Wednesday, May 08, 2013

“George was obsessed with films”

COLUMN: Spouse’s Turn

Selma talks about life with noted film director KG George 
Photo by Manu R. Mavelil  
By Shevlin Sebastian

After Selma completed her four-year course in Carnatic music from the RLV College 
of Music and Fine Arts, at Tripunithara, her father, the famed singer, Pappukutty Bhagavathar,
also known as Kerala Saigal, took Selma to Chennai, so that she could try her luck in 
playback singing. Selma spent a year there, and then her mother Baby came to stay with her. 
When she saw Selma struggling to get assignments, her mother told her about 
a young director by the name of KG George. He hailed from Tiruvalla, the 
same home town as Baby. “We should ask him for an opportunity to sing in his 
films,” said Baby. One day, in Ashok Nagar, they saw him accidentally.

George wore a rose-coloured shirt and tight jeans. He had Afro-style hair, like 
the late guru, Sathya Sai Baba, and a thick black beard. “I did not find him 
particularly attractive,” says Selma. “He seemed like an odd character.” When
Selma told him she was a singer, George immediately said he had cut out 
three songs from his debut film, ‘Swapnadanam’. “In my films, there are 
hardly any songs,” he said. “In case I put in some, then I will call you.”

Next to Selma’s house lived the famous producer Shobhana Parameswaran Nair.
A month later, Selma had gone to Shobhana’s house, for some work, and met 
George there. “Later he told me that on the second meeting he decided he
wanted to marry me,” says Selma. “I was thin, had long hair and looked 
beautiful and demure.”

Soon, George came to Selma’s house and told Baby he wanted to marry her 
daughter. “My mother said that her elder son Mohan Jose, who lived in Mumbai,
made all the decisions in the family,” says Selma.

The producer of ‘Swanpakoodam’, Mohammed Bapu, lived in Mumbai. 
So George went to see Bapu, and ended up meeting Mohan. “I told my mother 
I was not agreeable to this proposal because George was a director and they are 
always having affairs with girls,” says Selma “I knew this from personal
experience. Whenever I would approach a director for a song, he would say, 
‘I will give you a chance, but we will have to do other things also’. I felt George
would be like that.”

But Mohan liked George and said yes. So, despite her apprehensions, the couple
tied the knot on February 7, 1977, at the St. Mathias Church in Chennai.

Today, when asked about her husband’s plus points, Selma says, “George’s only 
aim in life was to make good films. He was always reading, writing scripts, and 
remained obsessed about films. He lived in a different world and had no
interest in anything else. I had to run the household on my own. He is a great
director. Unfortunately, I cannot call him a good husband because he has never 
been one.”

Two aspects deeply affected Selma. One was his propensity to get angry with 
her during the early years, when he was going through intense stress while 
making his films. “He would shout at me a lot,” she says. “When my daughter 
Tara was in LKG [Lower Kindergarten] on a greeting card she wrote, ‘Today, 
my father got angry with my mother. I was very upset when I read that.”

The second aspect was George’s penchant for ignoring her completely for 
months together. “That hurt me a lot,” says Selma. “I stayed with him because 
I had two children, [actor-son Arun, now 34, and daughter Tara, 29, a 
Dubai-based flight purser].”

Not surprisingly, Selma thought of divorce many times, but could never take the
plunge because of the lack of financial independence.

The loss of a singing career has also been one of Selma’s biggest regrets. She 
sang in 40 films, and her most popular song was 'Saradindu Malardeepa' from 
the 1979 film, ‘Ulkadal’. “People have asked me why I did not continue,” says
Selma. “It is very difficult to have a career and look after the house and the
children at the same time.” 

At their home in Vennala, Kochi, George, 69, moves around slowly and 
unsteadily, after suffering a couple of strokes three years ago. Selma looks at him 
with a mix of affection and anger. When asked for tips to give youngsters who 
are about to get married, Selma says, “You have to learn to adjust. One person 
should compromise. If both people stick to their egos, there is little hope. 
You also need money to have a good marriage.
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 


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