Movies in the time of festivals

Many of the top heroines in Malayalam cinema tell SANGEETA their plans for Onam

Onam for them once meant holidays, new clothes, sumptuous feasts and picnics. But now it means work and more work. As Kerala gears up for Onam, it is business as usual for many actors, especially for those working in Tamil and Telugu films. Their mantra seems to be `work is worship,' irrespective of seasons and celebrations. "It is lights-camera-action for me this Onam," says Nayantara who is shooting for her Telugu films in Hyderabad.

On the sets

"I will either be working with Nagarjuna for the film `Boss,' or with Venkitesh for his untitled film. The unit has promised me a sadya, otherwise it's going to be just another day at work. There will be a little colour and dancing, I hope, since a song sequence is scheduled for those days." Nayantara says she enjoys celebrating all festivals. "My childhood was spent at various Air Force stations where my father was a serving officer. The bases host a multi-lingual, multi-cultural crowd. Onam, Christmas, Holi, Ugadi... everything is celebrated with the same fervour. We might speak different languages, follow different faiths and belong to different socio-economic classes, but we were all treated as equals. Onam celebrates the same spirit - `Manusharellarum Onnu Pole...,' right?" For chatterbox Bhavana, Onam this time spells `Deepavali.' Simultaneously working on three Tamil films, Bhavanna will be spending this Onam on the sets of Lingu Swamy's `Deepavali' with Jayam Ravi. She will also be working on Bala's `Naan Kadavul' during this season. Says Bhavana, "Two interesting films, great roles, great directors and heroes... it's a great Onam gift."She has three other films awaiting release in Tamil - `Arya' with Madhavan, `Kizhakke Kadarkarai Salai' with Srikanth and `Veyyil' with Bharath. "The idea of Onam has changed ever since I came to cinema. Before `Nammal,' Onam meant holidays, feasts and fun. But for the past six years, Onam has come to mean work and shows abroad. Until last year, I have had films that were released during Onam. Naturally, you tend to be anxious about the fate of the film. So there were butterflies in my stomach," she says.It's a Tamil Onam for Mamta Mohandas as well. Mamta, the latest Malayali entrant to Kollywood, makes her debut this season with Karu Palaniayappan's movie opposite Vishaal.

An early celebration

"It is my first Onam outside home. I will be working on the sets of `Sivapathikaram' in Chennai. Onam this time, will be with the co-stars and crew of the film. As I knew the shoots would clash with Onam, my family decided to advance the festivities. My dad took an early vacation to be with us in Kannur. We had a gala time at my aunt's residence," says Mamta. Although ancestral homes, family get-togethers and payasams enthuse Mamta, she still misses the Onam extravaganza in Bahrain where she spent 15 years. "In Bahrain, we have something called the `Ona Masam.' It is a month-long celebration on a much larger scale. The more you move away from home, the more you feel the need to cling to your roots. So non-resident Indians, I believe, celebrate Onam with enthusiasm generated by nostalgia," she says.Jyotirmayi, the `chingamasam' girl, is hoping for a break from both the productions she is now working on. "I think I will be home this Onam. I am working on two films - Viji Thampy's `Bada Dosth' and Gnana RajaSekharan's `Periyar.' `Periyar' is a parallel cinema based on E.V. Ramasawamy Naicar's life. I play `Nagamma,' his wife. `Bada Dosth' is with Suresh Gopi, where I play a housewife," says Jyotirmayi.Moving away from the hustle bustle of Kochi is on top of Jyoti's agenda for Onam. "My husband, Nishanth, and I are planning to take a short break, " she says."Don't ask me all these," sighs a homesick Meera Jasmine. "I cannot make it home this time. So when Kerala celebrates Onam, I will be shooting on the dusty terrains of Theni and Kambam for the Tamil film `Thirumagan' with S.J. Suryah. I don't see any chance of celebrations there amidst work." Usually Meera spends her holidays at her home in Ottappalam. "I had a great Onam there last time - a very traditional celebration with Pookkalam, Oonjal, sadya et al . I don't want to miss all those, but I have no choice this year. Taking a break for three days would upset the schedule of the film, which in turn will affect the whole crew. So you have to make little compromises over selfish preferences and let go certain things. Cinema, I mean, life is like that..."

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