Rima Kallingal

Traces Her Incredible Journey

Text: Revathy Krishnakumar Pictures: Gokul Ramachandran

Bold and beautiful Rima Kallingal hardly needs any introduction. A multifaceted personality, she hit the limelight after becoming the first runner-up of Miss Kerala 2008 contest, soon after which she entered the malayalam film industry with a bang as an actress in Shyamaprasad directed movie ‘Ritu’, that won her a nomination for Asianet Television best actress award. More recognition followed as an actress, when she won the coveted Kerala state film award for best actress for ‘Nidra’ in 2011 for ‘22 Female Kottayam’ in 2012, apart from several other awards and nominations for her performances, from various quarters.

Today, Rima has evolved as a dancer, television anchor, entrepreneur and philanthropist. She is probably one of the most sought-after actress in the malayalam film industry, who is also a non-conformist individual. When women in the industry lived in a bubble, she broke that and started a new revelation, with bold movies she acted in. That’s not all, she is also a well-trained martial and kalari artist. Revathy Krishnakumar from TKE met Rima at her dance school Mamangam for a tete-a-tete recently. Here are the excerpts:

You are from Thrissur, a place rooted in history. What is special about Thrissur for you? Tell us something about your childhood and how your upbringing, schooling and environment shaped your attitude and personality? Thrissur has always been special to me. It’s a small town and there isn’t much exposure when compared to Ernakulam. I was brought up in a very conservative family and I have always been a rebel kid. I wanted to do something which is out of the box and not a regular 9to5 job which my dad has been doing for his entire life and which he was contented with. I had these crazy ideas to build my career in dance and that’s when I got into Nritarutya Dance Studio in Bengaluru, through an audition. I was 24 when I joined them, and I guess Nritarutya shaped me as an artist. They made me understand the whole gamut of things. It was a blessing in disguise and I owe everything to Nritarutya

Everyone gets inspired by someone and looks forward to be like that person. Who is your inspiration in life? I was not inspired by a particular person, but as I said earlier I was quite adamant about what I wanted to do in my life and with my life. I wanted freedom and I still remember while I was doing my MBA coaching after journalism, I got a job offer from Nritarutya and I didn’t know how to break the news to my family, because I knew they would freak out. One week to MBA and I was like - chuck it I cannot do this anymore, and I joined the dance studio.

How important are vacations and travel to you? How often do you travel on vacation in a year? Vacations are an inevitable part of my life. I survive on those and traveling keeps me sane. I have this nature of becoming a workaholic at times, and that’s when I know that my vacation time is close. My friends push me to pack my bags and leave from there. I cannot clearly say the number, but whenever I feel I should take a break from work, I go off the radar, and tell my parents that if I feel like coming back, I will come.

 

“I always get this feeling that this is where I belong. Western Ghats is what hooks me up. We are so blessed to have the Ghats right along the state. I think that what makes Kerala God’s own country.”

 

While you were shooting for Rani Padmini and Escape from Uganda, how were the days in all those places. Did you get to see the places? Or was it work all the time? Both the movies gave me two different experiences. I never thought that I would ever go to Uganda or Africa in the first place. Uganda is a place which is down in the dumps. There is poverty all round and you see no sign of progress. They are on a verge of Civil War and I was scared while shooting in midst of this. On top of that our producer kept scaring us, saying that anything can happen anytime. The most astonishing part is that people over there are least bothered about all these things.

They are happy with their lives because they are still living inside a shell. All they need money for is to buy Beer and for that they will do some menial jobs. Nobody really wants to work and if at all they do it is farming, they are into. It’s their luck that despite all the problems the soil over there is very fertile, and you can yield anything anywhere. It is a matriarchal society so it was a new experience for all of us. Women are so confident about their body that they come out to see the shoot while they are breastfeeding. I really love the fact that women are so bold and beautiful there.

Manali and the route to Leh are breathtaking to another level. Although, it was cold, I just fell in love with that place. We canceled the first day of shoot because we got confused of what to shoot. It’s beautiful all around. Entire crew was awestruck by the charm and the colour of the nature. The silence and the scenic beauty took us a week to start the shooting. The pace  of life is so slow that we were enjoying the time there. It was very difficult because the altitude is high that the oxygen level is low in that region and we couldn’t work fast like how we usually work in down here in the south. There were lots of chasing scenes in the movie and our sound guy fell ill because he had to drag along us with the large equipment. However, in spite of all this, the people over there stunned me with their humane and innocent nature. They have immense respect for life and it’s so good and rare to see those kind of people these days. 

 

“I think the time has come that we figure it out how to maintain our roads because other states are already there. I guess that’s the only thing that needs to be done at the earliest.”

 

Which are your favourite travel destinations in Kerala? While you travel, do you look forward for different regional cuisines of Kerala? In Kerala, Wayanad, Munnar, Vagamon. I think the Western Ghats are my favourite. I try all new foods but I look to it that I don’t confuse palate. 

Do you cook? What’s your special dish? No, I don’t cook. I make good cocktails though but that’s the only thing I know. Neither does my husband Aashiq cook. We decided that in the beginning itself that neither of us know cooking so we will need a cook, and thankfully we have a wonderful cook.

Kerala is labelled as being the God’s own country what do you feel is so beautiful and scenic about it? Yes, Kerala is marvelous and stunning by its beauty.  I remember when we went to Madurai for a movie shoot and while driving back to Kerala we took the Munnar route. Once Tamil Nadu was over there was this breeze and a feeling of home. There was greenery all around and I felt like “Oh yes, finally I am home.” Madurai was dry, arid no water and you cross over; reach Kerala you see green, lush, rains. Wherever I travel once I am done and when I come back I always get this feeling that this is where I belong. Western Ghats is what hooks me up. We are so blessed to have the Ghats right along the state. I think that what makes Kerala God’s own country.

What are your suggestions to make things better in Kerala from the tourism point of view? Yeah! There is one thing I would like to mention and that is our roads. I understand the fact that ours is a small state unlike TamilNadu and Karnataka where we can see six lanes and big roads. But it is crucial that we think about the roads and do something to get it done. The roads are getting worse day by day and it would be great if there is something to connect the North and South. When we drive to north of Kerala or to Goa, by the time we finish Kasargod we feel dead tired. The heat, the dust and above all that the roads completely put us in agony. I think the time has come that we figure it out how to maintain our roads because other states are already there. I guess that’s the only thing that needs to be done at the earliest.

 

“I appreciate the fashion and beauty of the designers and the brand value that comes with it but I am not obsessed about anything. I am a very simple girl.”

 

Which is your favourite travel destination abroad? I kind of like all the places I have been to and I always look to it that I don’t go back to the same place again unless it is for work. I like experiencing different places. I keep shuffling the places like if I go Istanbul for vacation then the next time I try to go USA. Every time I go to a cold country I swear to myself that I will never visit that place again. I am not a cold person at all. I travelled Turkey in winter and I was hospitalised and things went worse when the terrorist attack took place at the same time. 

Do you have a dream car? Which car do you own? We have a BMW X3 and a Volkswagen Polo. I really don’t have a dream car per se. I love cars, cars do fascinate me and I love long drives but I am not that person who would save big money to buy cars. I would rather save and travel.

What are you most obsessed of : Perfumes? Sunglasses? Or watches? I am not obsessed about anything. There are cases when I go like “Wow these are nice” but if I don’t have money then I don’t really feel like buying it. I am not a very brand conscious girl. Yes I appreciate the fashion and beauty of the designers and the brand value that comes with it but I am not obsessed about anything. I am a very simple girl.

How did you happen to start liking Martial arts and Kalari? Can you just brief the story to our readers? While I was with Nritarutya, we used to train ourselves with different styles of dance which are body strengthening. Kalari and martial arts are part of these and once I started doing these forms of art, it became much more than an art for me. It became a part of my life and that’s how I decided that I am apt for it. I was 24 when I started to do Kalari and Martial arts and I was dancing 6 hours which is pretty good for a 24 year old to be healthy.

Which is the one trip you will always cherish and is close to your heart? It’s always the last trip I take, remains as my memory and stays close to my life. Last time I went US I stayed there for a month and explored the place. I am overwhelmed by the kind of effort they have put to build their country. The freedom everyone has in New York, the kind of beauty I found in San Francisco. The fog city just inspires me to write a movie someday.

 

“When you are a celebrity or well known face, there are always eyes on you, and sometimes I really wish I didn’t have to double check on what I say and do.”

 

Which is the one trip you will always cherish and is close to your heart? It’s always the last trip I take, remains as my memory and stays close to my life. Last time I went US I stayed there for a month and explored the place. I am overwhelmed by the kind of effort they have put to build their country. The freedom everyone has in New York, the kind of beauty I found in San Francisco. The fog city just inspires me to write a movie someday.

What do you do to stay healthy while you travel? I eat right. Like I said earlier don’t eat something which your body cannot take. Plus that this is must and I recommend everyone to drink lots of water and I drink lots of water to stay healthy while I travel.

 

“The Western Ghats is my favourite destination in Kerala.”

 

What is freedom to you? Just be what you are. Just do whatever you want to do and be cool about it. Just be yourself, but not at the cost of hurting someone. When you are a celebrity or well known face, there are always eyes on you, and sometimes I really wish I didn’t have to double check on what I say and do.

As an actress how do you manage your side interests like your Dance School Mamangam, and Papaya Café? There are partners for Papaya, we just take-care of the promotions and things but Mamangam is a complete job for me. We do have a good staff here at Mamangam. The teachers are really good. When you are acting you are more or less performing for the person who has created the character, but when it comes to ideation I think Mamangam helps me a lot.

 

“When you are acting you are more or less performing for the person who has created the character, but when it comes to ideation I think Mamangam helps me a lot.”

 

What is your fitness mantra? Eat Healthy! Thankfully, I am not a person who would trip on Junk foods or aerated drinks and somehow I never felt fancy for it.

How has travelling influenced you? In every way possible! I think from meeting people, understanding them, knowing their culture, and the stories of human triumph have always inspired me. When you go to west you see women are free and are too bold to take decisions and you start feeling why can’t we practice that in our country too. That urge to question a lot of things came to me because I travel. The artist in me is tremendously influenced and shaped by such travels.

What are the few things that you never forget to carry when you step out of home? Phone, Keys and Wallet.

Are there any books or movies which made you want to travel to that place in particular? I usually read non-fiction. Whenever I travel I pick up books about the place that I am travelling to know more about that place, its history, the people etc. I like to keep a tab on what’s happening around so I read books which are bit of politics and history.

There are lots movies that has inspired me but I would want to go with the last one movie and I guess it is La la land because I am a dancer, and in every way the movie was amazing for me. I was blown away and we know the struggles of an artist with which I could totally connect and feel the emotion.

What is Rima Kallingal in one word? I would want to say Rebel but I guess it’s understood so I go with Artivist because I express myself through my art.