When the body battles illness, it is the mind actor Mamta Mohandas seeks to keep disease-free

Scars on the body are apparent. But Mamta Mohandas wants a mind free of battle scars. The actor never concealed her intense fight with lymphoma. Between bouts in the hospital, she has lived memorable roles, a recent top recall being Janet (Celluloid). She hit the theatres again this week as the endearing Noora in Babu Narayanan’s To Noora with Love (TNWL).

Being Noora was therapy, says Mamta over the phone from Chennai. The actor who fought spiritedly when she was first diagnosed with lymphoma admits relapses were tough. “I went mad, I did lose it.” She may have responded to the illness differently each time, but the constant was her succour – cinema. Films drew her out of the abyss first time around, it did so now. When real life was saddled with scans and tests, tubes and needles, films lent her a semblance of the normal. “This profession helps you feel normal as you try to look the same. When you see yourself in the mirror, you look good and fresh. No other job can offer you that,” says Mamta. Films not only took care of her physical self, it cocooned her mind as well. “I took on TNWL when things were not going well. I needed something to latch onto, to work towards, to stay mentally motivated to see through my treatment,” says Mamta.

Mamta realised early it is the mind she had to watch out for amidst strenuous treatment. “At the hospital, they are constantly poking and pulling tubes into you – gore, blood, scan and tests are routine. Your body gets used to it. But what about the mind?” she asks emotionally. Earlier, she had walked into Kadha Tudarunnu and a State Award post her chemotherapy sessions. “I would push myself to be normal. For me my mental state is very important. If I did not do those exciting projects then, I might not have been so happy and my treatment would not have panned out so well,” believes Mamta.

Getting back

For the actor who sought to nourish and nurture her spirit after an analogous stem cell transplant and subsequent complications, the sets of TNWL proved perfect. “It was nice to be in such a good unit. The idea of the film was put across to me by Krish (Sattar), the hero of the film. I was told my thattam-look in Anwar was widely liked. I heard the material, decided to be positive; get up and get going,” says the actor. Kaniha was an old pal, Archana Kavi became a new one. “We are even on WhatsApp under ‘To everyone with love’. I worked with a producer who was passionate about making a good movie. It was an endearing experience,” she says.

In the film, Mamta turns the do-gooder who sets her eyes on the happy-go-lucky Shahjahan. “Noora is greatly loved, she reaches out and helps ordinary people. The film captures beautifully a husband’s duty to his wife, contemplates on true love and how it breaks the thickest boundaries,” Mamta gets eloquent.

The actor admits physically it was tough to be on a movie set. “Yes, it was taxing. My energy levels were lower. I still have a long road to recovery.” Shooting in Kozhikode gave her the solitude she yearned — comfortably friendly, yet with a space of her own. She lived with her aunt, worked with people she knew from the Telugu film industry and was in a city whose restaurants and hotels she was familiar with. “It was important as I had to start falling in love with myself, keep my mind happy.”

The first time, Mamta plunged into an array of roles after recovery. Now she chooses to keep her mind clean.

“I haven’t planned. I am indecisive,” she says. She may be uncertain on films, but clear-cut about life. “When things are not good at all, you expect the world to treat you well. My friends and family have been through torture. I remember my dad telling mom that she has forgotten to smile. Now their happiness is what matters to me. My life is so different from others. I think of what is good for me right now.”

On Mamta’s immediate plan is a long-desired trip home — Bahrain. “I need that change. Every time I am in India working, all I had to do was go and come back, it was pressing the refresh button.” She wants to try out alternative therapies now that there is finally good news on the health front. Her priority now is dwelling on her inner sphere of calm.

“You just learn to be mature. I want to stay calm during the time of upheaval and watch silently the crazy world around me.”