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The serious side of comedy

ANASUYA MENON
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CINEMA Rachana Narayanankutty juggles her varied interests in dance, acting, anchoring and teaching with equal ease. Adaptability, she says, is her USP

MULTI-FACETEDRachana Narayanankutty balances her many passions
MULTI-FACETEDRachana Narayanankutty balances her many passions

As Valsala Madam, she made people laugh with her instant repartees. She also made them think. Rachana Narayanankutty, who essayed Valsala Madam, the sassy government employee in the popular television comic satire, Marimayam, says the role was her route to stardom. “People know me as Valsala Madam even now, though I’ve acted in a couple of films,” she says.

From an actor, she became the anchor of a comedy show and soon, went on to judge a show on TV. “That was a huge recognition for someone like me,” says Rachana, who identifies herself more as a dancer, having spent the better part of her life training in and perfecting Mohiniyattam. Films were nowhere in Rachana’s scheme of things. Neither was television. “I had nothing to do with comedy. The only remote connection I have to comedy is that I’ve done drama, mimicry and a bit of mono-act in school,” she laughs. However, she attributes her live-wire screen presence to her utter lack of stage fright. “I am absolutely at ease on stage. That is a huge advantage when one stands in front of the camera, too.”

Dance is almost a way of life. She started dancing when she was barely three-and-a-half years old and for the last 20 years, she has been concentrating on Mohiniyattam. Currently pursuing an advanced diploma course in Mohiniyattam, she says her ultimate goal is to do a PhD in it.

Rachana started her career as a radio jockey and was noticed for her individualistic style of speech. “When I was offered Valsala Madam’s role, I was not sure I could pull it off. The shooting was spontaneous and my brilliant co-stars would constantly improvise. It was recorded live and I knew unless I gave my best, it would not work.” But Rachana’s act worked and films began lining up at her doorstep.

However, the first movie she shot for was back in 2001, Theerthadanam. She had gone to assist her teacher in choreography and a role happened to come her way. “It was a small role, as Jayaram’s student. But I had dialogues and I was very young and very excited,” she says. Her first proper film break came with Lucky Star, opposite Jayaram. As Clara (Fahad Faazil’s sister) in Amen , too, Rachana made her mark. Vallatha Pahayanmar with her Marimayam team was “pure fun” and she describes the yet-to-be-released One Day Jokes as an exciting experimental movie shot in one day with no dialogues. “To bring out emotions through action and expression alone is tough.”

Her command over Malayalam and her knack with dialogue delivery are her strong points, she believes. In her latest, Punyalan Agarbathis , Rachana has put her own Thrissur slang to good use. (She is from Minaloor in Thrissur). She plays Sai Krishna, a lawyer, in the film. Rachana has been offered a role alongside Shwetha Menon and Kavya Madhavan in Revathy S. Varma’s women-oriented film, which is expected to start shooting in December.

Rachana enjoys her opinionated character roles, but does not want to be typecast. “My audience sees me as a bold girl who talks her mind. But I have never got a chance to showcase my talent in dance. As any other actor, I too want to experiment with everything.” Unexpected success in films will not keep her from her other, equally compelling passions—dance and teaching—she says. Rachana teaches English at the Devamatha CMI Public School, Thrissur. “I have always wanted to be a teacher. And I quit my well-paying RJ job for a career in teaching. In between TV and movies happened.” She has not quit her job and is now on leave. “That is a lot of things, right? But, those who know me well say, adaptability is my USP.”

ANASUYA MENON

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