When Neha Iyer talks, it is like a machine gun spewing fire left, right and centre; so quick is the rate at which her words pour out. The RJ-turned-actor has the gift of the gab and that too in large dollops. No wonder Mumbai-based Neha won 2 Best Radio Jockey awards in Dubai and Mumbai. But it was not her RJ persona that caught the eye of the makers of the Malayalam film Tharangam, but her avatar as a model - that too opposite a superstar. "I had been doing a lot of ads for prominent brands, one of which was the Hotstar ad with Mohanlal. That caught the eye of a casting team who called me for a Malayalam project, which unfortunately did not materialise. Then a cousin called and informed me of a role opposite Tovino Thomas in a Malayalam film. At that time, I did not know who Tovino was but the role appealed to me since it was a very powerful one." It was thus that Neha came to play the role of Omana Varghese in Tharangam. She was sent pages of Malayalam dialogues that she had to speak and send back as a part of her audition, which she passed with flying colours.
Dhanush bankrolling his maiden Malayalam project in Tharangam and the strong role clinched the deal for Neha. She says, "The physical appearance of Omana was a far cry from the curly haired me. The character was so drastically different. I was playing an older woman, quiet though intense and very much in command. Playing a role of this kind is no doubt a challenge for a debutant and took a lot of courage. But then not many actors get to play this kind of a role in their debut." Her working experience was also a happy one and she calls herself blessed to have worked with such a wonderful team. "The director Dominic Arun gave me my space and was very chilled out. He had oodles of patience, which was very encouraging." Neha has only good words to say about her crew who she mentions were all twenty-somethings, but a very talented gang. She also got to know her co-star Tovino. "I was a little apprehensive initially, but Tovino is so chilled and down to earth! For most of my role, I had to antagonise Tovino and Balu Varghese. I did that very well. It was a picnic on the set."
For Mumbai girl Neha, the language barrier did rear its ugly head but she caught the bull by its horns. "The linguistic barrier was a bittersweet mix of torture and fun. Malayalam is a difficult language and I had to really struggle to grasp the nuances. Added to that was the fact that I did not get much time to learn the lengthy dialogues. I used to have marathon sessions of up to six-and-a-half hours of sitting up learning and mugging the dialogues and end up like a zombie on the sets. Yes, the long hours and the language were difficult and you should have heard some of the bloopers I made - it was totally insane!" she laughs. What helped Neha overcome the language barrier was her experience as an RJ and her flair for languages. Neha managed to pick up Malayalam in one-and-a-half-months of the shoot time she had and says proudly, "I can understand what people say in Malayalam now!"
Going back to her radio jockey days, Neha states that RJing was fun adding that both radio and acting need spontaneity to connect with the audience. Acting was not something that dawned on Neha late in life. On the contrary she says she was born with the acting bug. "Acting was what I always wanted to do and to reach that goal I started off with theatre. I got my formal training in Makarand Deshpande's theatre, which was a great learning ground for me. Then modeling happened where I had to compete with over 300 others for auditions." The pretty actress has also completed a course in journalism. In addition to acting and RJing, travelling is also a huge passion with Neha. "I make sure that I go on one international and one national trip every year. I feel travelling is the best way to spend money!" While Malayalam offers are yet to come, she has a Bollywood film in the offing where she plays a key character. There is also a web-series titled XYZ where she plays the lead. Before she ends, she adds, "I really hope I get more Malayalam films."