Andrea Kevichusa, who is originally from Nagaland, is all set to debut with director Anubhav Sinha’s Anek which deals with issues that have plagued the people of the North East. She’s one of the protagonists of the film and plays a boxer in it. Andrea has been modeling since the age of 15 and has made a name for herself in the ad world. She’s been a constant with Sabyasachi Mukherjee and has also worked for top beauty brands. Andrea talks about her journey and her big Bollywood break and more in this exclusive chat…
Tell us something about your background…
I was born and raised in Kohima and I am the youngest of five daughters. My late father belonged to the Angami tribe and my mum to the Ao tribe. Being all girls, my siblings and I had a very sheltered life and in many ways, we still do. My parents were very protective and my sisters and I always had strict curfews and a long list of do’s and don’ts. I attended an all-girls’ Catholic school, Little Flower Hr. Sec. School till my 10th standard after which I moved to Shillong, Meghalaya to complete the rest of my schooling. I started modeling when I was 15.
Did you always want to become an actor?
For the entirety of my childhood and through most of my teenage years, my principal ambition was to study medicine so that I could become a doctor and work back home in Kohima. Because I was still studying and also given the opportunity to explore other things, I was, in a way, given a gist of what things could be like for me if I chose to pursue modeling. I loved that I was a part of such creative projects and so, the notion of taking up a more conventional profession took a different course after I gave modeling a shot.
It must have been difficult to juggle studies and modeling?
It’s hard to describe my journey as being ‘smooth sailing’, but at the same time it’s difficult to argue otherwise as well. I had to leave my home at 16 to pursue my higher education while also having to travel to Mumbai every summer/winter break to work. Having to juggle shoots and studies was an uphill task in itself. I would often have to prepare for upcoming exams in flights and in-between shoots. It was definitely a difficult transition, being a girl from a small town and trying to figure out how the real world works. After finishing my schooling, I moved to Mumbai and I didn’t know anyone in the city besides my work peers. I had to figure a lot of things out on my own. But those experiences made me a stronger and an independent person. I have been able to travel to many places and grow so much more as a person than I would have, had I decided a different path in life.
How did you get Anek?
The opportunity to act in Anek came to me as a complete surprise. I had moved to Mumbai a few months before being cast. I received news from my agent that I had to go to a meeting for a movie. We did not have any further information about the role since it was confidential at that point. I remember being excited to go to the meeting because, being 18, I was eager to try something new. And Bollywood was something I was completely unfamiliar with. When I met Anubhav Sinha sir, the writer and director of Anek, he told me that he wanted to cast me in his next film, not only as the female lead but as a boxer as well. I remember thinking “ummm are you sure you have the right girl?!!”. When I received the script, I was happy to find that Aido, my character in the film, was an empowered three-dimensional character that I could explore extensively. The role wasn’t there to push the plot forward, but built to grow and have the potential of being able to stand on its own merit. Aido is an independent character that very much embodies a strong female lead.
How did you prepare for the role?
To be completely honest, I was ‘gifted’ the role by Anubhav sir, who was kind enough to see the potential in me. I put in a ton of hard work after that, with my boxing and acting classes. I also had to work on my Hindi for the film. Because it is an action thriller, we had to make the fights look as realistic as possible. To achieve that, I had to take action training classes. I also learned how to ride a bike. It took a long period of hard-work and training to get me to where I was for the film. I’m so glad I got to not only learn, but hone so many new skills.
Were you nervous while facing the camera?
There were occasions where I would be nervous when I knew a scene or a line would be particularly challenging for me to deliver. But for the most part, I made sure that I was calm and collected before any scene. What helped me with not getting fazed by the camera was making myself believe I was actually in Aido’s shoes. I would compare scenes with similar situations that I had been through and try to channel emotions that way. My first day of shoot was in Assam. It was a scene that didn’t need any dialogue and I had Mipham Otsal, who plays my dad in the film, with me for that scene. I wasn’t as tense or scared as I had anticipated and everyone on set wished me luck and made sure I felt completely safe and comfortable. It all went by in a flurry but I remember a ton of high-fives given to me afterwards.
How was your experience working with Ayushmann Khurrana and Anubhav Sinha?
When it finally dawned on me that I would be working with creatives that are such big names in the industry, I was scared I wouldn’t be able to deliver as well as they had expected me to. But Ayushmann and Anubhav sir created such a comfortable environment for me on set that I felt no added pressure to over-perform or do anything that was beyond my capabilities. Ayushmann is such a friendly soul. We got along well because we have a similar sense of humour. He manages to showcase his skills as an actor so well. He’s unabashed and unaffected by his surroundings. And the fact that he is still so eager to learn is admirable. I’m glad that as a newbie, I was lucky enough to work with someone who was so helpful and good at what they do.
Anek deals with the political conflicts of North East India and discriminatory issues. Can you share your experience about racial or discrimination discrimination?
I have experienced name-calling in the cities, I have been stared at, my accent made fun of. When it comes to discrimination, there are many layers that go beyond that. Not only are people from my region discriminated against based on where we come from and what we look like, but we are also homogenised into one community despite being extremely diverse. I hope the movie will be able to change that and help people be more aware of how diverse, culturally rich, progressive and pioneering Nagaland is.
People from other parts of the country aren’t familiar with the North East region. Can you list down a few things which people should know about this region?
I cannot speak for the entire region, being that I am only from Nagaland. I wouldn’t say people from other regions are completely unaware of the area. We do get a lot of tourists and it’s heartwarming to see the efforts they put in to learn about and appreciate our culture. Nagaland, my home state, is a place that is rich in its culture and tradition. Ethnically, there is a mixture of many tribes and sub-tribes, all having different customs, languages, cuisines and festivals. I can proudly claim that my people are kind, hospitable and well rooted to the land we come from. Fun Fact: Nagaland is the most Baptist state in the world.
What advice did you get from your parents when you entered the film industry?
Initially, I was quite uncertain on whether to accept the role or not. Being aware of how challenging the task would be, I wasn’t sure if I was prepared enough to take that big of a step in my life. My parents of course trusted me with the decision but also advised me to look at things from a larger perspective. I was in a state of complete dilemma for quite some time but eventually came around to the idea. I knew it would create an amazing space for me to not only grow as a person but to also learn many new skills. After the project started taking flight and I was preparing for my role, I remember my father once sat me down and told me, “It’s all in the eyes.”
What kind of films do you watch?
Watching films has always been a leisure activity for me. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed films with a mere casual eye but films like Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s romantic comedy Amelie and Little Miss Sunshine by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, have been some of the early films that have resonated with me. I’ve always enjoyed a wide variety of films and never stuck to a particular genre. I am capable of watching anything from light hearted K-dramas to more serious award winning movies like 1917. I can also re-watch my guilty pleasure films like White Chicks anytime, anywhere. Some of the most recent films I’ve watched were Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar winning film The Salesman and The Embrace of the Serpent by Ciro Guerra. Both have been masterfully crafted. Also, the new Paul Thomas Anderson movie called Licorice Pizza and The Northman by Robert Eggers, both blew me away. Anything related to true crime fascinates me. Be it documents, podcasts to books. I relish reading and I’m currently reading Crying In H Mart by Michelle Zauner. I highly recommend it. During the process of getting into the psyche of Aido, I watched similar films like the Million Dollar Baby, and the Rocky series as part of
Who are the actors or actresses who inspired you to become an actor?
Since I never aspired to be an actor, I hadn’t drawn inspiration from anyone as such. But some personalities that inspire me as a person are Nelson Mandela, Amal Clooney, Natalie Portman and Emma Watson.
How would you define your personality?
People have told me that I can be very goofy. I definitely take time to warm up to people and may even come across as shy or reserved sometimes, but for the most I am easy going. I am definitely a home-body and I spend most of my time watching shows on my laptop or reading, like most Gen-Z out there.
What is the meaning of romance for you?
Romance for me is effort and consistency. If you want something to work, you have to not only work hard for it but also be consistent in the ways you make the relationship work.
Are you dating someone?
Yes, I am in a very happy relationship.
What do you want from your life?
At the end of the day, come what may, being content with what I have and appreciating the good things while in the moment, are the things that are important in life. And being passionate is the most important thing, according to me. People finding what they are passionate about is so rare and once they do, the level of hard work that they are willing to put into it is so inspiring. If you aren’t passionate about what you do, you are never gratified with the work you achieve.