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In her own groove

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People Actor-dancer Shobana talks about Manichitrathazhu, working with Kamal Hassan and the National Awards among other things

Shobana is one of finest actors and dancers. Debuting in films at the age of nine, she went on to win two National awards for best actress and has worked with some of the biggest stars of south Indian cinema. She was a sought-after actor in Malayalam films during the 1980s and the 1990s. She was awarded the Padma Shri for her contribution to Indian dance.

On Manichitrathazhu It wasn’t difficult at all. You had a director; you had the costumes, histrionics… . And unless you really try hard to mess it up…it couldn’t have gone wrong for any actor.

On the film’s making Fazil had probably lived with the script. I know he was writing it for two to three years and he guided you. He said this is what it is — you must feel it, you are a different person, this is what is happening to you. And there’s always a touch of humour in whatever he says.

There’s also an imagery in what he says. It gives you that extra energy to go out and think for yourself.

On the role When he approached me for the role he didn’t tell me much about the dancing element because the script was the hero.

On being a child artiste I was about nine years old and I just remember having a lot of fun. I remember the food, I remember the travel, I remember the make up, I just remember everybody being exceedingly kind.

Debut as heroine I was all of 13 and a half but I didn’t look that young. I was 5’8” and people around me thought I should act as an 18-year-old off the sets. It put me in a shell initially because I was straight out of school.

Acting with Kamal Haasan I was 14, if you ask me now I would say I was nervous. But then he was a star and I was stunned. It was a film ( Enakul Oruvan ) that was a little beyond its time. It was made too early. It was a very nice film but unfortunately it didn’t do well, then my commercial landing was stalled and I went back into Malayalam

Working with Adoor I was very excited to do Anantharam. Every actor has this dream to work with him. The sets would be exceedingly quiet and he would do all the talking and we just had to listen.

On co-stars I have done 55 films with Mammootty and Mohan Lal and most of the films did very well commercially. When I acted with Kamal Haasan, I was nervous because he was a star. In Thalapati , there was one scene where Rajinikanth had to jump through the hole in the roof and press my feet. After the film released I had people coming and scolding me, how can you get him to press your feet? I was a little wary after that.

On winning National awards I think after winning the National award, you just want to better yourself. Unfortunately people get a little wary of you, they are like she has won a National award, now she is more of an art person. That was the reason I thought I had to move on and just do my own thing — which was Bharatanatyam

The balancing act A lot of people ask me which do I like better — dance or films. I have been trained for such a long time to do both. Sometimes I marry both forms of art and sometimes keep them apart.

Current pursuits I am writing. I have done the musical ‘Maya Raavan’ where I have combined classical steps, film dance, theatre and music.

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