Only very few people can live their dreams and I’m lucky in that, says theatre personality Murali Menon. An alumnus of the School of Drama, he has travelled across the country and abroad with his plays and workshops. But, now, he is familiar to the Malayali television audience as the judge of ‘Vanita Ratnam’, a reality show for women on Amrita TV, since its first season. Murali speaks about what keeps him bonded to the show, now in its fifth season, his passion for theatre and more… Excerpts:
Tryst with ‘Vanita Ratnam’
When ‘Vanita Ratnam’ began in 2007, Bindu Sajan, producer of the show, contacted my wife Kukku [Kukku Parameswaran] to ask if she could be part of the auditions. Kukku suggested my name, since I was doing workshops abroad and for contestants of the Miss Kerala contest. I enjoyed the auditions and found that I could do many things to groom the contestants. Eventually, I ended up as a judge.
Initially, I was a bit apprehensive about moulding these mothers. In those days, the show was only for mothers, but now it is open to unmarried women as well. It was a unique concept on Malayalam television then but that was not the reason for my anxiety. Till then I was used to working abroad and with corporates. But here I had to work with a group of women who come from a male-dominated society, which has got its own dos and don’ts for women. But just 10 minutes into the grooming session, I understood that I had underestimated the 15 contestants.
But a reality show has its pros and cons…
Cut-throat competition and controversies are part and parcel of any reality show. But ‘Vanita Ratnam’ has not just been a reality show for me. I can proudly say that the show still inspires a lot of women in our male-dominated society. I’ve been holding workshops for both men and women. And there is no exaggeration when I say that the amount of change in women with just one class happens only after 20-odd classes in the case of men. I don’t know the reason. Maybe, these women are giving shape to their dreams, aspirations and thoughts that were suppressed. I can give umpteen examples from ‘Vanita Ratnam’ itself. A contestant in the first season – a school teacher with intelligence and sensibility, took up journalism after the show, made a short film and is proud about her success. There was another contestant of the second season who hailed from an orthodox family. She called up to say that she had got a job, thanks to the confidence she gained from the show. So, what ultimately matters is that the show has become a turning point in the lives of many women.
Running a show for five seasons…
The concept has become stale and so we have to bring something new every time. We introduce new rounds other than those based on dancing and acting. My role is to groom the contestants and give them the confidence to talk and take part in every round.
Rooted in theatre
Theatre is what I love. I don’t want to be called a film actor, but a filmmaker. I’m working on a script now. However, after a long gap, I’m acting in a movie, Syamaprasad’s English, which was shot in the United Kingdom (U.K.). My character, Dr. Ram, is paired with Nadia Moidu. I did enjoy it as I was the second unit director as well. I’m also taking weekly acting classes at Cochin Media School.
After ‘Vanita Ratnam’, I begin a tour with my one-act play ‘Orang Utan’ in the U.K..