Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ups and Downs

COLUMN: Spouse's Turn

Seena talks about life with the veteran scriptwriter Kaloor Dennis

By Shevlin Sebastian

Photos by Ratheesh Sundaram 

On the evening of June 26, 1982, Seena was crying uncontrollably. An elderly family relative had said, “Kaloor Dennis is from the film industry. You know they have wives and children in Chennai. They usually write their scripts with a glass of liquor in their left hand. You should have thought hard before saying yes.”

But Seena's father reassured her that Dennis is a good man, and did not drink or smoke. “So I decided to go ahead since the wedding was set for the next day,” she says.

At the St. Philomina's Church at Koonammavu, near Ernakulam, the wedding mass was delayed. The actor Sankaradi went up to Dennis and asked what had happened. “For some reason, the priest is taking time to come out and begin the mass,” said Dennis. Sankaradi immediately said, “If he does not come, I can conduct the marriage for you.”

Seena says, “I have never forgotten how Sankaradi Chettan made me smile at that moment.”

Following the wedding, they were not able to go for a honeymoon. Instead, Dennis took Seena to Chennai, where the post-production work of the film, 'Karthavyam', was taking place. Dennis had written the script, while Joshy was the director.

When the actress Srividya met the newly-wedded couple, at the Palm Grove Hotel, she told Dennis, “But this was not the girl you came with earlier to Chennai?”

Seena went into a shock. “Later Srividya told me she was pulling my leg,” says Seena. “She told me that Dennis is a good man and behaved well at all times.”

Asked to list her husband's plus points, Seena says, “He is a loving person. When we go out and if I see a sari or a salwar kameez which I like, he will buy it for me immediately.”

Dennis also helps people. Once a physically-challenged man asked Dennis for help, because his daughter was getting married, but the scriptwriter did not have any money. “So he borrowed Rs 2000, which was quite a lot of money in those days,” says Seena. “Dennis said that he did not want to let down the man who had come to him with so much of expectations.”

However, like most creative people, Dennis has a familiar drawback: a short temper. “But afterwards he forgets what he has said,” says Seena. “But for me, in the early years, the pain would remain. But I have got used to it. However, even now I get irritated by his book and magazine reading. He gets so engrossed, that when I am saying something, he does not pay any attention.”

But these were minor irritations. In June, 2006, they faced the gravest crisis of their life. A rather innocuous allergy on Dennis' right foot became infected. He was taken to the Lourdes Hospital for treatment. One day, after Seena attended the morning mass at the hospital chapel, the priest suddenly announced to the gathering, “Prayers should be said for Kaloor Dennis. His leg will be cut today.”

That was the first time Seena was hearing about this. A shocked Seena   immediately rushed to see the doctor. He told Seena that an operation would take place later that day, but refused to say whether the leg would be amputated. At this moment, their eldest son Dinu suggested that Dennis should be moved to the Amrita Hospital, so that they could get a second opinion.

This was done. A new set of treatments were begun. But, after a few days, there was no change in his condition. The doctor told Seena that they would have to amputate. “When he suggested that that Seena should tell Dennis, she said no. “I told him Dennis would die from the shock,” says Seena. When she asked the doctor about the chances of survival, he said, “Fifty-fifty.” Nevertheless, Seena signed the consent form.

Thankfully, the operation was a success. Three hours later, Dennis asked Seena, “Has my leg been cut?” And she nodded. “But he took it calmly,” says Seena. “During that time, we received a lot of support from directors Vinayan, Shaji Kailas, Joshy, Kamal, Sibi Malayil and B. Unnikrishnan.”

Today, Dennis uses an artificial leg and moves around slowly. He needs help when he ventures out of the house. Asked whether Dennis has changed post-operation, Seena says, “He has become younger at heart and is more loving to me now.”

But Seena readily admits that writing is her husband's first love. “I don't have any problems with that,” she says. “In earlier times, after breakfast, like most people, who go to the office, Dennis would go to a room in a nearby lodge to write. He worked the entire day and stopped only at 6 p.m. At home, he did not do any writing. Instead, he was always involved with the family.”

The couple have two sons, Dinu and Deen. “Dennis was never strict with them, and always fulfilled their needs,” says Seena. “But, by the grace of God, they have turned out to be good children. And like their father, they prefer to stay at home.”

Finally, when asked to provide tips for a successful marriage, Seena says, “Husband and wife come from different families. So they have to learn to adjust. I believe that women should take the initiative to do this. When one spouse gets angry, the other should remain calm. The fights are usually over trivial matters. By being relaxed, the situation will not become too serious.” 

(Published in The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram) 

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