Actor Lena is on a roll after her role in Traffic

Lena is now in a comfort zone, both as a person and an actor. Over the past two years, she has been flooded with pleasant surprises. During a short trip to Thiruvananthapuram, she spent some time with MetroPlus to talk about the changes in her life. First and foremost, she no longer feels like an outsider. “I was considered so mainly because I live in Bangalore. Also, I never socialised much and people thought I was putting on airs. It was because I never had a busy period in my career and so I hardly got to interact with others. Now, things aren’t the same since I am going through a fresh phase in my career. You bump into the same people often and that makes space for camaraderie,” she says.

What sparked off the set the transformation was, of course, Rajesh Pillai’s Traffic. She sparkled as Rahman’s wife and bagged seven major film awards for the best supporting role. However, that success didn’t translate into something bigger or better until Ee Adutha Kalathu (EAK) happened. “I was almost getting typecast in ‘mother’ roles. I did do one, in Asuravithu, because that was a major character. But Arun Kumar Aravind and Murali Gopy saved me with the role of a lifetime in EAK where I acted as a young and happening mediaperson called Roopa. I’ve always been slotted in the senior batch in the industry, since I started acting at a very young age. But EAK broke that image and gave me a fresh innings,” says Lena.

Hits like Ustad Hotel and Spirit followed. “Spirit showed another side of the actor in me. I played a cop, a dramatically bold one! The introductory scene had me chasing a thief and I am still surprised how I did all that jumping and running. And then there were some wonderful scenes with Mohanlal,” says a beaming Lena.

On a high

Lena’s upbeat mood seems to be motivating her to multi-task in a lot of areas, such as continuing her studies in clinical psychology. A post-graduate in clinical psychology and a B.Sc. first rank holder in psychology, Lena’s role model is her father, T. Mohan Kumar, who is now teaching behavioural sciences at SBI Staff Training College in Hyderabad.

After her debut in 1998 with Sneham, Lena acted in a couple of films before taking a break to do her post graduation. She would have continued working if she hadn’t found the job exhausting.

“Recently I was in the United States for a programme and when I walked into a supermarket I found many people talking to themselves. It was some sort of relief for them. That behavioural aspect suddenly made me think about doing an M.Phil in clinical psychology. Well, I can always do that, since age never comes in the way of your academics. But age does affect one’s acting career. So, it is good to have another option,” she says.

She wants to renew her hobby of mask-making. “The last one I made was based on late Heath Ledger’s character, Joker in The Dark Knight. I can’t find time to make more.” Her reading habits too have changed. She has stopped reading books, especially the esoteric stuff. “I think I’m filling my head with too much of things. And now I’m doing something which I rarely did – reading newspapers!” she admits with a hearty laugh. A trained musician, she also plans to learn guitar.

Before signing off, Lena shared her Onam plans. “I’m off to Vadakkanchery to be with my paternal grandmother for Onam. It’s been two years since I celebrated the festival with her. I’m a foodie, and I know there will be a sumptuous feast awaiting me, with at least two payasams,” she says with glee.

Filmography

Lena has acted in nearly 50 films, which include Sneham, Shantham, Karunam, Kochu Kochu Santhoshangal, Randam Bhavam, Big B, 2 Harihar Nagar, Robin Hood, In Ghost House Inn and Snehaveedu. Serials include ‘Omanathingal Pakshi’, ‘Ohari’, ‘Malayogam’, ‘Thulabharam’, ‘Aranazhikaneram’ and ‘Pattukalude Pattu’. On the anvil are And she hopes to do so with her work in upcoming films like Thomas Villa by debutant Abin, which is about a kid and Lena plays the mother, Nagabandham by Suresh Unnithan, which is set in the 60s in which actor-director Lal plays the lead, and Left Right Left, which puts her back with the EAK gang of Arun and Murali Gopy, among others. She might make her debut in Kollywood as well, very soon. She isn’t doing any serials now owing to film commitments. Two of a kind

Lena has found a perfect match in her husband, Abhilash, who is also in the film industry. He assisted Aashiq Abu in Salt N’ Pepper, co-wrote the script of 22 Female Kottayam with Shyam Pushkar and is now working on the script of Da Thadiya. “He was an assistant manager with a company in Bangalore. One day he comes home from office and tells me that he has quit because he was unhappy and was going to assist Aashiq. I was taken aback, because he never told about working in films. He used to write stories, that’s about it. Since Aashiq is more than a family friend for us, we decided to give it a go. See, how things have changed now!” Lena muses with a broad smile, adding: “Now we hardly get to see each other. In a way it is nice that we both are busy. There are no complaints, no hassles!” They met and romanced as schoolmates and got married nearly eight years ago. “We’d decided long back that we wouldn’t have children. We know the kind of persons we are and having children wouldn’t fit into the kind of work we both do,” she adds.

Her name

“When I was born, my father had sent a letter to my mom, Tina, saying I should be named ‘Lena’. He actually meant ‘Leena’, but that didn’t strike them. Thus I became Lena. It was difficult initially, since people found the name odd. Recently, I learnt that Lena means light in Greek. That was a relief for me,” says Lena. She has a sister, Tasha.