After a seven-year hiatus, Devi Ajith is back to the big screen with more than a handful of projects
When film and television actor Devi Ajith decided to take a break from acting it was thought she had left the industry for good. After a seven-year hiatus during which she played a perfect homemaker, bringing up her daughter, taking care of her boutique in Thiruvananthapuram and pursuing Bharatanatyam, Devi is back in the spotlight.
She made a comeback to acting as Zarina, a riveting character in the V. K. Prakash movie Trivandrum Lodge. This role not only dispelled rumours of her supposed exit from acting but also opened the doors to many more acting opportunities.
“Frankly Trivandrum Lodge was made possible only because I was encouraged to take up the role by my husband (Col. Ashok Vasudevan) and Anoop Menon. Anoop is a good friend. I watched his Beautiful and liked it a lot. I left word with Anoop to think of a suitable role for me when he writes his next script. That’s how Zarina happened. V. K. Prakash Sir too was very encouraging and made me feel at ease realising that I was facing the camera after seven years. Initially Zarina was a small role but as the shoot progressed Anoop added more scenes giving it more importance. The feedback has been very encouraging and I was noticed,” says Devi, who was in the city for a photoshoot.
The last film of hers that released before she took the break was Seetha Kalyanam (2009), directed by T. K. Rajeev Kumar. “This film had a belated release. I had worked in it some six or seven years before it was finally released.”
Devi does not point to any specific reason for the long break. But it certainly seemed to have done a world of good for her. “There were no specific reasons. Looking back it must be because I had come to films with a lot of aspirations. When I found that was not happening I thought I would take the break. This gave me quality time with my growing daughter.”
It is not that she was cocooned in her family side-stepping all her professional interests. Devi was actively involved in the running of her boutique and never missed a chance to dance. “I have been learning Bharatanatyam since the age of five. It is something I have grown up with. I did keep the training on and also performed, mostly for temple festivals. It really kept me going. Recently, I decided to shelve Bharatanatyam for sometime. My boutique also took up a lot of my time. I simply love designing clothes, dabbling with colours and keeping the fire of creativity alive. During this time I also designed the costumes for a few movies, which was my only contact with the industry.”
Her parents, both educationists, instilled in Devi the value of education. “I completed my schooling from Nirmala Bhavan, Thiruvananthapuram, and my pre-degree from Women’s College. Initially, I thought of pursuing engineering but landed up doing Law at the Kerala Law Academy, Thiruvananthapuram. Even today memories of my happy childhood come back to me. A lasting memory is of travelling with my father on his scooter every month to buy a pair of new dresses. We were a conservative family, where values were held high. All this taught me to keep my feet firmly on the ground, always.”
Acting was not something Devi bargained for. It happened by chance. Popular as a television anchor, Devi was spotted by filmmaker Shyama Prasad. “I was hosting a film awards function. Shyama Prasad Sir was present there. He offered a role to me to act in his serial Manal Nagaram that reflected the lifestyle of Malayalis in Dubai. It was he who told me that one has to behave and not act, which I have been trying to follow even now. Thereafter I did Nakshatrangal Ariyathe, a tele-serial, by Shajiyem and Sthree Parvam Navam, a tele-film by Adam Ayub. My film career started with Seetha Kalyanam but this project got delayed. In between I worked in Ivar, the first Malayalam movie to be shot on handy-cam, directed by T. K. Rajeev Kumar and in Utthara by Sanil Kallathil.” Devi adds, “I also did a couple of short films and tele-films like Cupid by Sohanlal Seenulal. This was a brilliant film which revolved around my character. The only other character was a dog. It brought me four awards and many more for Sohan. Another short tele-film I did was Rajesh Pillai’s Arikil Oraal Kude.”
Returning after seven years has the movie industry changed? “I have not noticed any perceptible change as such. Perhaps I was lucky to work with friendly directors and in sets where there was bonhomie and a lot of fun. A lot of young people are coming up with very interesting themes, new topics, new issues are being discussed. The industry has become very competitive. Personally, I have been fortunate that even the small roles I did in Trivandrum Lodge and Immanuel have been well received.”
Devi is now working in Kaanchi, where she is paired opposite Murali Gopy and directed by G. N. Krishnakumar. “I’m sharing screen space with Prathap Pothen and Kaniha in Haridas’s Green Apple. A small presence in Zachariyude Garbanikal, my debut Tamil movie Sooraiyaadal, being directed by Thammarai Kannan, a short tele-film by a group of promising youngsters and Motorcycle Diaries, directed by Rajesh Pillai are also in the pipeline,” signs off Devi wishing that her comeback will help fulfil her celluloid dreams.