She is lucky to have turned all her weaknesses into her strengths.
A film offer at 17 with leading Tamil Director P. Samudhirakani, an opportunity to work with stars like Sasi Kumar, Vijay and Ravi Teja, more film offers in the pipeline, awards and encouraging media reports —Abhinaya is today the recipient of all these and more — but it wasn't a cake walk from her toddler days to the rungs of the ladder of success!
With a free spirit coupled with genuine concern for others, here is one teenager who makes an ideal role model for all ages.
Greet her and an approachable smile lights up her face, eyes searching out her most reliable and willing spokesperson, her mother Hemalatha. Abhinaya the youngest of three siblings and the only girl was born to parents who intended stardom for her right from the cradle! Her father Anand Verma an ex-serviceman active in the film industry, had no doubts his new born would someday make it to the silver screen what with her light brown eyes and fair complexion.
Nothing quite prepared the elated parents for the events that would unfold. Within three weeks there was a nagging suspicion that not all was right with Abhinaya as she showed no reaction to any sound however loud. Rushing to a doctor, the parent's worst fears were confirmed – Abhinaya was hearing impaired. Devastated for a few months they slowly came to terms with reality and decided that they would not let this destroy their dreams. Further milestones of crawling and walking were not reached until Abhinaya was two and a half and her schooling began with lessons in lip reading at Oral School for the Deaf, West Marredpally.
At age 13 came a ray of hope from Dr Mohan Kameshwaran, an expert Cochlear Implant surgeon. Although Abhinaya's was a complicated case, life threatening too, he successfully introduced Abhinaya to her first sounds. After the trauma and pain of surgery came vigorous Audio Verbal Training. Abhinaya gestures that the pain was unbearable and she often threw temper tantrums in frustration. She even told her parents that she was better off before the surgery when she heard nothing. It was three months before she would respond to her own name, a day her mother emotionally recollects. Abhinaya now joined regular schools Uma Montessori and then St Ann's Tarnaka. She found her happiness being on stage for various cultural activities.
In 2007 Raghava Lawernce put Abhinaya on the small screen in Sun TV's Masthana Masthana. Equal if not more were the efforts of her family in coaxing her to live normally despite her impairment. Meanwhile her father never missed an opportunity to show off his daughters photographs in film circles. Her mother was just as inspired watching a Russian hearing impaired Miss World contestant make it to the finals. Abhinaya too would often express that she wants to be the face on the billboard someday! She greatly admired Aishwarya Rai and her walls were covered with pictures her idol.
As luck would have it Malayalam Director Sleeba showed Abhinaya's photograph to Director P. Samudhirakani who was on the look out for a new face for his film “Nadodigal.” On learning about her hearing and speech impairment he was even more determined to cast her in the film to educate young actors who think language is a barrier.
He decided that through Abhinaya he could prove a point that a good director requires no speech to communicate! People on the sets were more than helpful and cameraman Khadeer went out of his way to encourage Abhinaya to give it her best.
“Nadodigal” was a hit and was remade in Telugu as Sambho Siva Sambho completing 100 days last week. Abhinaya is presently shooting for her next film with Sasi Kumar of blockbuster Subramaniapuram fame. The Jaya Young Achievers Award, Sri Kala Suddha Telugu Association Award, Tamil Mahanagar Sangham Award, felicitations from Chiranjeevi, Lions Club of Secunderabad all line her living room.
Guest appearances at events, autographs, fan mail, being overwhelmed in public – Abhinaya is now enjoying her time in the arc lights. She puts in hundred percent practicing her lines with her mother, following the beat of the music to which she has to dance and spends hours before the mirror to perfect the lip movement. Ask her who her best friend is, she looks as if that is an irrelevant question, as it can be none other than her mother – her pillar of strength and confidant. Ask her what she enjoys most and pat comes the reply – acting “ I never feel tired, I love dancing and look forward to shooting in a location where it snows.” And no fooling around on the sets either for Abhinaya who has a reputation of doing it all in just one or two takes.
A star all the way who lives up to her name taking ‘abhinaya' - the art of spontaneous expression to a whole new level !