Shanthi Krishna is back in Malayalam Movies

An Exclusive Interview by ARUN LAKSHMAN

After a long gap or rather a forced hibernation you are back in tinsel town and that too with a bang, What's your feel as an actor?

The words ‘Hiatus’ and ‘hibernation’ are the two words that seem to be describing my break from the movie world, but the actual fact is it was not a forced or planned situation in my life. Things that I have experienced in my life were definitely not planned and hence this huge interval of nearly 21 years just happened. In fact after coming back now into movies and when people tell me that it has been so long since we all were wondering where you were, is when it hits me that time has flown past and it has been such a long gap. One advantage of this thought process is that I have forgotten my age, and second it has helped me gel well with the present generation too. The whole team of Njandugalude¬†Nattil¬†Oru¬†Idavela ‘NNOI’ welcomed me like their long lost family member and I felt like it was a very warm and loving homecoming for me. Working with this young generation of actors was marvelous as they are so focused and their acting technique is so natural that I had to literally try my best to become more natural and realistic with the character and that has definitely paid off and everyone who saw the movie have appreciated the way I had enacted the character of Sheela Chacko. It was like waking up after a long time and finding yourself in a different, beautiful Sci-fi movie land.

How do you rate the Character Sheela Chacko in this movie?

Sheela Chacko, a very strong woman with a heart of gold. A woman who knows how to keep her family together and make them strong to face adversities. A woman who does not weaken and is a fighter. I definitely had a strong connection with Sheela Chacko with the ‘strong woman’ and ‘fighter’ side of her. The ups and downs in my life that I had to face definitely has made me strong and I could feel that emotion when I enacted that scene in the doctors room where I literally had to awaken each family member to face reality and fight it bravely with a smile and support each other. I loved that scene personally and it reflected on screen too I guess. A once in a lifetime character and that’s why this role will always be close to my heart. Sheela Chacko has helped me comeback into the film world with dignity and receive a lot of love from everyone. Thank you Nivin, Althaf, Kora and the whole team of NNOI for this wonderful opportunity.

You had taken two breaks from the movie field and still the audience have accepted you, How you feel?

Like I said, I haven’t taken two breaks, it just happened. Nothing was planned and I guess these two breaks, as you call it, was also a part of my life. When I got married the first time in 1984 and left films to enter a married life, the decision to stop acting was mine as I wanted to live the life of a married woman. Being only 19 years at that time, I was in fantasyland. Never in my mind was there a thought that I will decide to come back to acting after a few years. I had set it in my mind that my life is also now like every married woman and life will go on like this till death do us apart. Never was I prepared for a reentry into films in 1981 through the Balachandra Menon movie ‘Nayam Vyakthamakunnu’. It happened as a Godsend to basically help me come out of my depression during that time. Again after a period of maybe five years in the industry, I moved away from acting to enter into a second marriage in 1998. The last film I acted in Malayalam was ‘Sukrutham’, after which I basically left films again. I will repeat here again that nothing was planned, it just happened and I flowed with the tide. I must say that thanks to the characters I have played earlier in my career in both films and TV, the audience have remembered me lovingly and also missed me like their own family member, and that’s the reason they have welcomed me back happily after so many years too. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

You are an accomplished dancer and had performed in movies as a dancer also, during this break were you into dance performances?

I was a fulltime homemaker and not a professional dancer or actor either during these years. I did have dance classes at my home, wherever I used to stay, but unfortunately could not build a permanent dance institute in any way. Only last year when I was in the USA, I went on stage to perform a few dance numbers after a very long time. I was happy in being away from my identity and being just a good mother and wife.

Are you totally getting involved in film industry or are you turning selective?

My first film NNOI has given me an idea of what sort of roles I would like to play. Basically try and hope for variety roles that give me challenges as an actor. Hopefully I get to be selective with beautiful, challenging characters and also stay active continuously in the film industry. I am feeling alive and happy to be back and ready to work hard to create more memorable roles.

Shanthikrishna has always been a girl next door or a pretty neighborhood woman and the audience did not feel that you are coming back after a long hiatus,Whom do you give credit to such a smashing come back?

Firstly I must thank God, my family, friends and especially my children for supporting me and encouraging me or shall I say literally pushing me into accepting the NNOI opportunity. The movie again came to me in an opportune moment when I was down in the doldrums with a second divorce in my life. This was such a painstaking situation in my life. But coming out of all this strong and smiling is just because of all the love and support of my well-wishers, fans and ofcourse all the channels, who kept screening my old movies, which helped audience remember me and never feel my absence for so long, and definitely to the whole NNOI team for bringing me back with such a powerful and wonderful, endearing character, Sheela Chacko. So I guess all the above people deserve credit for my ‘smashing comeback’, as you have put it.

The industry would have changed a lot since you left, are new technologies, new actors, directors, heroines etc. how well did you adapt to this?

Definitely the first thing that struck me as a big difference when I reentered the film world today is the advancement of technology in making films. Right from the camera technique to the monitor on set for the director and artistes to see their work on the spot, was a delight to watch. Initially when I went for the workshop for this film before the shooting, I was pleasantly surprised by the word ‘workshop’ for a movie. I asked Althaf what this was and he told me it is just to mainly get the cast and crew together and set some positive vibes moving, so that the first day of shoot won’t be a day of introductions and getting accustomed to each other and delay the process of shooting family scenes, which will need that comfort level between the artistes. I guess this worked because the first day of shoot was absolutely cool, without nerves and felt like I belonged in the Chacko family. So such techniques are new and welcome and working with new gen actors like Nivin was absolutely wonderful. A very natural actor and very talented and I feel lucky that I acted with him in my first comeback movie in his own production and our vibes as mom and son worked well. The whole team was totally involved in every scene. Whenever Lal and me worked in a scene, we discussed it and enacted it as natural as possible and tried not to bring any forced artificiality into any scene. Althaf, being a brilliant director, was very clear about what he wanted from every actor, whether new or seniors. This helped me with my role in NNOI and adapt to the present trendy film world. Never felt a generation gap at all!!

There are several characters specifically suited to your style of acting and can we expect more from you as an actress?

I basically am a director’s actor and always like to listen to what they want from you as an actor and as the role demands. At the same time I do have to be convinced about each move I perform in any scene, every expression too needs some conviction while performing and I need to feel the emotion, or else I feel very restricted and artificial. So I do question if I am not convinced in any way about any scene or any character trait. I am a true believer in the fact that you have to be convinced first before trying to convince others. Only if I am convinced about what I am doing on stage or the big screen will the onlooker be convinced too and feel the emotion I am trying to portray. That is the success of the actor or performer. So as I am this type of actor I guess I can adapt myself to various characters if I can be convinced. So hoping and praying directors and producers approach me with challenging characters which can impact the society too in positive ways. Sheela Chacko is a model now for cancer survivors and people who have gone through this situation have called me and told me how well they could identify themselves with my character in NNOI, and I feel that is my biggest award as an actor.

Do you have any message to the budding actors?

Today’s new gen actors are all so very focused in their work and I really don’t think they need any advice or message from anyone. But still if I may say so there is one thing I would like to repeat to all the budding artistes of today, the same golden words spoken to me by a legend actor, Shri Kottarakara Sreedharan Nair, way back in the 80’s when I got the golden opportunity to work as his granddaughter in the Balachandra Menon film, ‘Tharattu’, my second film. He told me: “However big we grow, we should be ourselves” This advise I cherish and has kept it with me always.

Be humble always has always been my motto. Be down to earth always and never let success go to your head. I am still the ardent follower of those great, golden words from a true legend.









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