COLUMN: LOCATION DIARY
Veteran actress Sheela talks about her experiences in Mollywood
By Shevlin Sebastian
In 1982, Sheela decided that she would stop acting, after working in more than 450 films. “I did not tell anybody, except the people close to me,” she says. At that time, she was acting in the Malayalam film, ‘Madrasile Mon’.
In her last scene, at a bungalow in Chennai, she was supposed to eat unniappams. These unniappams were brought from an Ayyappan temple, because they were known to be very tasty. “Unniappams have been my big weakness since childhood,” says Sheela. “I love eating them. My mother Gracy would make it so tastefully.”
For the shot, she needed to eat only one. “But I purposely made some mistakes, so that the shot had to be taken again and again, and I could carry on eating the unniappams,” says Sheela, with a laugh.
Two decades later, Sheela made a comeback. She was acting in Sathyan Anthikad’s film,'Manassinakkare'. Sheela played a rich landlady by the name of Kochu Thresia, who remained in touch with her childhood friend, Kunju Maria, played by KPAC Lalitha.
And in the first scene, which was shot, at a bungalow in Shoranur, which was supposed to be Kunju Maria's house, Sheela was served unniappams. “The coincidence was too much,” says Sheela. “It would seem as if I never went away. I also realised that God was giving His blessings on my comeback.”
It would seem so, because 'Manassinakkare' became a hit. And Sheela began her second innings with aplomb.
Sheela also remembers her interaction with Nayantara [original name: Diana] who was making her debut in this film. Somehow, during the course of the filming, Sathyan, Jayaram and Sheela felt that Diana needed a new screen name. So they sat together and went through numerous names before they selected 'Nayantara'.
“When we told Diana this name, she accepted it at once,” says Sheela. The veteran actress teased the youngster by saying, “This name will make you a very big star. You will be staying in a big house. And Sathyan, Jayaram and I will come one day and say, 'Nayantara, we had acted together in 'Manassinakkare'. Do you remember us?'”
But now Sheela's words have come true. “Nayantara has, indeed, become a big star,” she says.
On the set Sheela also passed some tips to Nayantara. “At that time, her dance movements were not upto the mark,” says Sheela. “She looked tense, as she tried hard to remember the steps. I told her, 'There is only one thing you must never forget to do. Whatever steps you take, just do it with a bright smile. The audience will only be looking at your face and will not notice the mistakes you are making'. And Nayantara has followed that advice.”
Recently when Sheela met Nayantara, the latter hold her, “Sheela Maam I am still following the tips you gave me that day. And it works!”
(Published in The New Indian Express, Kochi, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram)