Tuesday, June 11, 2013

'I know His Authentic Self'

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn 

Shoba talks about her life with the actor Jagathy Sreekumar

By Shevlin Sebastian

During a trip to America, in 2007, Shoba lost her suitcase in transit. “I just had the salwar kameez I was wearing,” she says. Shoba felt depressed. In order to show solidarity, her husband, the actor Jagathy Sreekumar did not change his clothes. For a couple of days they attended functions in the same dress. “Jagathy felt that I would get upset if he kept changing his clothes, as any performer does, during a performance,” she says.

Finally, friends of Jagathy provided clothes, and they also went to a Pakistani shop, in New York, and bought sets of traditional salwar kameez. “I do not wear jeans and T-shirts,” she says, with a smile.

The first time Shoba saw Jagathy in the flesh was when he came to see her at her home in Kanjirapally for an official marriage meeting in 1979. She was only 18 at that time, while Jagathy was 28.

Jagathy was wearing a brick-red coloured shirt. “I remember he had a moustache and a pair of sunglasses in his pocket,” says Shoba.

In a brief conversation, Jagathy told her she should put on weight, as Shoba was very thin at that time. “I liked him,” she says. And so did her parents.

The marriage took place on September 13, 1979. They did not go for a honeymoon, but in later years Jagathy did take Shoba for several trips abroad. “I have been to America, Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and many other places,” she says. “We have gone as a family, with [son] Ramkumar and [daughter] Parvathy, sometimes, just the two of us, and, on other occasions, along with members of the troupe, when they go to perform in different countries.”

Apart from his talent as an actor, Jagathy is a good cook. When he returns home from shooting, he will buy a packet of fish and cook it himself. “He makes a very good Naadan fish curry,” says Shoba. Apparently, Jagathy learned to cook because his mother would be ill, with asthma, during his childhood.

As for his negative qualities, Jagathy has a short-temper. “It can be triggered off by the smallest of incidents,” says Shoba. “At the same time, he cools down quickly. He can also get angry when fans approach him while he is having dinner with the family.”

Till recently, Jagathy's family used to have some regular activities. As soon as a film would be released, they, along with Jagathy, would go and see the first show at one of the theatres in Thiruvanthapuram. Later, over dinner at a restaurant nearby, they would give Jagathy a feedback. 

“If he has acted well, I will praise him,” says Shoba. “Otherwise, I will say it was not that good. My children are more direct and will sometimes say, 'Papa, there was no need for you to have acted in this film. The role was not good enough for you.'”

For Shoba, although it is a thrill to see him on screen, she is always aware of a different Jagathy at home. “I know his true self,” he says. “At home, he is a mix of being very serious and loving. But he is always in a happy mood. He is not a person who becomes tense easily. For Jagathy, it is very important that I remain happy. He does not like me to look depressed or sad. So I try to be joyous, all the time, because he is the most important person in my life.”

Interestingly, this most important person practices his art regularly at home. “He has a mirror in his office room,” says Shoba. “Jagathy will make several facial expressions and observe himself closely. There have been times when he has spoken out aloud the dialogues of an upcoming movie. Sometimes, he will get angry and shout at me. Then he will go to his room, and stare at his face, and makes the same facial expressions he made at me and repeat the same sentences.”

The end result of all this practice has been a brilliant career for three decades in which Jagathy has acted in over a thousand films. Unfortunately, that vocation has come to a shuddering and tragic halt because of the near-fatal accident Jagathy was involved in, at Panambra in Malappuram district, on March 12, 2012. “He is making a slow recovery,” says Shoba in a sombre voice.

Asked for tips for a successful marriage, Shoba says, “One must have trust. You should be frank, honest, and respect each other. It is also very important to forgive each other.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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