Sreelatha talks about life with scriptwriter and actor P. Balachandran
By Shevlin Sebastian
At the School of Drama and Fine Arts in Thrissur, Sreelatha Nair was selected to act as a housewife in the Sanskrit play, ‘Urubhanga’, written by playwright Bhasa, (2nd century AD). Final-year drama student P. Balachandran was chosen to give training to Sreelatha.
He took her outside, and made her stand under a tree. Then he went some distance away and asked Sreelatha to speak the dialogues loudly. The aim was to teach voice modulation to the young actress and to speak clearly.
“Slowly I learnt how to control my voice,” says Sreelatha. “But Balachandran would scold me sometimes when I made mistakes.”
Sreelatha respected Balachandran a lot. Apart from the fact that he was a senior, she admired his dedication and sincerity to drama.
One day, Sreelatha went to do shopping in Thrissur and was standing outside a cinema theatre. The film, ‘Papillon’ was being shown. Balachandran saw her and asked whether she would be interested in seeing the film. She said yes and they went on their first date.
Inside the hall, Balachandran said, “Do you know why I invited you?”
Sreelatha said, “No.”
“It is because I like you,” said Balachandran.
Sreelatha felt happy that Balachandran found her attractive. So she said, “I will have to think about it and then tell my parents.”
After a few months, when her parents began looking out for a boy, Sreelatha told them that Balachandran was interested in her.
“They asked me whether Balachandran had a job,” says Sreelatha. At that time, he was busy with a project initiated by the Ford Foundation. There was a promise that he would be given a job at the School of Drama. The school had just been started and there were many vacant posts. Sreelatha told her parents all this.
Eventually, her father and mother agreed. The marriage took place on April 14, 1985, at the Vaikom temple. And it has been a topsy-turvy journey ever since.
“Balachandran has gone through a lot of difficult times in theatre and cinema,” says Sreelatha. “But he never became desperate. He has always remained positive. Despite setbacks, he never gave up and continued with his efforts. He is an honest and straightforward person. Balachandran also pays a lot of importance to friendships and relationships.” ”
Sreelatha loved the sense of freedom he gave her. “He allows me to travel alone,” she says. “Balachandran will never scold me or get angry if I come late or get delayed. I feel very secure because of this. I know a lot of women who do not have this sort of freedom.”
But, initially, Sreelatha took some time to get adjusted to living with a man with an artistic sensibility. “During the early years of our marriage I would feel upset that he was obsessed with drama,” she says.
Balachandran used to work as a lecturer of creative arts in Mahatma Gandhi University's School of Letters at Kottayam. On January 1 – the death anniversary of the former director, G. Sankara Pillai – there would be a staging of a drama. Usually, Balachandran was selected to stage it. He would get busy from November. Near the performance date, he would spend hours in rehearsals.
“My children were small, and I was finding it difficult to manage everything,” says Sreelatha. “Sometimes, we would have quarrels. But after a few days, I would make up with him.”
Slowly, she began to develop a better understanding. “My husband's work is that of the mind,” she says. “When he is working, he becomes distracted. So I leave him alone and run the house on my own most of the time.”
Interestingly, when Balachandran had to write a script, he will take a room in the lodge to do so. So far, he has written scripts for 20 films, but only nine were actually made.
“He did not get paid for some of the films which were not made,” says Sreelatha. “We had a tough time for a long period. I was a homemaker throughout. I would get job offers, but Balachandran would not let me work. He told me that since he was travelling so much, there would be nobody to look after the children.”
But in 1998, Sreelatha became a teacher for the Art of Living course, and began travelling all over Kerala. And today, she is the chairperson of the Vaikom municipality. “It became easier to work as the children were growing up,” she says.
The couple have two children: Sreekanth and Parvathy. Not surprisingly, Balachandran was liberal with the children. “They would feel free to talk anything to him,” says Sreelatha.
Asked for tips regarding marriage, Sreelatha says, “Be patient and have love for the spouse. Don’t expect the husband to do everything. Do things which will make him happy. Women should do more, because nature has made her a mother. She has to play the most important role of bringing up a child.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)