Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Anna Ben: A star is born

She's one of Malayalam cinema's most promising actors. Since her successful debut in Kumbalangi Nights, Anna Ben has essayed diverse roles—many women-centric ones with a strong message—that have displayed her versatility, in films including Helen, Sara's and Night Drive

Kunal Purandare
Published: Feb 10, 2023 11:06:59 AM IST
Updated: Mar 4, 2024 06:33:57 PM IST

Anna Ben: A star is bornAnna Ben Image: Ajay Kumar for Forbes India; Digital imaging: Kapil Kashyap

Anna Ben | 27

The moment she finished her first shot before the camera for her debut film Kumbalangi Nights (2019), Anna Ben made up her mind that she’ll act. “The joy and satisfaction it gave me… I have never felt it before. I realised this is what I really want to do. And I have not looked back,” says the 27-year-old, who is regarded as one of the promising actors of Malayalam cinema.

The conviction must have been strong enough for the fashion and apparel design graduate to take that call. By her own admission, she was clueless in that phase, though she loved art. After working in Bengaluru for a while, Anna Ben returned to her hometown, Kochi, in Kerala, to complete her master’s. It was then that she randomly responded to a casting call on Instagram with her photos and “forgot about it”.

A week later, she got a response, asking for a video audition. She recalls shooting that scene at home without taking her parents into confidence. “I was later called for an audition, and that’s when I realised they are taking this seriously. I had never acted before and wasn’t sure if I had it in me,” says Anna Ben.  

The makers were taken aback to know she was screenwriter Benny Nayarambalam’s daughter once she got the part. She told her parents about the audition only after she had cleared it. They saw her act for the first time in Kumbalangi Nights and were thrilled to see her on screen.

Since then, Anna Ben has essayed diverse roles—many women-centric ones with a strong message—and displayed her versatility in films such as Helen (2019), Sara’s (2021) and Night Drive (2022). She won the Kerala State Film Award (Special Jury Mention) for the former and won the same award for Best Actress the following year for Kappela

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“It’s still unreal. I often forget that I am an actor. It has all happened so fast… I was not prepared for it. But I am so grateful,” she says. “I have grown up around cinema. Movies have been a part of life… I did not realise how much I would enjoy doing them.”

Mathukutty Xavier, director of Helen, says Anna Ben can make any scene look realistic and effortlessly conceal the drama by picking up subtle nuances. “Some actors get into a zone and don’t get out of the character until the film is completed. Anna is like that,” he says. The filmmaker reveals that while shooting the freezer scenes, she had a playlist and was constantly listening to dark songs. She did not speak much. “It’s a draining process for her, but she takes it seriously. So, when I say action, I don’t have to go for many takes… the first or the second is perfect because she is in that zone,” he explains. “If she is doing an intense scene, it’s not advisable to poke her in a funny way.” 

View the full list of Forbes India 30 Under 30 2023 here

If the initial stage in her acting journey was about discovering herself and figuring out what she was inclined towards, the road ahead, says Anna Ben, entails pushing the boundaries, working with interesting filmmakers and in different languages. “I am conscious about the work I choose. Now I have an idea about how to build my career ahead,” she says. “My idea is to do films that I would watch in theatres. That’s been my criteria to select a film. I sit for narrations or read a script thinking that I am going to watch this in the theatre.” 

Anna Ben: A star is born

Though people now recognise her, Anna Ben prefers the sober and mellow life. “I like to be on my own. I am not a social butterfly. I like to have my space, read, travel with friends and family… do the normal things,” she says.  

(This story appears in the 10 February, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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