Tuesday, July 09, 2013

“I Like Her Personality”

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn 

Cinematographer Sujith Vaassudev talks about life with the actress Manju Pillai

By Shevlin Sebastian

Cinematographer Sujith Vaassudev saw the actress Manju Pillai on the sets of a television serial, 'Chila Kudumba Chithrangal', in Thiruvananthapuram in 1997, and felt a sense of attraction. They started talking to each other. Soon, they became friends. “I liked her beauty and personality,” says Sujith. “Manju always stated her opinions frankly. I also respected her because she was the granddaughter of the great actor SP Pillai.”

The friendship continued. Sujith discussed the possibility of marriage with his friends. “They told me that marriage would be a weight which would be difficult to lift,” says Sujith. “And Manju is an actress while I am a technician.” So Sujith told Manju it would not work out; it was better to remain friends.

But one day in December, 2000, while staying in Thiruvananthapuram, Sujith had a change of mind. He called Manju and said, “I want to get married to you.” She accepted his proposal. He borrowed a friend's car, collected Manju from outside her home, and set off to his parents' house in Palakkad. On the way he called Manju's parents and said, “Please don't worry, your daughter is safe with me.”

The next day, the couple, along with Sujith's parents and brother, went to the Guruvayur temple where they were married. The date: December 23, 2000.

On the return journey, Sujith remembered his meeting with an astrologer, at Karunagapally, a few years ago. The man told Sujith, “You will marry from the entertainment industry when you are 29, and your wife will be a divorcee.” Immediately Sujith told the man he should try another line of work. But, in retrospect, the astrologer turned out to be right.

At their apartment, near Vytilla, Kochi, Sujith and Manju have an easy camaraderie. Both are between assignments. The TV set is on, and Sujith looks casual and relaxed in his T-shirt and Bermuda shorts, while Manju is busy in the kitchen.

Manju may be very busy, as a TV actress, but she always ensures the smooth running of the house,” says Sujith. “While on a shoot, she will call and remind me about paying a telephone bill. If I am gone for two months on an assignment,  Manju will never bother me about problems at home. She tackles it all on her own, including overseeing our 11-year-old daughter Daya's studies. Manju is also an excellent cook. She can make Continental, Indian and Kerala dishes.”

But Manju has a major negative. She likes to sleep a lot. “Manju and sleep are in love with each other,” says Sujith. “After our daughter goes to school at 7.30 a.m., till 3.30 p.m., when she returns, half the period goes for cooking and other activities. But the rest of the time, she is sleeping. It is her biggest joy.”

And then Sujith breaks into a smile and says, “The other day, Daya returned from school and lay on the bed. Then she sat up and said, 'I am exactly like Amma. I feel like sleeping all the time. I don't know what to do about it.'”

All this is said with a smile and a twinkle in his eyes. In fact, for Sujith, it is fun to be with Manju, except when they go out in public, to malls like the Lulu or Oberon.

Manju will have no time to be with us,” says Sujith. “She will be answering questions non-stop from fans about her role, her co-actors and her future plans. The people will compliment her on her acting. This response is great and wonderful. There is no doubt that it is the people who make an actor successful. But for us, as a family, the loss of privacy is painful.”

Once, the couple had gone to the Guruvayur temple. Inside, Manju had closed her eyes and was praying fervently. Suddenly, a woman came up and whispered in her ears, ‘Manju, your acting is very good.  Keep it up.'” 

Manju's acting is good, and she is a hit as a bubbly, lively woman in the television serial, 'Thattiyum Muttiyum'. So, is she like that at home? “She is very low-key at home and does not talk much,” says Sujith. “Mammukoya is also like this. Actors show another side on the screen. They have the ability to throw themselves into any character.”

Meanwhile, when asked to give tips on marriage, Sujith says, “I have a theory called the second thought. Suppose you are going to say something angry. Just have a second opinion within your mind of whether the action you are going to do is right or not. If you have a second thought, you will be able to avoid a lot of bad events.”

Sujith knows of a woman who divorced her husband because he did not bring back a bottle of saffron after a trip to Kashmir. “If they had a second thought they could have saved the marriage,” he says. “You have to decide which is bigger: life or saffron.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

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