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India’s ‘Lady Superstar’ visits Kingdom for first time to premiere new film trailer

DAMMAM: The Indian actress and performer Manju Warrier, known in her homeland as “Lady Superstar,” visited Dammam on Saturday on the final stop of a three-city visit to the Kingdom to premiere the trailer for her latest film “Ayisha.”

On the three-day trip — Warrier’s first to Saudi Arabia — the actress spoke about the upcoming multilingual movie, which is based on the life stories of an Indian housekeeper, Ayisha, played by Warrier, and a Saudi woman, the mistress of the house.

The movie is mostly in Arabic and the Indian regional language Malayalam, but also features Tamil, Kannada and Hindi, with a sprinkling of English.

“It’s probably one of the first Indo-Arab intersectional movies. I cannot think of a better platform to showcase our film than Saudi Arabia because the story happens in Saudi Arabia, and it beautifully portrays the relationship between Indian and Arab cultures. It’s a story about a beautiful friendship between the two cultures and two people,” Warrier told Arab News.

“I think about 80 percent of the actors in this film are Arabic, Egyptian, Syrian, Nigerian or Indonesian, so this is intersectional cinema in its true sense,” she said.

The actress began her mini-tour in Jeddah before visiting Riyadh. Dammam was her final stop before leaving the Kingdom. Lengthy queues greeted her arrival in each city.

“There are a lot of windows opening from Saudi Arabia to the world. There is a warm welcome that is being extended to the entire world from Saudi Arabia in art and culture, especially for women and the empowerment of women,” she said.

Warrier introduced herself to the admiring crowd as an “actor from south India.”

With more than three decades of experience in the film industry and over 40 movies to her name, the 44-year-old mother of one is a cinema heroine to many South Indian fans in Saudi Arabia.

Warrier, a savvy social media influencer with 2.6 million followers on Instagram, took selfies with fans and spoke with audience members for almost an hour, responding to questions mostly from young girls who were curious about her dancing career.

The actress danced with young girls from a local dance school on a stage set up to launch the trailer, took time to award a local Indian nurse a cash prize for her service, and accepted a painting of her movie poster by a local Indian artist.

Viewers were given a glimpse of what they could expect in the film.

“The film echoes the lives of millions of Indians who have migrated to the Gulf countries, and reflects the relationship formed, established and maintained between the two regions. This film aims to highlight the beauty of the Arab tradition, as a token of love to the region it is based on, and to showcase the fascinating profile of human bonds,” the filmmakers said in a statement.

Award-winning Indian choreographer Prabhu Deva created dance moves combining Indian and Gulf movements and sensibilities, renowned composer M. Jayachandran composed the score, and singer Shreya Ghoshal lent her beautiful voice to the film.

Several Arab musicians contributed to the movie as well, including Noora Al-Marzooqi, who wrote the Arabic lyrics. 

The press event was hosted at the Cinepolis Cinema Theatre, LuLu Mall.

After viewing the trailer, a longtime Saudi actor, who was in attendance, urged the film team to cut a scene he considered distasteful.

The Indian director, Aamir Pallikal, who made his directorial debut with the movie, swiftly took the mic and promised to remove the scene, which did not elegantly portray a Saudi man dancing.

The scene will be cut from the GCC showings, and the producers, who were also in attendance, thanked Saudi citizens for being diligent and gracious in their gentle, but firm, critique.

South Indian Mohammed Ashhal, who came to the preview with his family, said that he was excited to bring his six-year-old daughter, named Aayisha, who is a huge fan of Warrier.

“We usually watch Tamil and Malayalam movies because we are from South India; we are from Kerala. We came to see Manju Warrier, but we just caught a glimpse of her face. They didn’t expect it to be so crowded,” he said.

Production of “Ayisha” will be completed in the next few weeks, and the film will be shown at cinemas across Saudi Arabia, the GCC and in India.

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