in conversation Mamta Mohandas on her twin careers in cinema – acting and singing.

There is something different about Mamta Mohandas. Not only does the svelte actor ooze style and sophistication in front of the camera but going by the number of hits she has had on the top of the charts in Tamil and Telugu, she has also proved her talent as a singer. And the year 2010 could well be the year when she finally gets her due in Malayalam cinema. Lined up are three films that have her in the lead, including an untitled one directed by Satyan Anthikad that will hit theatres next month.

“I am looking forward to the release of Sathyan's film. I am there in almost every scene and it is a role that any leading heroine in Malayalam cinema would have jumped at the chance to do,” says Mamta in an interview to Friday Review, while in Kozhikode for the shooting of the film.

“I play the role of Vidya Lakshmi who goes through some tough experiences in life only to fight back and succeed. I portray two stages of her life – as a young girl and as a mother of a four-year-old. The film has shaped up well and I am sure my efforts will be noticed. Sathyan is one of the Malayalam directors I have always wanted to work with,” adds Mamta.

Offbeat film

She has also started shooting for an offbeat venture titled ‘Nirakazhcha,' directed by debutant Aneesh, in which she is paired opposite Italian actor Vincenzo Bocciarelli who plays an artist visiting India to re-discover Raja Ravi Varma.

“I play twin roles, one of them being the mythological Damayanti. To play a period character such as Damayanti is one of the reasons why I decided to do the film though it is being directed by a newcomer. And I have been able to give my inputs to the character too,” says Mamta.

Then there is ‘Anwar' directed by Amal Neerad. In it, for the first time, Mamta, who dons the role of a Muslim woman, is paired opposite Prithviraj.

‘Anwar' will also mark Mamta's debut as a playback singer in Malayalam, though she has had several chart-toppers in Tamil and Telugu over the last few years.

“I have had offers to sing in Malayalam before. But I wanted to start singing in Malayalam – my mother tongue – with a song for my own character. That is why it took me so long to record a song in the language. ‘Agathen' would have marked my debut as a singer had I not pulled out of the film due to date problems,” says the actor.

Although, at the moment, she says she is not keen about singing too many songs. “As much as I enjoy singing, I would like to focus more on acting at this point. Perhaps I can concentrate more on singing after a few years. And it feels great to have twin careers in films at the same time.”

Singing, she says, has been a passion right from childhood. “I have trained in classical music for years. In Bahrain, where I grew up, I would always be asked to sing at school functions. I must have sung ‘Aaro viral meettee…' from ‘Pranayavarnangal' like a hundred times,” recalls the actor.

Singing in cinema happened by chance, though. Composer Devi Sri Prasad heard her sing during a photo shoot for a Telugu film that was later canned. He persuaded her to sing for the Telugu film ‘Rakhee' and she went on to win the Filmfare award for the best playback singer for that song. Her biggest hit as a singer, ‘Daddy Mummy…' (‘Villu') too was tuned by Devi.

“The song was originally composed in Telugu, but it was of course the Tamil version that became such a hit all over the South. It is good to see that my latest Tamil song, ‘Idai vazhi…' (‘Goa') has been well received,” says Mamta.

Career choices

The actor adds that it took a lot of hard work to get where she is today. “Though I was launched by a maestro like Hariharan (in ‘Mayookham'), it hasn't been an easy ride for me in tinsel town. When I started I was naïve and had no connections in cinema and admittedly I did make a few bad career choices.

“The controversy regarding ‘Lanka,' in which I feel I gave one of my best performances, didn't help either. I still feel that film should have promoted better. Having said that, it is because of ‘Lanka' that I got my break in Telugu with ‘Yamagonda.'”

However, now the actor feels that her career is on the right track with recent releases such as ‘Passenger' (Malayalam), ‘Guru Enna Aalu' (Tamil) and ‘Kedi' (Telugu), in which she feels she has done a good job.

And she could have made her Bollywood debut too, if she wanted to that is. “The film I was offered, though it was produced by a top banner for a top director, had too many heroines. I would rather wait for a proper launch,” says Mamta as she signs off.