Tribute: Sukumari was not just a gifted actor but a warm and simple human being.
In a career spanning over six decades, veteran actor Sukumari donned various roles and executed them with perfection and precision. The actor, who passed away recently, was an inspiration to many, including her co-actors and others with whom she shared a warm rapport.
I have many beautiful memories which I shared with her. In 1986, there was a small but significant character of a Mother Superior in one of my Malayalam films, ‘Mizhineer Poovukal,’ starring Mohanlal. We were shooting in Kottayam at that time. We felt Sukumari chechi would be perfect for the role. Though I hesitated initially, I decided to call her and find out if she could do the role and join us in Kottayam “for just two days of shoot.” Her acceptance was spontaneous and she made it to the shooting spot at once.
Chechi’s costume was not yet ready. Understanding the situation, she met the costume designer and asked for some white and black material. And she sat down and stitched her costume for the film! What’s more, after her shooting was completed, she removed the stitches and returned the material!
A sum of Rs. 6,000 was paid to her immediately after the shoot, although she felt payment could wait until after the release of the film. Unfortunately, at the editing table, her scenes were chopped off mercilessly.
She knew all this, yet Sukumari came to the preview and after watching the film, she congratulated me and gave me a gift packet. At home, I opened it to find Rs. 6,000 inside a leather purse. I was moved to tears.
When I called her, she said, “Already you have paid my to-and-fro fare and expenses for the shooting. I do not want to burden you further." When I went in person to return her remuneration, she refused and said, “Accept this as a gift from your mother.”
In fact, Sukumari chechi maintained a house in Thiruvananthapuram, and she would insist on staying there during shoots as she did not want to burden the producers. That was the calibre of the veteran, whom I shall miss terribly.