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Hooked on the movies

Cuckoo Parameshwaran has always been different. From her dusky, unconventional good looks to her penchant for taking on different departments of film making. She sits down for a long chat with HEMJIT BHARATHAN.

ONE STRIKES a chord with Cuckoo Parameshwar within minutes. Her easy down-to-earth attitude relaxes and you feel you are with an old friend. But why the name Cuckoo when her siblings- brother Vishwanath Parameshwaran (hero of Kathapurushan but presently immersed in IT at Singapore) and sister Suma Parameshwaran, children of lawyer parents of Nair community, had normal names?

"Cuckoo is not my pet name, it is real. My father named me Cuckoo after a dancer-actress, a predecessor of Helen, who migrated to Pakistan during partition. Maybe he had an intuition that I would be in films."

Dubut film

Her entry into films at age 16 was through

`Thingalazhcha Nalla Divasam'. It was her Kathakali teacher who introduced her to Padmarajan's wife. Cast as a teenager, experiencing the first pangs of adolescent love, this dusky damsel showed promise in her debut movie. Did she have a passion for movies and was she nervous to face the camera?

"I have a passion for everything. I am constantly exploring and involving myself in everything. So I never had an over consuming passion just for films. Neither was I nervous as I was giving stage performances in Kathakali and Mohiniattam, which I had started learning at the age of three. Further I was in NCC in activities like para jumping. I am lucky to have parents who gave us a lot of creative space to grow. They are still my strength. Even now I depend on them a lot".

She did not go unnoticed in Thingalazhcha... For soon after, when pursuing her Bachelor of Theatre Arts at the School of Drama, Trichur she was approached for Adoor Gopalakrishnan's `Anantharam' and Arivandan's `Oridathu'. "My roles in these movies were small, but it was a fulfilling experience, and an honour to be approached by such stalwarts."

Her glory was in 1989 when she won the Supporting Actress State Award for her role in Chinthamani's `Ore Thooval Pakshikal', which however was not released in theatres. With a lot of forethought she muses, "perhaps these movies, though award winning, bracketed me along with parallel cinema and I was not offered any roles in mainstream films. Or maybe it is my looks- I don't have the standard filmy looks."

Not many know that she acted in a French short film, `The Mahout and the Elephant', shot in India, as the mahout's daughter, which is often telecast in National Geographic channel. "It was a wonderful experience as I had learnt French", she recalls. She also lent her voice for Shari in Deshadana Kili Karayaarilla and a few other films.

But it was her marriage to Murali Menon, her senior at School of Drama and life with him at London that threw open doors to many wonderful and rare experiences. Was it a love marriage? "No, it was arranged by me and Murali," she declares teasingly.

London sojourn

London brimmed with new and strange adventures. Murali who was with Tara Arts Group, a leading Asian theatre group, introduced her to the outlandish and the unfamiliar. She acted in another French film and also in a lesbian movie, which won rare accolades at film festivals.

"I was not averse to doing a lesbian role as such themes reflect the stark realities of life which an actor has to project, whatever be it. When such a hullabaloo was created on Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das in `Fire', I felt strange and privileged as I had done similar scenes years back without any protest, but applause."

But she recollects the shock on Adoor Gopalakrishnan's face, whom she considers her mentor when this movie was screened at a festival. But did he disapprove?

"No", she says.

`Sthree' and `Charulatha' were the two serials in which she acted, after her stint in London. "There was mass appreciation for my role in `Sthree'. I received congratulatory calls from children to DGPs. But I would never do it again as there was too much hype", she says. Meantime she's been doing a lot of things. Along with Murali she did a documentary called Kulambu (Hooves) about the tortuous way of slaughtering cows. And she won the Best Director and Best Script Writer awards in 2000 for her telefilm, `Ariyathe' - a Sri Vidya starrer.

Her last movie role was in Vaanaprastham as Mohan Lal's wife, which was very fulfilling. Now her life is revolved round her four-year-old son, Vishak.

"Till yesterday I felt that for some years, till Vishak grows up I should stop working, but I feel I am deceiving myself as maybe I can do both- work and also be a good mother".

From acting to dubbing to directing to script writing, Cuckoo's list never ends for next came costume designing in `Akale'.

Costume designing

"When Shyamprasad asked me to be the costume designer for `Akale' I was not surprised nor were those who knew me in the film world. For on all my movie sets I was always behind the camera helping out wherever I could, making suggestions and improvising especially the star's costumes. I love to dress up people and make them striking. Costume designing is what I would love to do most in future" she says.

So there are no plans of retirement? "Never", she declares dreamily, "movies are like cocaine- heady and strong. Once you taste it, you are hooked on it for life".

Photo by H. Vibhu

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