Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Comic Relief

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn

Preetha talks about life with the comedian Harisree Asokan

By Shevlin Sebastian

Photos by Mithun Vinod

On April 17, 2012, Preetha went for her first trip abroad with her husband Harisree Asokan. He was part of a 16-member troupe that was going to perform in American cities like New York, Chicago, Florida and Houston. The other members included Kalabhavan Mani, Nadar Shah, Ranjini Jose, Afsal, and Bhama.

Preetha helped the women artistes during costume changes and provided refreshments. At the end of the Houston programme, which was called 'Joke Pot', the show's sponsor, Dr. Freemu Varghese stepped on stage and said, “One of the artistes has recently celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary. I welcome Harisree Asokan and Preetha to come on stage.” As they came, a cake was brought in and placed on a table. The 1500 member audience gave a standing ovation, and cheered as Harisree and Preetha cut the cake. “I was completely shocked,” says Preetha. “It was the first time in my life that I had stepped on a stage. It was a wonderful moment.”

Later, the couple also went sight-seeing at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. “There was a water ride which went into Jurassic Park,” says Preetha. “The almost real-life dinosaurs would jump at us. Both Asokan and I had a good time.”

The good times began 28 years ago. One day, Preetha was busy cutting fish at her uncle's home in Palarivattom, Kochi. Suddenly, the doorbell rang. When Preetha opened the door two men were standing there. They were Asokan and his elder brother. They had come to see Preetha because of an arranged marriage proposal. There was nobody in the house as all the family members had gone for a function.

I was not told they were coming,” says Preetha. “So I was not dressed at all. Asokan later he told me that he liked me immediately. I also liked him from the beginning, especially his beard. And ever since our marriage, on February 9, 1987, I have discouraged him from shaving it.”

After the marriage, the couple went to live with Asokan's parents, in a house near the High Court. There were nine children and only two bedrooms. Most of Asokan’s siblings slept on the floor. “After our marriage, we were given one bedroom,” says Preetha. “Asokan would jokingly say, 'Pray hard that my next brother is not going to marry soon. Otherwise, we will have to give up the room.'”

But, today, thanks to Asokan's brilliant comic career in Mollywood, they live in a large villa at Kochi. On a sunny March afternoon, as one approaches the house, one cannot help but smile to see the name plate: 'Punjabi House'.

'Punjabi House' is one of my husband’s best films,” says Preetha. “It ran house-full for so many months, and even now people enjoy watching it on TV. And wherever Asokan goes, in India or abroad, people still talk about that film. So we, as a family, decided to give that name to our house. And I believe we have made the right decision, because visitors always have a smile on their faces when they see it.”

The family consists of Asokan, Preetha, their two children, Sreekutty and Arjun and Asokan's mother. The house is abuzz with activity, as Sreekutty's marriage is coming up. So wedding cards are being distributed and calls are being made. But Preetha manages to find the time to talk.

Asked about her husband's plus points, she says, “Asokan is a loving person and cares for the family. He buys us a lot of gifts. In fact, for Valentine's Day, recently, he bought me a diamond ring. For Asokan's birthday, I will go with my children and buy a gift for him. For my birthday, they will go and buy a gift. We have a culture of giving gifts.”      

At home, Asokan insists on a few things. “He always tells us that we should never waste food, water or electricity,” says Preetha. “Asokan grew up in very difficult circumstances. He told me there were times when he did not have anything to eat. So he wants the children to be grateful for whatever they have.”

As for his drawbacks, Preetha says, “Asokan gets tense over the smallest of matters. If he is late for a shoot he will get upset. If there are some problems on the set, he will get nervous. Then I will calm him down. He also has a short temper. But then he cools down quickly. I am used to it now.”

Meanwhile, whenever any film of Asokan’s is released the family goes to the theatre to see it. Preetha’s all-time favourites, apart from ‘Punjabi House’, are ‘CID Moosa’, ‘Meesa Madhavan’, ‘Aniathipravu’, and ‘Runway’.

Finally, when asked to give tips for a successful marriage, Preetha says, “You may be rich and successful. But if you don’t show love to your spouse, then it is not possible to have a happy marriage. There will always be fights between husband and wife. But you must try to end the problem within a day or two. Otherwise, it could escalate into a crisis.”

One way is to go somewhere, take a hotel room, and discuss the issue. “It always helps when you leave the atmosphere of the house,” says Preetha. “However, as my husband jokingly says, there is another way to solve problems in a marriage: don’t get married at all.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)   

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