Great Expectations: In conversation with Andrea Kevichusa
Nagaland-born Andrea Kevichusa is set to debut with director Anubhav Sinha’s Anek which deals with the issues that plague the people of the Northeast. She is one of the protagonists of the film and embodies a boxer. Andrea has been a model since the age of 15 and has made a name for herself in the world of advertising. She has 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 a bit about your background…
I was born and raised in Kohima and am the youngest of five daughters. My late father belonged to the Angami tribe and my mother to the Ao tribe. Being all girls, my siblings and I had very sheltered lives 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 a Catholic school for girls, Little Flower Hr. Second. School until my 10th level after which I moved in Shillong, Meghalaya to complete the rest of my schooling. I started modeling when I was 15 years old.
have you always wanted become an actor?
Throughout my childhood and for most of my teenage years, my main ambition was to study medicine so that I could become a doctor and work at my home in Kohima. Because I was still studying and also had the opportunity to explore other things, I was kind of given a glimpse of what things could be for me if I chose to become a model. I loved being part of such creative projects and so the idea of taking up a more conventional profession took a different course after I tried modeling.
It must have been difficult to reconcile studies and modeling?
It’s hard to describe my trip as “smooth sailing”, but at the same time, it’s also hard to pretend otherwise. I had to leave home at 16 to pursue higher education while having to travel to Mumbai every summer/winter for work. Having to juggle filming and studying was an arduous task in itself. I often had to prepare for the next in-flight exams and between shoots. It was definitely a difficult passage, to be a small town girl and try to understand how the real world works. After finishing my studies, I moved to Mumbai and I didn’t know anyone in the city except my work colleagues. I had to figure out a lot of things on my own. But these experiences have made me a stronger and more independent person. I was able to travel to many places and grow much more as a person than I would have if I had chosen a different path in life.
How did you get Anek?
The opportunity to play in Anek completely surprised me. I had moved to Mumbai a few months before being cast. I got word from my agent that I had to go to a meeting for a movie. We had no further information about the role as it was confidential at that time. I remember being excited to go to the reunion because at 18 I couldn’t wait to try something new. And Bollywood was something I didn’t know at all. When I met Anubhav Sinha sir, the screenwriter and director of Anek, he told me that he wants to cast me in his next movie, not only as a female lead but also as a boxer. I remember thinking “uh are you sure you got the right girl?!!”. When I received the script, I was happy to find that Aido, my character in the film, was a powerful three-dimensional character that I could explore in depth. The role was not there to advance the plot, but built to grow and have the potential to be able stand alone deserved. Aido is an independent character who embodies a strong female lead very well.
How did you prepare for the role?
To be completely honest, I was ‘gifted’ for the role by Anubhav sir, who was kind enough to see the potential in me. I worked hard after that, with my boxing and acting classes. I also had to work on my Hindi for the film. As this is an action thriller, we had to make the fights as realistic as possible. To achieve this, I had to take action training courses. I also learned to ride a bike. It took a long period of hard work and practice to get me to where I was for the film. I’m so glad I was able to not only learn, but hone so many new skills.
Were you nervous in front of the camera?
There were times when I was nervous when I knew a scene or a line would be particularly difficult to deliver. But for the most part, I made sure to be calm and collected before any scene. What helped me not to be confused by the camera was to make me believe that I was in Aido’s shoes. I was comparing scenes with similar situations that I had been through and trying to channel the emotions that way. My first day of filming was in Assam. It was a scene that didn’t need any dialogue and I had Mipham Otsal, who plays my father 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 happened with a bang, but I remember a ton of high-fives given to me afterwards.
What was your experience working with Ayushmann Khurrana and Anubhav Sinha?
When I finally realized that I would be working with creatives who are such big names in the industry, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to deliver as well as they had planned. But Ayushmann and Anubhav sir created such a comfortable environment for me on set that I felt no added pressure to outperform or do anything beyond my abilities. Ayushmann is such a friendly soul. We got along well because we have the same sense of humor. He manages to showcase his acting skills so well. He is imperturbable and indifferent to his surroundings. And the fact that he’s still so eager to learn is admirable. I’m glad that as a beginner I had the chance to work with someone who was so helpful and good at what he does.
Anek deals with North East India’s political conflicts and discriminatory issues. Can you share your experience with racial or geographic discrimination?
I have known insults in the cities, they stared at me, they made fun of my accent. When it comes to discrimination, there are many layers that go beyond that. Not only are people in my area discriminated against because of where they come from and how they look, but we are also homogenized into one community despite our extreme diversity. I hope the film can change that and help people to be more aware of Nagaland’s diversity, cultural richness, progress and pioneering.
People from other regions of the country do not know the Northeast region. Can you list a few things people should know about this area?
I cannot speak for the whole region, given that I only come from Nagaland. I wouldn’t say that people from other areas completely ignore the area. We receive many tourists and it is comforting to see the efforts they make to know and appreciate our culture. Nagaland, my home state, is a place rich in culture and traditions. Ethnically, there is a mixture of many tribes and sub-tribes, all with different customs, languages, cuisines and festivals. I can proudly say that my people are kind, hospitable and deeply rooted in the land from which we come. Fun fact: Nagaland is the most Baptist state in the world.
What advice did you receive from your parents when you entered the film industry?
At the beginning, I was quite undecided whether I would accept the role or not. Being aware of the difficulty of the task, I was not sure that I was sufficiently prepared to take such an important step in my life. My parents of course trusted me in the decision but also advised me to see things from a broader perspective. I was in complete dilemma for a while, but finally got the idea. I knew it would create an incredible space for me to not only grow as a person, but also learn many new skills. After the project started to take off and I was preparing for my role, I remember my dad sat me down once and said, “It’s all in the eyes.
What kind of movies do you watch?
Watching movies has always been a hobby for me. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed movies with just a casual eye, but movies like Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s romantic comedy Amélie and Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s Little Miss Sunshine were some of the first movies that resonated. in me. I’ve always liked a wide variety of movies and I’ve never stuck to one particular genre. I’m able to watch anything from light K-dramas to more serious award-winning movies like 1917. I can also rewatch my guilty pleasure movies like White Chicks anytime, anywhere. Some of the more recent movies I saw were Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning film The Salesman and The Embrace of the Serpent by Ciro Guerra. Both have been masterfully crafted. Also, Paul Thomas Anderson’s new movie called Licorice Pizza and Robert Eggers’ The Northman both blew my mind. Anything related to true crime fascinates me. Whether it’s documentaries, podcasts or books. I love to read and am currently reading Michelle Zauner’s Crying In H Mart. I highly recommend it. During the process of entering Aido’s psyche, I watched similar films like Million Dollar Baby and the Rocky series as part of
Who are the actors or actresses who inspired you to become an actor?
Having never aspired to be an actor, I was not inspired by 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 told me I could be very clumsy. I definitely take time to warm up to people and can even come across as shy or reserved at times, but for the most part I’m easy going. I’m definitely a homebody and spend most of my time watching shows on my laptop or reading, like most Gen-Zs.
What is the meaning of romantic for you?
Romance to me is hard work and consistency. If you want something to work, you not only have to work hard for it, but also be consistent in how you make the relationship work.
Are you dating someone?
Yes, I am in a very situation happy relationship.
What do you want from your life?
In the end, come what may, being content with what I have and appreciating the good things in the moment are the things that are important in life. And being passionate is the most important thing, in my opinion. People find what they are passionate about is so rare and once they do, the level of hard work they are willing to put into it is so inspiring. If you are not passionate about what you do, you are never satisfied with the work you do.