DAMMAM: Indian actress and performer Manju Warrier, known in her native country as ‘Lady Superstar’, traveled to Dammam on Saturday on the final leg of a three-city tour of the Kingdom to showcase the trailer for his latest film “Ayisha”.
During the three-day trip – Warrier’s first to Saudi Arabia – the actress spoke about the upcoming multilingual film, which is based on the life stories of an Indian housekeeper, Ayisha, played by Warrier, and d a Saudi woman, the mistress of the house.
The film is primarily in Arabic and India’s regional language, Malayalam, but also features Tamil, Kannada and Hindi, with a dash of English.
“It’s probably one of the first Indo-Arab intersectional films. I can’t think of a better platform to showcase our film than Saudi Arabia because the story is set in Saudi Arabia and it portrays the relationship between Indian and Arab cultures beautifully. This is the story of a beautiful friendship between two cultures and two people,” Warrier told Arab News.
“I think about 80% of the actors in this film are Arab, Egyptian, Syrian, Nigerian or Indonesian, so it’s intersectional cinema in its truest sense,” she said.
The actress started her mini-tour in Jeddah before heading to Riyadh. Dammam was his last stop before leaving the Kingdom. Long queues greeted his arrival in every city.
“There are many windows opening from Saudi Arabia to the world. There is a warm welcome that is given to the whole world from Saudi Arabia in art and culture, especially for women and empowerment women,” she said.
Warrier introduced herself to the admiring crowd as a “South Indian actress”.
With over three decades of experience in the film industry and more than 40 films to her credit, the 44-year-old mother-of-one is a movie heroine to many South Indian fans in Saudi Arabia.
Warrier, a savvy social media influencer with 2.6 million Instagram followers, took selfies with fans and spoke with members of the public for nearly an hour, mostly answering questions from curious young girls 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 the time to present a local Indian nurse with a cash award for her service and accepted a painting of his movie poster by a local Indian artist.
Viewers got a glimpse of what to expect in the film.
“The film echoes the lives of millions of Indians who migrated to the Gulf countries, and reflects the relationship formed, established and nurtured between the two regions. This film aims to highlight the beauty of Arab tradition, as a sign of love for the region on which it is based, and to show the fascinating profile of human connections,” 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 also contributed to the film, including Noora Al-Marzooqi, who wrote the lyrics in Arabic.
The press event took place at Cinepolis Cinema Theatre, LuLu Mall.
After viewing the trailer, a longtime Saudi actor, who was present, urged the film crew to cut a scene he considered unpleasant.
Indian director Aamir Pallikal, who made his directorial debut with the film, quickly took to the microphone and promised to delete the scene, which did not elegantly depict a Saudi man dancing.
The scene will be cut from GCC screenings, and the producers, who were also present, thanked Saudi citizens for their diligence and courtesy in their gentle but firm criticism.
South Indian Mohammed Ashhal, who came to the premiere with his family, said he was delighted to bring his six-year-old daughter, named Aayisha, who is a huge Warrier fan.
“We usually watch Tamil and Malayalam movies because we are from South India; we are from kerala. We came to see Manju Warrier, but only saw his face. They didn’t expect there to be so many people,” he said.
Production on “Ayisha” will be completed in the coming weeks and the film will be shown in cinemas across Saudi Arabia, the GCC and in India.