Monday, November 10, 2014

Pushing the Envelope

The glamorous Mollywood actress Lena loves to play mother roles to test her mettle

By Shevlin Sebastian

The scene was set at a church in Thodupuzha, Kerala. The bridegroom, Mamachan (played by Biju Menon), was middle-aged and pot-bellied. The girl was slim and in her early twenties. The mother of the girl, Mollykutty (Lena), was standing beside her and did not know what to think or feel. Because Mamachan and Mollykutty had been childhood sweethearts. But through the twists and turns of the plot, the long-time bachelor Mamachan was getting married to Mollykutty's daughter.

The director [Jibu Jacob] told me he would pan the camera and Mamachan will look at me and there will be this awkward moment between the both of us,” says Lena. However, Biju, who was out of the camera range, instead of keeping a deadpan face, laughed. “I was struggling to keep a straight face, but after a while I could no longer control myself and burst out laughing,” says Lena. “After that, one or the other actors would start laughing. When everybody got their expressions right, the priest started laughing.”

But now, all of them now have quiet smiles of satisfaction, because the film, 'Velimoonga', has become a blockbuster hit.

And this is the third hit film in a row, in which Lena has played a significant role. The other two are 'RajadhiRaja' and 'Vikramadithyan'. Interestingly, in 'Vikramidithyan', 'Vellimoonga' and several other films, Lena, who is in her early thirties, had opted to play the mother role.

In 'Vikramadithyan', she is the mother of the hero. “The story begins with my character, Lakshmi Nair, when she is 25 and wants to get married,” says Lena “Then she gets married, and has a baby. So, she ages from 25 to 45. This age range is a challenge for any actor. If you are a model, you might not want to try this, but I am interested in testing my mettle as an actor. I don't want to stand in a corner in a scene and look glamourous.”

Some of the other non-glamourous roles which Lena has played include a woman drunkard in 'David and Goliath', a social activist in 'Left Right Left', and a police officer in 'Spirit'.

An impressed Lal Jose, director of 'Vikramadithyan', says, “Lena is naturally talented, a thorough professional and technically skilled. She has learnt from her many experiences and looks comfortable in front of the camera.”

In real life, too, Lena looks comfortable and glamourous, with her high cheekbones, a svelte figure and a cool confidence. She had studied to be a clinical psychologist, but realised that acting, which she did in school, was her first love. And her knowledge of psychology has helped her work. “After all, everything we do involves the mind,” she says. “It helps me to add depth to the character.” So far, she has acted in 60 films in her 15-year career.

But her turning point came when she acted in 'Traffic' in 2011. “'Traffic' was a new-generation film where the hero-heroine pattern was broken,” says Lena. “There were many characters. Any actor who did his role well got noticed.”

And Lena did get noticed. She played Shruthi, the wife of a superstar, Sidharth Shankar, whose 13-year-old daughter is sick and needs a heart transplant.

Now, she is branching out, into other languages. She has just finished acting in KV Anand's film, 'Anegan' (Tamil). The future, indeed, looks bright. 

(The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi) 

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