This Onam is very special for Shanthi Krishna; her splendid feast this year has a very special addition of a ‘crab’ dish. Her comeback movie after around two decades, Njandukalude Naattil Oridavela, has hit the screens with one of her best roles – of the gritty, iron-willed Sheela Chacko.
Joyous about the ‘Njandonam’, as the makers call it, the beautiful actress speaks about the role and her crew. Her voice cracks as she speaks; she has been giving back-to-back interviews, but with no qualms, Shanthi is all the more happy to talk about the movie. “I am so glad that people loved the movie. I was very nervous about acting when the shooting began, but with the grace of God and love from audience, everything went well. It’s a great team work and the credit goes to everyone,” she says.
All praise for her director and co-actors, Shanthi says, “The movie was conceptualised in a very unique manner. When Althaf came to me to narrate the story, I was surprised to see a little boy, but later, I understood that he was not what he seems to be. He is a very talented young man with a great vision. Even during the shooting, I was worried if I was doing it right, but he kept on encouraging. He knew what he wanted. And I knew nothing could go wrong under Althaf’s direction.”
Acting with Nivin Pauly, Lal and Ahaana, was like being with family. “Lal wasn’t an actor when I was working in movies earlier, but I have seen some of his performances. When Nivin told me that I was being paired up with Lal, my immediate reaction was ‘wow!’ People said we had a great chemistry. I think that’s because we kept on discussing and complementing each other always and improvised accordingly. Ahaana is more of a daughter to me. We have grown very closer. Only the other day did I tell Krishnakumar (Ahaana’s father) that I would love to adopt her,” she laughs. “Nivin,” she says, “is so cute that even now, I am literally pinching his cheeks. He is so grounded that I don’t think any star would have agreed to do the role of Kurien without emphasising his stardom. He has done it beautifully by keeping the act subtle. He is one person who believed a lot in the movie.”
She was hurt when many online media misquoted her saying ‘Shanthi Krishna asked who Nivin Pauly was and Googled to know about him’. “It was not like that. Since 1997, I haven’t been following Malayalam movies for years. My kids watch Hollywood movies and so do I. My world was theirs. Yes, I have heard a lot about Nivin, Asif Ali and Tovino, but I couldn’t just recall their faces quickly. What the interviewer meant was that I was so away from the industry that I wasn’t aware of the star. When Nivin called me, just to recall his face, I did a Google check, but that was misinterpreted by people, especially fans, as my ‘attitude problem’. When I met him in person, I did is to apologise to him saying that I haven’t seen a single movie of his. Nivin was so sweet and he said it was okay and realised the situation.”
To her son Mithul and daughter Mithali, Shanthi is very much like Sheela. “I am strong. I wasn’t earlier, but the ups and downs in life taught me lessons of independence and strength. With each experience, I became stronger. Definitely, there are shades of Sheela in me.”
She celebrated Thiruvonam with her kids a day before. “This Thiruvonam, I will be at Vadakara on the sets of my next movie – Suveeran’s Mazhayathu,” says the actress, whose Onams so far were very different. Her childhood has been in Mumbai, where celebration was limited to a small sadya with a payasam, a little pookkalam in front of the doorstep and events organised by associations. It was no different when she became a full-time homemaker in the US and later in Bengaluru, where she is settled now. The memories of a huge feast and celebration happened back in the 80s on movie sets during her busy days as a top actress. There would be sadya and everyone in the sets would be in a jovial mood.
“It’s different when I’m in Kerala. Onam during the days of my first marriage (to actor Sreenath) was at Madathumpady, a village in Mala, where I could experience pulikkali, thiruvathirakkali and all the lovely art forms. When in Thiruvananthapuram, it was a different mood again. I was once a judge for the Onam cultural procession there and got to see all the spectacular floats. I have also taken part in the dance, music competitions at Nisagandhi held as part of Onam,” recalls the actress, who is excited about the festive mood on the sets this time.
Shanthi will take up more roles now – in movies and as a dancer. She wants to get the best of all genres. She adds, “I want to do more versatile roles again; commercial movies are not my priority. And I want to get back to dancing; it’s so precious to me. I have missed my stage so much.” She stresses that she is here to stay and to keep on surprising viewers with more acts. Let’s hope this Onam becomes a huge turning point – for Shanthi Krishna and her fans....