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Mother of all roles

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MOTHER FIGURE: Sukumari in a still from `Mizhikal Sakshi.'
MOTHER FIGURE: Sukumari in a still from `Mizhikal Sakshi.'

SANGEETA

Tête-À-tête Sukumari essays the role of a speech-impaired mother in Asok R. Nath’s ‘Mizhikal Sakshi.’

Watching Sukumari in the role of a mother is not a novelty for Malayali viewers. She has been doing it flawlessly for many years now. Now, the veteran actor unveils an unseen facet of her histrionic talent in Asok R. Nath’s ‘Mizhikal Sakshi,’ where she dons the role of a Muslim mother who is speech impaired.

“I have played Muslim mothers before, for instance in ‘Achuvinte Amma.’ But I have not played a character of such significance in any of my films. I play Nabisa, an upper middle class Muslim woman who is ostracised by society for many reasons. Mohanlal plays my son and Nedumudi Venu my husband,” explains the actor.

The actor says she had longed to play a character with speech impairment.

Challenging assignment

“I thought it would be interesting to portray emotions without the aid of the verbal component. Voice is a crucial tool for an actor. Minimalism or lack of it needs effort in terms of emoting. The challenge posed by this film was precisely this,” she adds.

Body language played an important role in the movie too, she says.

As an example, she points out the scenes shot at Mukhathala Sri Krishna Temple, near Kollam, where major parts of the film were shot. “As my character is not used to the customs of a temple, I had to pay extra attention to those scenes.” And to help her stay in character, the actor says she remained quiet on the sets. “In fact the unit said it was quite unlike me to be quiet on the sets; I felt it would help me in staying melancholic, the predominant mood of the film.”

Has being slotted into the ‘mother’ category early into her career, ever bothered her?

“I am not really bothered. I started playing mother at the age of 21, in the film ‘Pattikada Pattanama,’ where I played Jayalalitha’s mother and Sivaji Ganeshan’s mother-in law. For me, the work is more important. That is what keeps me going, even at this age. Also I cannot say no to friends. When they approach me with a script, I take it up, no matter what my character is,” says Sukumari, who is currently working on Srikumaran Thampi’s tele serial along with her film and theatre assignments.

Passionate about theatre, the actor has been actively involved in Cho Ramaswamy’s theatre group Viveka Fine Arts Club for more than 35 years.

Passionate about theatre

“I would like to continue it as long as I can,” she says.

Ask her if there are roles that she longs to take up, and she says she wants to play more comedy and villainous roles.

“Comedy teaches you many things – timing, instant reactions et al. Villainous roles are exciting to work on too. The very purpose of an anti-hero is to boost the central character. So you have to make the audience hate you to glorify him. And that is quite a task,” says the actor as she winds up.


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