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Chat There is more to actor-dancer Asha Sharath than serials, says Athira M.

“This is a luxury,” Asha Sharath says. Sitting cosily on a bed with her legs curled up under her, Asha says a break is a rarity in her packed schedule when she is in the city for the shooting of the daily soap ‘Kumkumapoovu’. At the location, which happens to be a house near Thirumala, the unit is taking a break and Asha, rather Professor Jayanthy for loyal followers of the serial aired on Asianet, is game for a chat on her career as an actor and dancer. A household name for many serial-struck Malayalis who arrange their evenings around her programme, the actor-dancer shuttles between Dubai, her home for the last 18 years, and the city, for the shooting of the serial. “ I come to the city for eight days every month and my scenes for forthcoming episodes are shot then,” she says.

In Dubai, Asha runs Kairali Kalakendram – Music, Dance and Art Centre. Now that she has started acting in movies too, Asha’s schedule has just become busier than ever before. “But I’m enjoying all this, thanks to the unconditional support of my family,” says this poised and graceful artiste. Asha, a native of Perumbavur, has been trained in Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattom and Kuchipudi. She learnt dance from her mother, Kalamandalam Sumathy. “But I rarely took part in school youth festivals, because my mother was not much for it,” says Asha. But when she won the best dancer award at an all-India level dance fete held at Benares in 1992, it changed her life for ever. It was widely publicised and she began getting acting offers that were turned down by her parents.

“However, Sharath, a Malayali born and brought up in Nasik, happened to see my interview on Doordarshan. He approached my parents with a proposal. I was a second year undergraduate student when I got married.”

Prior to her marriage, Asha had acted in some serials and telefilms. “In those days serials had just 13 episodes. I did some interesting work with K.P. Kumaran (‘Indulekha’) and Sajan (‘Alapanam’ and ‘Kalathilakam’),” she recalls. Her first serial was ‘Jathaka Kathakal’. She used to anchor a show for Asianet as well.

In Dubai, her home from 1994 onwards, Asha conducted dance classes and worked in Radio Asia for some time. “It was a delightful job, but when the FM station shifted its base, I had to resign. It was my husband who suggested that I should open a dance school,” she says. Thus was Kairali Kalakendram born. “The Dubai government has stringent rules when it comes to running an institution there. We’ve been running it successfully for the last nine years. I have 75 staff members and nearly 3,500 students from different countries,” says Asha. Her school used to choreograph dance programmes for many stage shows in Dubai by many television channels and mega events such as ‘Lal Salam’ and ‘Ennu Swantham Mammookka’. Although there were offers to act in movies and serials, she got a break when she acted in a telefilm ‘Nizhalum Nilavum Parayunnathu’ which bagged her the State television award (2009) for the second best actress. That fetched her the role in ‘Kumkumapoovu’. Little did she imagine that the serial would go on for more than two years. “I land from Dubai at 4.30 a.m., and shooting goes on from 6.30 a.m. till late at night. On the final day, I wrap up the shoot and take an early morning flight to Dubai. This has been my routine for the last two-and-a-half years. The show has got a strong viewership in Dubai as well,” she says, adding with a smile: “To top it all, my in-laws, Muthukrishna Warrier and Sunanda Warrier, are absolutely crazy about this serial!” She remembers the embarrassment when a star struck Malayali teacher in her daughters’ school addressed her as ‘Jayanthy’.

In between, she also acted in Friday , Karmayodha and Ardhanari . She is now acting in Buddy , directed by Raj Prabhavathy Menon, with Bhumika Chawla. The professional that she is, it seems Asha is game for more roles…

“People often comment about the saris I wear in the serial. I’ve worn nearly 450 saris for the serial! Perhaps, I should hold a sale…”

“Sharath and my daughters, Uthara, a student of class ten, and Keerthana, who is in class seven, love my work. Except for the few days when I am in Kerala, I’m very much with them. My daughters are also learning dance. Last year I performed with my mother and daughters in Guruvayur,” says Asha. She performs at the Attukal Devi Temple on February 21.

I come to the city for eight days every month and my scenes for forthcoming episodes are shot then

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