The name Mavelikara Ammini might not ring a bell for most Malayalam cinema buffs. Even those in the movie industry may not remember her. But they will surely remember the evergreen hero, the late Prem Nazir and his first movie ‘Marumagal’.
Ammini, now 80, played the role of Nazir’s mother in the movie released in 1952, though both were of the same age, 22. A stage artist from the age of 15, Ammini donned the greasepaint in just two more movies, including Thoppil Bhasi’s ‘Puthiya Akasham Puthiya Bhoomi’.
For the next 30-odd years, she never went back to cinema, but was a major presence in the late drama maestro N.N. Pillai’s troupe, the Viswa Kerala Kala Samithi. The curtains came down on her career in the late eighties, after a staggering 8,000 stage performances.
From then on, Ammini has struggled to make ends meet. Her husband Joseph had died in 1969 and their only daughter, Leela, soon followed Joseph at the tender age of 20.
“The stage was my refuge after that double tragedy. I never felt like going back to cinema, though many of my co-drama artistes like Adoor Pankajam and Kaviyoor Ponnamma went on to become big names in the movies,” says Ammini, who now depends on her nephew Varghese and his wife for assistance in every way in their home in Cherukol near Mavelikara here.
Ammini receives the government’s pension of Rs. 550, meant for aged artistes in distress. But no helping hand has come forth from the movie field although she is not complaining.
“My only regret is that I have to depend on someone else for everything. I hate that,” she says, tears streaming down her wrinkled cheeks. Ask about Nazir, and she suddenly forgets all her worries.
“We had this scene where I, his mother, bless him when he is leaving home. Nazir used to say that those blessings stood him in good stead throughout his career,” she recollects, before going on to describe the shooting, which was at the Salem Ratna Studio and her times with co-actors like S.J. Dev, father of the late actor, Rajan P. Dev, who played Nazir’s father in the movie.
I have one small complaint though. Vijayaraghavan, the son of N.N. Pillai, has never come to see me though I was like family when his father was alive,” she says.