Chitra Shenoy is another addition to the long list of mean and greedy mothers-in-law on the mini screen. The Bangalore-based actress is now playing Sethulakshmi, the monstrous mother-in-law in ‘Sthreedhanam’, a serial on Asianet. She is amused by the fact that it is the first ever negative role in her 24-year-long acting career during which she has done over 500 films, a majority of them in Kannada, and the rest in Tamil and Malayalam, and many serials too. Familiar to Malayalis as Mammootty’s mother in Rajamanikyam, Chitra has acted in movies such as The Don, Alibai, Calcutta News, Rock n’ roll, Kanchi and Orissa. Excerpts from an interview with the actress…
I was taken aback when the makers of ‘Sthreedhanam’ approached me with the role, because, till then, writers and producers in Kannada had never even made me a member of the villain’s family, let alone give me a negative character! Krishnamoorthy, director of the serial, had to convince me to take up the role. Also, my family, felt that it was time I tried my hand at new roles. That is how I became Sethulakshmi.
Breaking the image
Thanks to many Hindi serials, the vicious mother-in-law is always shown decked from head to toe, with heavy make-up, glittering bindis, lot of jewellery, and flashy saris. But I wanted to be different. So, I created the look of Sethulakshmi, which was approved by the makers. She has glamour but it never goes overboard.
Reception from the audience
I am overwhelmed when people say it is a powerful character. Well, certain senior citizens have asked me why I was torturing my daughter-in-law so much! People say that sometimes I go overboard with my expressions and body language. But I think that is the way the director has visualised it and I am always a director’s actor.
Her journey in tinsel town
I hail from a traditional Tamil Brahmin family where acting was never a career option. But I was destined to come in front of the camera. Once I began working in television, I started getting offers from Kannada cinema. But after doing a dozen films or so, I quit the industry because I wasn’t happy with what I was doing and the films as such weren’t doing well. However, I continued to work in Kannada serials on Doordarshan, alongside my studies. Even after marriage to Gurudas Shenoy, a producer with Doordarshan, I continued to do serials and didn’t accept any film offers. But, I came back to films to get out of the depression after a miscarriage. Plenty of character roles came my way. Since then there has been no looking back. Today I help my husband in running our production house, and take care of our nine-year-old daughter, Kushi, even as I balance my career in Kannada film industry and on Malayalam television.
My first work in Malayalam, Rajamanikyam, came to me through Sindhu Menon, another Bangalorean, who acted in the movie as my daughter. The language was new, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity because I have great regard for Malayalam movies and artistes. I had no qualms about playing Mammootty’s mother though I was hardly 30 then. Right now, I am quite comfortable with Malayalam. I love the way the language is spoken and even try to frame my own sentences.
‘Sthreedhanam’ airs on Asianet, Mondays to Fridays, at 6.30 p.m.