Monday, February 02, 2015

Love At First Sight

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn

Sharath talks about life with the actor Asha Sharath
By Shevlin Sebastian

Photo of Sharath by Ravi Choudhury
In the early 1990s, TV Sharath was working in a company at Muscat, Oman. He felt lonely. So he was happy to befriend another Malayali, Venugopal Krishnankutty Nair. They became friends. One day, Venugopal told Sharath that his sister Asha had bagged the first prize in Kuchipudi at an all-India dance festival in Benares in 1992.
Thereafter, there was a telecast of the event on Doordarshan. Venugopal and Sharath saw the programme in Muscat. “Asha was wearing a half-saree and looked beautiful,” says Sharath. “I was instantly attracted to her.”

Later, Sharath began watching the television serials in which Asha acted, like 'Indulekha', ‘Jadagakathakal’, and ‘Mikhaelilnede Sandathikal’.
Soon, Venugopal informed Sharath that his family was looking for a groom for Asha. Sharath immediately expressed an interest, although they are from different castes: while Asha is a Nair, Sharath is from the Varier community. Venugopal professed his doubts about the feasibility of such a marriage.

Sharath then rang his Nasik-based mother Sunanda, and told her he had selected a girl. “Where did you see her?” said Sunanda. “On TV,” he replied. His mother laughed out aloud.

Nevertheless, Sharath’s father, Muthukrishna Varier, and Sunanda, travelled by train to Kerala, and met Asha at her home in Perumbavoor. They liked her. Soon, the couple began a courtship through letters.

Since Sharath grew up in Nasik, he did not know to write in Malayalam. So he used English. Asha, on the other hand, was not fluent in English. So, when she got Sharath's letter, she would write a reply in Malayalam. Then her friends, Rekha and Seena, would translate it into English. And it was only then that it was sent off to Sharath.

He also made a lot of telephone calls. Invariably, he would use up his salary within a week, because he spoke for hours with Asha. In those days, the rate was Rs 150 per minute. 

In November, 1994, Sharath went to his mother's hometown in Manathavady for the cremation of his grandmother. Following that, on the day he was supposed to leave for Perumbavoor to see Asha for the first time, there was a state-wide hartal. But that did not prove to be a deterrent. Sharath, along with his cousin, Brijesh Surendran, managed to hitch a ride in a newspaper van.

At Perumbavoor, when Sharath saw Asha, he noticed that she was tense. “Later, she told me that she was worried about whether I would like her or not,” says Sharath. But Sharath was entranced by Asha.

However, his relatives were apprehensive. “Asha was a famous actress at that time,” says Sharath. “Would she be able to settle down, they asked. But I did not care, because I was in love.” Eventually, the marriage took place on September 11, 1995 at Perumbavoor.

When asked about his wife's plus points, Sharath says, “Asha is mature, responsible, loving and supportive.”

In the initial years, the couple had to struggle a bit. So Asha took a job as a radio jockey at Radio Asia in Dubai. It was a part-time job, but she did it for 15 years and ended up becoming popular. When Sharath wanted to start a business, by putting in all his savings, Asha gave him all her support.

It was a gamble that worked fine. Today, Sharath is the Managing Director- cum-partner of a Swedish company called Consilium, which operates in 26 countries. It deals in oil and gas, offshore drilling, and makes radars and black boxes for ships.

In 2003, Asha also embarked on a venture of her own. She started her first arts school called Kairali Kalakendram in Dubai and, later, in Sharjah. Today, there are 80 staff members and 3,500 students from different countries.

Despite her professional success, for Asha, the family, which includes Uthara, 17, and Keerthana, 15, is a priority. “As a mother, she is strict,” says Sharath. “Asha gives the girls freedom, but if they don't do something right, she will tell them. Asha will not give in to all their demands.”

Meanwhile, Asha's turning point in her life came through a moment of heart-break. In 2004, Asha became pregnant for the third time. However, in the seventh month, she miscarried.

Asha became deeply upset and sad,” says Sharath. “To enable her to get her out of this depression, I suggested that she start acting again.”

Asha got a chance in a telefilm called, 'Nizhalum Nilavum Parayunnathu', which later won her a Kerala State Television Award for best second actress. “It was an unforgettable moment for me when [current Chief Minister] Oommen Chandy Sir presented the award to Asha,” says Sharath. Then she acted in 'Kumkumapoovu'. This serial did very well and ran for four years. Later, she got into movies. Her recent films include ‘Friday’, ‘Buddy’, 'Drishyam', 'Varsham' and ‘Angels’.

When asked for tips for a successful marriage, Sharath says, “In a marriage, a wife should be able to breathe. To do that, she needs freedom. I am busy and happy in my business career. But I don't want my wife to just sit at home. If she has talent, she should develop it. I want Asha to be positive and happy. Then the family will be happy. In any marriage, if both spouses are considerate and caring towards each other, they will experience heaven on earth.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

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