Shwetha Menon says Kalimannu, her film reaching theatres today, is a tribute to all mothers
Kalimannu, filmmaker Blessy’s new film, is actress Shwetha Menon’s labour of love. Despite negative vibes that threatened to stop the movie from reaching its full term, there is no sign of any post-partum blues or nerves as her landmark movie releases on Thursday. Vivacious and forthright as ever, the actress says this is a film in which she has lived her life on reel. “Sixty-five to 70 per cent of the film is real and I have acted only in the rest. It has a lot of my life in it – my emotions, private moments, feelings…,” says Shwetha. Kalimannu was in the news as it is perhaps the first movie in India to film a baby being delivered. The camera followed Shwetha into the labour room and captured visuals of her daughter Sabaiina’s birth.
Calling it a tribute to all mothers, she says it was her confidence in filmmaker Blessy that made her go ahead with the movie without any apprehensions. “My doctor told me that pregnancy is not a disease but something that has to be enjoyed. So, I wanted to enjoy every moment of my pregnancy and I did that,” she adds.
Shot in Mumbai and different places in Kerala, the film has Shwetha playing Meera, an item dancer based in Mumbai and her journey to motherhood. Six months into her pregnancy, Shwetha was confidently facing the camera with her baby bump. Shwetha says it was the many thousands of working women who motivated her to keep working till her delivery. As she puts it: “I am no different from so many professionals who go on maternity leave only towards the end of their pregnancy.”
Perhaps it is this ability to identify herself with the woman in the crowd and her lack of pretensions that have helped the actress to be accepted for what and who she is. And Shwetha is aware of it. “Usually viewers are attached to a character or that character’s personality. But, in my case, I have been exceptionally lucky as I have been accepted as Shwetha,” she points out.
Has her small-screen avatar as an anchor of a family-based show helped her strike a chord with households all across Kerala? She replies in the affirmative but adds that even on television, she has not changed her personality or tried to be someone else contrary to her nature to endear herself to the audience. “I am honest in what I do and I think people respond to that honestly.” It is her insistence on ‘real’ that has given her the edge in her second innings in tinsel town. Award-winning performances and plum roles have made her the queen of comebacks. Nevertheless, she insists that she has never planned her career or deliberately chosen roles that gave her the scope to widen her acting palette. “But veteran Hariharan sir told me that if there was a different role or an unconventional character, the first name to be suggested for that role would be my name. I value that as a compliment.”
However, given the fact that Shwetha’s new avatar has always seen her go for characters who are more than arm candy, it is surprising that her decision to film her delivery evoked such strong adverse remarks. Shwetha says she does not understand how motherhood and the birth of a mother can be a matter of shame. “Initially, it made me livid and surprised. We were happy when the censor board gave it a U/A certificate and approved it without a single cut. So the outbursts took me by surprise. They must have been labouring under the delusion that the film was all about childbirth and the labour room,” she says
A confident Shwetha says the film will prove all her detractors wrong and goes on to talk proudly about how her 10-month daughter Sabaiina, (which means beautiful in Hebrew) is the current star in the family. “My family teases me that I have competition at home from my daughter,” says the happy mother, as the curtain goes up on mother and daughter in cinemas all over Kerala.
- Saraswathy Nagarajan
In 1953, pioneering photographer Helen Brush Jenkins photographed her newborn son, Gilmer, who was only one-minute old.
At present, there is a trend of new-born mothers hiring the best of specialist photographer to capture the first moments of their babies. Called birth photographers, these shutterbugs document a baby’s journey in life within minutes after their arrival into the world.
Trawling the Net throws up names of birth photographers offering a wide range of photographs of mom, baby and, sometimes, of the father too.
Bollywood director Farah Khan’s husband, Shirish Kunder, has capturedFarah giving birth to (to her three children) on his camera.