‘I always enjoyed my work in Malayalam’

Actor Sharada Photo: K. Ragesh   | Photo Credit: Photo: K. Ragesh

She may have been the ultimate queen of tragedy in Malayalam cinema, but Sharada has a smile that could make the entire cinema theatre happy.

Sharada’s smile hasn’t lost its charm, some five decades after it first captured the heart of the Malayali. She was in Kozhikode for the 50th anniversary celebrations of Murappennu, her fourth film in Malayalam, when she sat down for a chat with Friday Review. Murappennu was one of the films that established the Telugu girl as the ‘go to’ actress in Malayalam cinema when it came to strong female characters.

She had, in fact, watched Murappennu on television a couple of days earlier on television at her home in Chennai. “That brought back so many memories. Bhagi in Murappennu will always remain close to my heart. And it was such a fine film too, with an excellent script by M.T. Vasudevan Nair,” she says.

It was MT’s first ever screenplay too. “I am indebted to him for giving me some of my strongest characters. It was for playing his Ammukkutty in Iruttinte Athmavu that I got my first national award (though it was not called officially so then). I had received it from Zakir Hussain,” she recalls. A couple of years later she won the first of her three National Awards for Thulabharam, which remains one of the greatest tearjerkers in Malayalam cinema. “Little did I imagine that playing Vijaya would give me so much recognition. I am a fun-loving person and used to laugh a lot during the shoot of Thulabharam, even during the breaks of several heavy-duty scenes,” she smiles.

Thulabharam was remade into Tamil ( Thulabharam), Telugu ( Manushulu Marali) and Hindi ( Samaj Ko Badal Dalo). She reprised her role in every one of those films.

“The Telugu film was produced by Gemini Studios. Its proprietor S.S. Vasan told his son, S.S. Balan that he should get the girl who did the Malayalam film do the role in the Telugu version, too. ‘You could even change the story if you want, but make that girl learn Telugu for our film,’ he had said. Then Balan told his father that the girl was actually a Telugu,” says Sharada, laughing heartily.

She adds that she does not have the image of a tragedy queen in Telugu. “I have even done the role of a police officer in Telugu, in Pratidhwani. Malayalam cinema has given me so much and I have been fortunate to be loved by the people of Kerala so much. When I was a Member of Parliament, I had to go to the Railway Ministry in New Delhi for getting a train extended to Tenali. The Malayali officers in the ministry immediately came to my help,” she says.

She believes she became so popular in Malayalam cinema because she had the appearance of a traditional Malayali woman. “My grandmother is from Kerala; I believe she was from somewhere around Kozhikode, though I have not yet been able to trace my roots. I was fortunate to work with so many talented people in Malayalam cinema, such as actors Prem Nazir, Sathyan, Madhu, P.J. Antony and K.P. Ummar, directors like Adoor Gopalakrishnan, A. Vincent, K.S. Sethumadhavan and Kunchacko,” she says.

It was Kunchacko who introduced her to Malayalam cinema with Inapravukal. She was even rechristened her Rahel, after the character she played in the film, by Kunchacko. “But my mother said I should continue to be Sharada. I always enjoyed my work in Malayalam and I was lucky that so many directors cast me in strong roles,” she says.

One of her strongest roles was in Swayamvaram, with which Adoor Gopalakrishnan made a stunning debut as director. It had also won her a second National Award for the best actress. “I don’t know if Adoor remembers this, but I had told him that he would get an award, even if I didn’t. I was happy to work with him again in Elippathayam,” she says.

Sharada would love to do more Malayalam films. “I have been able to do good work in my second innings here too, with films like Oru Minnaminunginte Nuruguvettam, Kashmiram, Mazhathullikkilukkam and Rappakal. But, I would have loved to act with Mohanlal, though,” she says.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 3:08:36 PM |

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