“In all my 17 years in the industry, no one has ever called me and told me I did a role well. Now, I have hardly time to take a call,” he adds. But then nobody tells a ‘goonda guy' he is ‘nice' and Baburaj has played this role in more than 100 films.
How come Vani who stormed into Malayalam cinema with ‘Mannar Mathai Speaking' and has played the heroine in all South Indian films fall in love with this ‘villain'? They have worked together in just five films. “I saw the heroism in the villain, and maybe his looks attracted me,” she laughs. When Vani married a screen goon, the public raised its eyebrows. Now, she feels vindicated. “I am happier than Babuettan when people congratulate him. Big actors like Mohanlal and Rajanikant also started out as the bad guy, remember.”
Not that Vani has called it a day. She did not say when she married that she was quitting. ‘Chinthamani Kolacase' was a movie she did after she got married. Vani saw the movies as a career and did not once think that marriage meant quitting work. After all, don't all women working in other fields continue working after marriage? Why should cinema be singled out as a profession which is not fit for married women? Vani is very professional about her career. She slowed down when the kids came along but once they started school, she is turning back to her career. “I am acting in ‘Ananda Thollai', a Tamil action movie by Dr. Sreenivasan, and in Hindi, I am doing Meera Bai's role in a devotional film ‘Thulasi Dasa'.” A Telugu serial is on the way, too. The Telugu industry is special for Vani, for her Telugu debut was with the late thespian N .T. Rama Rao. “I was just 17 and I acted opposite him in ‘Samrat Ashoka'. The greats like Saroja Devi and Bhanumathi were in the film. I feel honoured to have got the privilege,” she speaks of her career, spanning Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Hindi and Malayalam industries.
The couple shuttles between Chennai, where the kids study, and Aluva, which is Baburaj's hometown. “Now, she and the kids come here oftener because I have no time to go to Chennai,” butts in Baburaj. He is committed to 10 films. “All the roles that come my way are ones with a touch of humour. In ‘Second Show', I play a double role, of father and son. In ‘Talsamayam Oru Penkutty', my role is that of a television channel owner.” Talking of TV, Baburaj has forayed into the reality show arena too in his new avatar. Switch on the TV in the evenings and you will see Baburaj as a judge in a reality show too and one senses the sincerity that he puts in to make the show work.
This cook in the film, ‘Salt and Pepper', which turned the tide of life for Baburaj: surely he must have a past. And that ‘past' is to be made into a movie soon. “Usually we see only sequels, but this Part II of the film is going to be about what happened in this cook's life earlier,” a thrilled Baburaj points out. He is not perturbed that he could be typecast as a character with shades of humour.
But Vani in police uniform almost became typecast when she decided to refuse such roles. She says. “I want to do several challenging roles, not just action roles. People say that I look good in police uniform and that there is no one else who can fit into my slot, but that will typecast me and I don't want that to happen.”
So, how has the kids taken the change in their father's career? “They used to ask me earlier, ‘Why is everyone beating up our Dad all the time?' I would console them: That is in the movies. If they fight with him outside, your Dad would beat them all. And they would be happy!” Vani says.
On marriage: “Ours is so far intact. I feel that egos are to blame for failed filmy marriages. The present is what counts. The fact that you are or were a heroine on the sets does not matter in real life.
Live for today and not dwell in the past.” Vani is balancing both her reel and real life with elan. “Chakkikotha Chankaran,” (made for each other) that's what people said of us when we got married,” Vani says, with a determination to keep it that way, rain or shine.