.
8. Take us through your beauty ritual. Any age-old beauty tips/homemade beauty products that you use? Any Naga food that’s good for the skin? Please elaborate.
My beauty regime consists mainly of exfoliation, hydration and most importantly, sunscreen.I have acne-prone skin so it’s difficult for me to find the right products that work for my skin, but I’ve found that the serums from The Ordinary work best for me. I use the niacinamide, lactic acid and alpha arbutin serums, and exfoliate my face with an AHA BHA peel once a week. Our diet also plays a huge role in what our skin looks like. Despite the diverse food habits that we follow, Nagas also eat a lot of vegetables, and organic and forest herbs. Our diet is a lot healthier and I think that reflects on our skin.
9. What’s your favourite look off the ramp?
In all honesty, I am not as fashion-literate as I would like to be. I also prefer comfort over everything because I feel more confident that way. Recently, my go-to outfits have been straight-cut jeans and blazers, keeping it chic and casual. I also prefer to buy clothes that can be worn in different ways, like a capsule wardrobe, and clothes that have quirky and cute details.