COLUMN: Spouse's Turn
Sheeja talks about life with film director-husband Mecartin
Photo of Sheeja by Mithun Vinod
By Shevlin Sebastian
At midnight on November 11, 2007, Sheeja Mecartin began getting calls on her mobile. Since she did not recognise the number, she did not pick it up. But the calls persisted. So, she finally took the call. It turned out to be Ravi, a production manager of director Mecartin, who was calling from Ottapallam, where the shoot of the film, ‘Romeo’ was taking place. “He said that my husband had some variations in his ECG,” says Sheeja. At that time, Sheeja was staying with her brother Shaijan on Vypeen Island. So, along with Shaijan and her daughter, Serene, they set out for Ottapallam.
“I was mentally blank, and scared,” says Sheeja. What Ravi did not tell Sheeja was that Mecartion had a heart attack. His co-director Rafi rushed him to a local hospital. There, Mecartin had a stroke of luck. Sometime earlier, another patient had a heart attack. Medicines had been specifically bought to treat the victim. Some of the medicines were not used. The doctor present, Shanmugham, used it on Mecartin, and saved his life.
So when Sheeja entered the hospital room, at 4 a.m., Mecartin was awake. “You have come,” he said, looking relieved. “I am feeling sleepy. So I will take a nap.”
That was one of the most nervous moments in Sheeja’s marriage. She met Mecartin for the first time when the director came to see her in an official meeting for an arranged marriage at her home on Vypeen Island. “He asked me about my studies,” says Sheeja. At that time she was doing her post-graduate diploma in computer applications. “Mecartin told me that when shooting takes place he would be away from home for a few weeks. I liked the way he spoke. He was friendly and kind. I felt that I could get along with him, even though there is more than a 10 year gap.” The marriage took place on June 16, 1996.
Interestingly, Sheeja had not heard about Mecartin earlier. “I was not crazy about films,” she says. “I would see the occasional film and knew the names of the heroes and heroines.”
Today, when Mecartin is not shooting, they have a fixed schedule. The director gets up at 6 a.m., does exercises at home, including lifting dumbbells, in their apartment at Kaloor, Kochi. Thereafter, he goes for a walk around the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium. “At 7.30 a.m. I take Serene [a Class 10 student] to the bus stop,” says Sheeja. “Thereafter, Mecartin and I come back home together.”
Breakfast is at 8.30 a.m. Following that, Mecartin goes to another flat in the building where he is writing a script for a new film. He returns at 1 p.m., has lunch, and after half an hour, goes back to the apartment. He writes till 5 p.m. “The rest of the time he spends with us,” says Sheeja. “Mostly, we talk a lot as my husband does not enjoy watching TV too much.” The family goes to bed at 9.30 p.m.
But Sheeja says her husband is going through a tough time. He had been writing a script, with Innocent as the main character, but that had to be put on hold, since the veteran actor is ill. “All the actors, whom he would visualise, as playing roles in his films, have passed away,” Sheeja. They include Thilakan, Cochin Haneefa, Oduvil Unnikrishnan, N.F. Varghese, Rajan P. Dev and Murali. And Jagathy Sreekumar is yet to recover from his accident.
“He told me that this was Nature’s way of getting rid of the old, and bringing in the new,” says Sheeja. But Sheeja still likes to watch the old films of Mecartin. “The other day my daughter and I saw ‘Thenkasipattanam’ on CD,” says Sheeja. “She had not seen it earlier. When it was released [in 2000] Serene was a baby. Both of us liked it. Serene laughed a lot. However, my favourite is ‘Punjabi House’ and ‘Hello’.”
Incidentally, Sheeja only sees Mecartin’s films after it is released. “My husband usually takes me for the second show on the first day,” she says. “If I don’t like a film, like ‘Love in Singapore’ or ‘Chinatown’, I tell him frankly.”
And she is also frank about the difficulties of living with a creative person. “When shooting is going on, Mecartin becomes tense,” says Sheeja. “He will be thinking about the movie all the time. Suppose you ask something, he would not have heard what you said. His mind is elsewhere. I cannot feel connected to him. In the earlier years, I would feel unhappy. Now I have got used to it.”
Of course, like most Malayali wives, Sheeja has adjusted to the situation. “It is only adjustment that makes a marriage work,” she says. “Both spouses are different because they come from two families. You should not force the other to behave in a certain way. Spouses should have the freedom to be their own person. Then the marriage will work.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)