COLUMN: Spouse's Turn
Fasila talks about life with the late film actor Cochin Haneefa
Photo by Suresh Napoothiri
By Shevlin Sebastian
When Fasila first heard of the proposal to meet actor Cochin Haneefa she told her brother-in-law, Mustafa, “There is little chance that he will like me.”
But Mustafa said, “That does not matter. At least you can tell your friends you met Haneefa.”
So, it was that on March, 1994, Fasila met Haneefa at her aunt's house in Kozhikode. Haneefa was wearing a black shirt and trousers.
“My first impression was that he looked thinner than in the films,” says Fasila. “Haneefa also seemed a simple person.”
Haneefa liked Fasila immediately. In fact his first question to Fasila was whether she liked him. When Fasila said yes, it was decided that they would go, at once, to her home in Thalaserry. While Haneefa set out by car with his long-time friends, Prasannan and Raju, Fasila went by train.
That night, the wedding was finalised. And it was on March 28, 1994, that the couple tied the knot at Thalaserry. Haneefa and Fasila then returned to Kochi where there was a reception for the film industry. “It was the first time that I was seeing so many stars like Mammooty in the flesh,” she says. “I was in a daze. I met Mohanlal who joked that if Haneefa got such a beautiful wife after waiting for so long, maybe he should have done the same.” Haneefa was 45 when he married the 19-year-old Fasila.
Asked about her late husband's plus points, Fasila says, “Haneefa was the most loving person I have ever met. This love was directed not at me only, but to our relatives, friends, neighbours, strangers, and colleagues. He loved everybody in the same manner.”
And despite being a celebrity Haneefa would go with Fasila and meet her friends. “Before we entered the house, he would say, 'You should call me when we have to leave. I cannot do that on my own, because it will look bad. They will think I am a big shot.'”
But Haneefa never behaved like a big shot. In fact, he was known for his hospitality. Whenever a guest, including this reporter, went to his house, Haneefa would set up a feast, perhaps the only one from Mollywood to do so. “It was very important for him that a lot of items were served for the visitors,” says Fasila. “Haneefa wanted to treat his guests in the best way possible.”
Of course, he had his negative qualities. “Haneefa could get angry quickly,” says Fasila. “I tend to be a bit slow in doing things, while he was very fast. His job as an actor was to deliver quickly. So, naturally, he would get irritated.”
After 12 years of marriage, Fasila gave birth to twins, Safa, and Marwa, 7. “Earlier when he would return home after shooting he would call out to me,” says Fasilia. “But later, he would call out the children’s names.”
Meanwhile, Fasila would always be surprised when she saw her husband on screen. “He was so funny,” she says. “But in real life, at home, he was very serious. He rarely cracked a joke. Sometimes when I would observe him at home, I would be amazed how he could do all those zany antics, especially in the film, ‘Meesa Madhavan’.”
Everything was going fine, till one day, in 2000, Haneefa vomited blood. He did not tell Fasila about it. “In fact, he did not want anybody to know, because he feared that his career would come to an end,” she says. It was diagnosed as cirrhosis of the liver which in the end became liver cancer.
It was a surprise because Haneefa was a teetotaler, but you can get the disease through food also. “He was taking treatment, but the doctors said he should take adequate rest, and be careful about the diet,” says Fasila. “But Haneefa did not follow it much. If I had known about it, I would have prepared the right food for him.”
In October 2009, Dr. Priya of the Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre in Chennai informed Fasila that her husband had a few months to live. “I put my hands together and begged Dr. Priya to find some cure. If necessary we were willing to send Haneefa abroad for specialised treatment. But Dr. Priya said it was too late for that.”
During one of their last conversations, Haneefa talked about his daughters. “He said that they should be educated in Ernakulam.” Fasila has done that. The children are studying at Bhavan’s Vidya Mandir, Giri Nagar. Fasila is staying with her mother and children in a ground-floor apartment near the school.
“One day, on the hospital bed Haneefa told me he wanted to come back home so that he could start acting again,” says Fasila. “If I remain here, I will not get any roles. And there will be no films.”
Tragically, what he said turned out to be true: there were no more films. Cochin Haneefa, one of the great comic actors of Mollywood, died on February 2, 2010, at the age of 59.
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)