Manju Warrier: Arabs and the Arabic culture are at the center of ‘Ayisha’

Set in Saudi Arabia, Ayisha tells the heartwarming story of a maid that transcends the boundaries of culture, countries and language.

Set in Saudi Arabia, Ayisha tells the heartwarming story of a maid that transcends the boundaries of culture, country, and language. The film, touted to be the first bilingual Malayalam Arabic movie, will release in theaters in the UAE today. In addition to Malayalam, the movie will also be released in Arabic.
Based on a true-life incident, the story revolves around Ayisha, played by leading Malayalam actress Manju Warrier, who moves to Saudi Arabia to work as a maid in the house of an Arab. The cross-cultural film is directed by newcomer Aamir Pallikal and features a large number of actors from various countries including Egypt, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka.
The movie, which is produced by Zakaria and scripted by Ashif, was completely shot in Ras Al Khaimah. A song from the movie, Kannilu Kannilu has already won kudos for its lively steps and unique costumes. Choreographed by Prabhu Deva, the video song has so far garnered over 5 million views on YouTube.
City Times caught up with lead actress Manju Warrier over Zoom to ask her about the film, her experience shooting for it, and what prompted her to take her bike license last week.
What can you tell us about Ayisha?
It will be a beautiful experience for people. It is a feel-good film that is unlike usual Malayalam films. The story happens in Saudi and the film reflects the Arabic culture. The majority of the characters are non-Indians and the film has a very fresh tone to it. Even when the producer and director first met me with the script, I could feel that they had a very unique perspective.
I have never worked in a Malayalam film of this nature. I won’t go as far as saying it is a story that has never been told before but it is a very interesting, unique film. As cliche as it may sound, I play a very strong and bold character. It portrays several emotions and the entire incident has been shown in a very interesting light. It is hugely inspired by a real-life incident. The film is not biographical or anything but it comes from a certain incident in a person’s life who many of us might know.
It is a very intersectional and multilingual film. It happens very organically and does not feel forced at all. Every character speaks their own language and they interact with each other in broken English or broken Arabic, very much like how we all interact with people who speak other languages. So it has a very natural feel to it.

How do you think will Dubai audience connect to this movie?
I think they will love it. In every movie where there have been Arab characters so far, most of the time, they are either in a cameo role or have a very small screen time. However, in this movie, Arabs and the Arabic culture is at the center of the film. A lot of research has gone into getting as many details as possible right. Even the maid uniforms we wear, it wasn’t just designed as fancy costume. Samira, the costume designer, studied the kind of uniforms worn in Arab houses and drew inspiration from a lot of places.
This is a story of a relationship between the maid and the majesty, if you may say. It is a very real story with very real characters. I think people in Dubai will be able to relate very much to it and recognize the characters they have seen around them in this film.
We heard that you took a bike license recently. Was that always the plan?
I have always wanted to take a bike license, even when I was a young girl. It was on the bucket list. But the triggering fact was when Ajith sir invited me to accompany him on a bike ride during the shoot of Thunivu. Going on the ride and hanging out with fellow bikers was a great experience and I decided that I really must get the license. So as soon as the shoot was over, I filed my papers with the RTO office. Last week was my test and I passed.

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