Lest we forget

BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT: Charmila and (below) T.R. Omana, two of the many stars who have all but faded from the silver screen.

BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT: Charmila and (below) T.R. Omana, two of the many stars who have all but faded from the silver screen.  


‘Innalathe Tharam' on Amrita TV turns the arc lights on former stars of Mollywood.

Lalithasree is a familiar face to viewers of Malayalam cinema. Yet, most of us would be hard-pressed to name one of her many films, let alone her roles. As is the case with any other ‘supporting artiste,' we had almost forgotten about her contribution to cinema until Amrita TV sought to remind us of her talent through its new show ‘Innalathe Tharam.' In fact, this versatile actor has donned impressive roles in films such as ‘Adaminte Variyellu,' ‘Ithiri Poove Chuvanna Poove,' and ‘Balram vs. Tharadas.'

Likewise, remember actor Charmila? Here is an actor who once starred as the heroine opposite superstars in movies such as ‘Keli' and ‘Dhanam,' only to bid adieu to filmdom a few years later. Again there is T.R. Omana, who has played a multitude of mother roles with aplomb; veteran choreographer Puliyur Saroja, who was once the favoured dance master of MGR and Rajnikanth; veteran singer Machattu Vasanthi who has hits such as ‘Pacha Panam Thatte' to her credit; actor Madhavi, the heroine of many a hit movie…the list of those who disappeared from the limelight, it seems, is endless.

“What happened to all these stars? Once you start thinking about these stars of the yesteryear, naturally you would be curious to know about how they are doing today. Sadly, 95 per cent of the time you find that they are victims of circumstance and most of them are in dire straits,” says M. Venu Kumar, producer and director of the show.

It began when Venu bumped into actor Lalithasree at a dubbing studio in Chennai. Hearing of her plight, he decided to make a television series on her and others like her who are no longer to be found on the silver screen.

Faded stars

“Malayalam cinema has so many gems – actors, cinematographers, choreographers and so on – most of whom it has all but forgotten. In fact, our cinema needs these people for they are not only fantastic at what they do but have some remarkable histories to them,” adds Venu, a well-known short filmmaker of award-winners such as ‘Agrahara- A Lament,' ‘Jeevana Kalayude Pulluva Geetham' and ‘Nadatham Jeevante Agni.' His main source of information on the whereabouts of these artistes were yesteryear production managers/controllers such as Sreedharan, Krishnan, Chandran Panangodu and the like.

In the various episodes of ‘Innalathe Tharam' though, it is the artistes themselves who talk of their past and about their present circumstances.

For instance, Lalithasree tells of how she began her career as a heroine opposite none other than Kamal Hasan only for the film to be canned before its release. Today, with no roles coming her way she runs a beauty parlour in Chennai.

Charmila recounts how she had to give up acting and make a living in the advertisement industry, where she is now an executive. Following the death of her only son, Puliyur Saroja, so named because she was as feisty as a ‘puli' (tiger), now runs a school in Chennai in memory of her son. Altogether 12 people will be profiled this season.

‘Innalathe Tharam' is also meant to be an eye-opener for the current crop of film stars too. “Have they thought about how they will fare when they don't have cinema to fall back upon?” asks Venu. ‘Innalathe Tharam' is on Saturdays at 19.30 on Amrita TV.

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