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Updated: June 21, 2013 18:53 IST

Mother of all roles

Saraswathy Nagarajan
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Theatre actor Sethulakshmi. Photo:S.Gopakumar
The HIndu
Theatre actor Sethulakshmi. Photo:S.Gopakumar

Theatre actor Sethulakshmi on stepping into the limelight with her sterling act in Left Right Left

Sethulakshmi is the newest star in Kerala. Ever since Left Right Left reached theatres, Sethulakshmi’s phone has not stopped ringing. Beaming with happiness, she says that calls have been pouring in to congratulate her on her sterling performance in the movie. The accent was on the act, says the award-winning veteran theatre actor. As a hardboiled, no-nonsense mother with a heart of gold in the movie, she lived the role with élan, with her lines being greeted with applause in theatres.

“I had no problem speaking the dialect spoken by many in the city because that is the way I speak. In fact, I find it difficult to talk in a formal manner,” she admits with a hearty laugh.

This is not her debut in Mollywood. A role in Balachandra Menon’s serial Suryodayam had paved the way to tinsel town. Sathyan Anthikkad spotted her in the serial and gave her a role in four of his movies – Rasathantram, Vinodayatra, Innathe Chinthavishayam and Bhagyadevatha. Although she won appreciation for her roles, she was not getting that one meaty one that she wanted to sink her teeth into. That is when she decided to audition for Arun Kumar Aravind’s film and found a place in the cast as Indrajith’s character’s mother.

She had no time to be nervous or apprehensive on the sets as Indrajith, Arun and actor-writer Murali Gopy, made her feel at home right from the first day onwards. “My first shot was in KIMS Hospital. As I stood there nervously, Indrajith came rushing in and told me: ‘Chechi, we are playing mother and son. We are all set, right?’ That vanquished my apprehensions and then it was smooth sailing all the way” she says. While Arun explained each shot to her, Murali told her about the kind of person she was enacting and where she came from, why she became like that and on. “After a while, all them would turn up to see my shoot. It was exhilarating,” she recalls.

Offers have come pouring in too. Request for a photo shoot has to be postponed as she is now acting in Mohakadal, a serial. “The bus comes to pick me up at 8 a.m. and I return only by 7 p.m., after the dubbing is done,” she says.

Sethulakshmi’s career as a film actor is looking up at the age of 70. “I believe there is a time for everything and may be, this is mine,” she muses.

Right from the time she learnt dance, she was in love with the arts. Her desire to learn dance brought her all the way from Nilamel in Kollam district to the Swathi Thirunal College of Music. After completing her Natana Bhooshan in 1963, when the stage beckoned, Sethulakshmi saw it as another route to make her presence felt on the stage.

“There was opposition when I decided to become an actor. But I refused to let my family pull the curtain down on my budding affair with the stage,” reminisces the actor. Her marriage to Arjunan, a theatre actor, and his sudden demise did not spell the end of her career.

Theatre, she says, helped her make ends meet and bring up her four children, all of whom were into theatre at one point of time. While two of her daughters stopped acting after their marriage, her youngest daughter Lakshmi and son Kishore are still active in theatre.

Although they had their own troupe, Chirayinkeezh Anugraha, for sometime, her son’s illness forced them to cut their association with the troupe. “My son is better now although he is on dialysis. Those were difficult days indeed but things are looking up. He is now a member of Boys, a team in ‘Comedy Express’, a comedy-based programme on Asianet,” says the actor. Plans to start a new troupe called Thiruvananthapuram Natakakootam is on the anvil.

Attributing her newfound success to destiny, she says although she had almost quit acting, the desire to don the greasepaint has not been wiped off completely. “I feel like acting again. But even if I don’t get another role like this, I am happy that I got at least one opportunity to showcase my talent,” she says.

Role of honour

The following are the plays for which Sethulakshmi won State theatre awards

Bhagyajathakam (best actress)

Mankolangal (best supporting actress)

Chinnappah (best supporting actress)

Dravidavritham (best actress)

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