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`Which of us is prettier?'

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SIBLING REVELRY Shamlee and Shalini were child stars, many of whose films were runaway hits
SIBLING REVELRY Shamlee and Shalini were child stars, many of whose films were runaway hits

Shalini and Shamlee, actor siblings, discuss their careers, current passions and, of course, Ajit

As kids they were the darlings of the masses. If Shalini caught popular imagination as the orphaned waif in Fazil's Malayalam hit Ente Mamattikkuttiyammakku and went on to act in 95 movies, her sister Shamlee had people alternating between laughter and tears at her antics in Mani Ratnam's Anjali. She stopped acting when she turned 10, after about 70 movies.Shalini, after her stint as heroine and marriage to actor Ajit, is now indulging in her latest passion - badminton. And, Shamlee, last seen in Kandukondein Kandukondein, is now having fun behind the camera - pursuing a course in visual communication. When the two get together, the similarities are striking.SUBHA J. RAO watches the sisterhood in action.The conversation starts off with the incident involving little Prince who fell into a borewell in Kurukshetra. Did it kindle memories of Malutty for Shamlee? (She played a kid who falls into an disused borewell in the Malayalam film.)Shamlee: Actually, no. I was too young to remember it. Shalini: In fact, some people called to get your reaction to the incident. Were you scared while doing the film?Shamlee: I don't remember anything at all. I was around two and did what I had to. I remember an earthworm was wriggling on my face. And, there was a frog nearby. Shalini: I remember most of my films. I was a little older (three-and-a-half years) when I debuted. I resent the fact that even if I don't behave like a star, people tend to treat me as one. Shamlee: I don't like it when people stare at me for no reason.Shalini: Sometimes I crave anonymity. It feels bad when you are recognised wherever you go. Do they miss the arc lights?Shamlee: Not one bit. I am enjoying college. Acting is a lot of responsibility. Now I am absolutely free. Shalini: I too used to feel that way. I was having a ball doing different things when Fazil sir called for Aniyathipravu. I had starting trouble, but then began to enjoy it. I think you should return to acting. Shamlee: You brainwash me. Earlier, I used to say I will not act. Now, I am like maybe... Shalini: Shamu, we've never acted together, have we?Shamlee: Remember Jagadeka Veerudu Atiloka Sundari (Telugu)? All three of us (including brother Richard) acted in it.Shalini: You've always been so quiet. Quite a contrast to me. Shamlee: I used to be quiet as a kid. Not any more. On relationshipsShalini: I love interacting with people. In fact, I get along better with older people. Shamlee: I get along well with people of my age group. And, with you. We are not like typical sisters, we bond really well. (Shalini is seven years older.)Shalini: I don't even remember us fighting for the regular `sister' things, like clothes. You have always trusted me a lot. I've discussed everything with you. You knew about Ajit and me even before I told you. Shamlee: I always come to you for advice when I am confused. You have always treated me like an equal, sharing your secrets. And, I've always kept them. Now, for your negative traits. You are messy and have butter fingers. You also panic easily and are pessimistic. Shalini: I admit I am messy. I can't serve food without spilling it. But you never get ruffled, even if it is missing a flight. You are completely chilled out, unlike me.Memorable events during shootingShamlee: I used to act a lot with animals. In some films, my co-stars were a dog, monkey, snake and an elephant. There was this film where an animal combed my hair as I looked on. But I never got scared though I was almost bitten by a monkey once. I loved sitting atop an elephant.Shalini: I remember how I slid down the trunk of an elephant while shooting in Mudumalai. I fell and was slightly hurt. Shamlee: And, during the shooting of Kandukondein, Ajit would keep telling me: "Please, ask your sister to marry me." I played cupid for you. Thinking about it, I've done it all my life. I love helping people. Shalini: Shamu, you are the reason why I agreed to act in Amarkalam (her first film with Ajit, during the shooting of which they fell in love). I had taken a break after Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai, because I wanted to complete my exams. I kept refusing offers, even when Ajit called. When we went to see a preview of Kaadhal Mannan, starring him, you told me the hero looked good and that I must act with him. The topic drifts to Shalini's exploits in badmintonShamlee: How is your badminton going? Shalini: The game is very addictive. I won a State-level doubles tournament in Namakkal. I was featured in the sports news and I was exhilarated. Remember, Shamu, we started our coaching together?Shamlee: I dropped out of professional coaching. Now I want to pursue it again.Shalini: I practise my strokes long after I leave the court. I think about a shot in the middle of something else and call up my badminton friends. They understand. The game is physically demanding.On their favourite starShamlee: Mine is Shah Rukh Khan. I've watched KANK four times. You know, Ajit promised to arrange a meeting with Shah Rukh if I got you to marry him. He was shooting for Asoka then. He kept his promise. Shalini: I don't worship anybody, but I love Michael Jackson. Tell me, which of us is prettier?Shamlee: I ask Ajit the same thing. He tells you that you look better. But, after you leave, he tells me I am the best.Shalini: No way!

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