At 2.30 in the afternoon, Shruthy Menon is famished. She orders a plate of aubergine stuffed prawns. There have been just so many interviews ahead of the release of Kismath on Friday. She’s just talked to a television channel, barely took a nap before she realised it was lunch time and she hadn’t had anything. But all that talking about the film has made it easy for her to narrate the sequence of events that led to her becoming the heroine of Kismath.
“I was sitting at home in Mumbai, watching TV in my pyjamas with a bowl of chips when the called came,” says the anchor-turned-actor, who first came to films through an offbeat film Sancharam 12 years ago. If you look at that first and this last, you will find not a pattern, but a certain boldness with which Shruthy chooses her characters. But then there’s more to her than boldness, and she tells the story. “It was Vijayakumar Prabhakaran, chief associate of Rajeev Ravi, who called me,” says Shruthy.
Cinematographer and filmmaker of critically acclaimed films, Rajeev has turned a producer for Kismath. “I trust Vijayettan so much that I didn’t even see the script before I agreed to do the role,”she says Debutant director Shanavas K. Bavakutty told her the story and she was expected to fly out to Kerala in a few days. Unfortunately, Shruthy became unwell at this point and had to be hospitalised. For three days, they called her and got no response and feared she had backed out. They started looking for another actor. “Thank God that didn’t work out,” says Shruthy.
“As soon as I got well, I called them back. By then they had started shooting with Shayne Nigam, the hero of the film.” The film tells the real life story of a 23-year-old Muslim man falling in love with a 28-year-old Dalit woman. “There are already two taboos here: it is an inter-caste relationship and the girl is older.” But then taboos had never come in the way of Shruthy. Her first role has been as a teenage lesbian in Sancharam directed by Ligy J. Pullappally.
She has acted in several films after that, one of the most notable roles being the young mother and train singer in Mulla. “Back then I had wanted to be a pilot. So, after I finished my 12th doing commerce, I took the exam a second time to do Science to be a pilot. That’s when Lal Jose sir’s call comes for Mulla.” She had no doubts about what to choose. And after Mulla, she became a regular face onn television, anchoring shows after shows while acting in films. And somehow she keeps getting these bold roles. “I say let’s do it. I am someone who goes out of the way to not follow rules!” she says.
“For me, the taboos are not someone’s sexual preference or the caste difference between a couple, but rape, inequality and eve-teasing.” How she developed these ideas she is not sure. She was just a girl who loved to dance, growing up in Mumbai. Studies, however put a halt to her dancing and then showbiz came along her way. The way Shruthy poses for photographs — easy smiles and fluctuating expressions — her modelling background becomes obvious.
One of her recent photoshoots had her going topless, apparently wearing only the jewellery meant for a bride. “It only appears so, but I am wearing something underneath. I had no idea the photo would become so viral. It was a stunning work by photographer Jinson Abraham, stylist Lakshmi Babu on the concept by Atheena Wilson.” Trouble came when she got a call from her dad Unni Menon.
“I am daddy’s girl, he’d let me have my way usually. But this time, I heard a tough voice on the line. He asked me, ‘Did you pose naked?’. And I just wanted to die there! Oh god. Then I slowly explained to him that’s not how it was done. It was difficult — it is difficult for my parents every time something like this happens. They are conservative, hailing from Palakkad and happened to go to Mumbai for work. But I tell them they should trust their upbringing. My dad is my weakness and my mom, my strength. And my sister Aishu is my best friend.”