The Shanthi Krishna Interview: I came to cinema with a selfish motive

Actress Shanthi Krishna, who is making a comeback after 21 years talks about Njandukalude Naatil Oridavela, her upcoming films, family and future.

Born and brought up in Mumbai she came into the Malayalam film industry in the 80s as a teenager who hardly knew the language. But, with her gentility, poise and a girl-next-door charm she had the Malayalam viewers hooked. Acting came to her like second nature and kept her busy till she decided to quit. Yet, destiny wouldn’t allow her to leave her craft. Thrice lucky, Shanthi Krishna now has many reasons to celebrate the success of her comeback film, Njandukalude Naattil Oridavela. Here she talks about her films, family and future.

  • Njandukalude Naattil Oridavela (NNO) is perhaps the first Onam hit this season. How are you feeling about the success of your comeback film?
  • I’m thoroughly happy and excited! Honestly, I didn’t expect such love and acceptance from the viewers after all these years. And all this is really overwhelming that I want to thank you all! People have loved my character Sheela Chacko. And a lot of cancer survivors have really spoken to me about how deeply they could relate with her. To me that’s the biggest honour and award.
  • Before NNO it had been over 20 years since we last saw you on the screen. How was it like working after so long?
  • Everything was as fresh as new. The entire team was new to me, except of course Lal. But I hadn’t previously acted or been directed by Lal so even that doesn’t count. This was a big learning experience for me. The technology and the atmosphere was all alien to me. In fact I didn’t know that the cameraman was now called DoP! I had to ask Ahaana (Krishna) to know that the DoP was infact Director of Photography! *chuckles*
    On the first day when I was ready for my shot I was surprised when “action” boomed from a speaker faraway. I wondered who was calling out, from where and where the director Althaf (Salim) was! I felt like a kid learning the new styles of filmmaking. But the team was fantastic and we clicked like magic! It was like one big family at the locations. Everyone from Nivin (Pauly), Althaf (Salim) were very supportive and nice.

“You should know, my children have never watched a single movie of mine till Njandu. Being a family of artists, I was really nervous about my kids liking it.”

  • How is your comeback this time different from the other times?
  • Earlier I was seen as a “dukha-putri” (tragedy queen). But I think this time the perception has changed. Yes, I am still seen as a yesteryear actor, but the kind of roles I am being offered are also interesting.
    See, I came to movies as a teenager with a selfish motive. Back then I was more focused on my dance and had even won a government scholarship for Bharatanatyam. I had reached a stage where it was difficult to come by better opportunities and stages without being famous. So when I was approached for a role in Malayalam I had thought that if I got famous maybe I would get better stages as a dancer. But then I enjoyed every movie I worked in. However now I think I’m a more seasoned and focused artist. Balachandra Menon was the one who first instilled in me the confidence to dub in April 19. Now I’ve again started dubbing for my characters. Dubbing for Sheela Chacko in NNO was very exciting and the crew was so patient with me while I tried to perfect the achayathi accent. *laughs*

  • You have done so many good films in the past. How well planned was your career?
  • I have never planned my career. Whatever I have had is godsend. Sometimes I feel that maybe because I didn’t meticulously plan things out I could take on any role that was given to me. I never had hang ups about accepting roles twice my age or those of second heroines. I will never forget was Nedumudi (Venu) ettan once told me. He said, “Shanti, we are artists above and beyond all. What matters is the character given to us.” This was around the time I played Keerikkadan Jose’s wife in Chenkol. In it I was to play Mohanlal’s mother-in-law and I was only 27 years old back then. But, the viewers accepted me in the role, and they also accepted me as Mohanlal’s mother in Pingami and as then as his wife in Pakshe just a year later. I believe that the viewers have given me that freedom!

“People have loved my character Sheela Chacko. And a lot of cancer survivors have really spoken to me about how deeply they could relate with her.”

  • So, which is the role that you’ve really worked hard for?
  • I don’t know if I worked hard for it, but I can tell you that Sharadamani in Chakoram was one of the most difficult roles I’ve portrayed. Thank god, I won the state award for the film. *laughs*
    I remember when I came in to the sets of the film Lohithadas (writer), looked at me disappointedly. When I asked him the reason he said he expected me to look lot healthier and plump. I said, “Lohi, if you want I’ll eat and grow plump but I won’t let go of this role!”
  • How do you better identify yourself as- an actor or a dancer?
  • Both actually. But I’m yet to get back to dancing now. I’ll need to regain my stamina for that. I’ll do it. Just give me some time…

  • How is your family taking this successful comeback?
  • My mother is my biggest critic ever. Be it dancing or acting, if my performance can dampen my mother’s eyes I consider my performance good. After the release of NNO I took my family to watch the movie in Kochi. You should know, my children have never watched a single movie of mine till NNO. Being a family of artists, I was really nervous about my kids liking it. And my son had been to the sets and had read a review of the film without giving me an expression. But it was such a relief when he gave me a ‘thumbs up’ after the movie and my daughter gave me an ‘all-knowing’ smile! *laughs*

  • How are the upcoming projects looking?
  • There is a movie I’m doing with Chackochan (Kunjacko Boban). I also did a project called Krishnam which is coming in Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu. As I told you, the new filmmakers are really fascinating and the new kids coming to me have some really good ideas. I just hope the viewers continue to love me the way they have!

“We end the conversation as she gets busy in her home in Bangalore. With an alluring smile and a twinkle in her eyes, this time this yesteryear actor is here to stay and bring many more meaningful characters to life!”

CONVERSATION byDeepa Antony

17 Sep 2017 | 10:39 PM