When Lakshmi and Venkatesh moved to Dubai, they were unsure of how life would turn out. They wanted their two daughters to not just have an all-around education, but also pursue the fine arts. While the older daughter was a singer, the younger daughter, Sadhana, was trained by her dancer-mother.
It was during one of those sessions that she was spotted by director Ram, who felt that she was perfect for a film ( Thanga Meengal ) he was working on. The parents had their misgivings about the world of cinema, but they trusted Ram.
And thus, Chellamma was born, capturing the hearts of all those who watched the 2013 flick. The film went on to win the National Award for Best Tamil Film that year, and Sadhana Venkatesh (who played the role of Chellamma) won the Best Child Artiste award and has been known ever since as Thanga Meengal Chellamma. Convinced that this was the path destiny had in store for her, Lakshmi and Venkatesh consented to her acting in Peranbu , starring Mammootty.
The family is just back from China’s Shanghai International Film Festival, where it had its Asian premiere. Peranbu is doing well in the film festival circuit. Sadhana has never been intimidated by all the famous personalities she worked with. “Each of them — Ram sir, and Mammootty sir — were kind and took care of me...Ram sir is a father figure for me; I would never take on a film without consulting him. Mammootty sir would also come up with suggestions to finetune my acting.”
“I never neglected my studies,” says Sadhana, who is all praise for her school, Gems Our Own Indian School. The long hours of shooting was a tightrope walk for the young girl, as she had her lessons to cope with.
Would she consider pursuing films? “I definitely would,” she says, “But I would like to do roles where I can dress up and wear more make up! I would love to do an Indian version of TheKarate Kid!”
Sadhana is also hands-on with extra-curricular activities; that includes mentoring children with special needs at her school. She was part of the UAE tolerance initiative and has also rendered her voice for flash cards, a reading tool for special kids, at the National Institute of Empowerment of People with Multiple Disabilities Chennai... all of which won her the Sheikh Hamdan Award in 2016.
“We have been greatly blessed,” concludes Venkatesh. “While we pray for the success she deserves, our concern is about her allowing all this fame to go to her head. Right now, she is very grounded.”