Saturday, November 05, 2016

“I am Happy Families Are Watching”

The Kannadiga, Siddhi Mahajankatti, who grew up in Kochi, makes a mark in the Mollywood film, 'Aanandam' 

Photos: Siddhi Majankatti; the Mahajankatti family 

By Shevlin Sebastian

When Siddhi Mahajankatti, 17, became the master of ceremonies at the mehendi party for the daughter of Rema Nair, her drama teacher at Vidyodaya school, Kochi, little did she realise that it would change her life.

Because when Rema posted the photo of Siddhi on Facebook, debutant director and former Vidyodaya student, Ganesh Raj, liked it.

He got in touch with Siddhi, and, after narrating the script, she agreed to play the lead role of Diya in Ganesh's film, 'Aanandam', which has now become a hit.

Today, when Siddhi goes to the mall, with her parents and younger brother, she is recognised instantly; people congratulate her, and selfies are taken.

When I went out for dinner recently, a small girl came up and said, 'Chechi, 'Aanandam', Diya',” she says. “I felt so happy. I thought we would connect only with the school and college-going crowd, but many families are also seeing the movie.”

The film is a sweet and heart-warming look at a group of engineering students going on a four-day ‘industrial visit' to places like Hampi and Goa. Along the way, the students have fun, experience heartbreak, romantic moments and deepening friendships.

Asked whether she felt nervous going in front of the camera for the first time, Siddhi says, “I had done theatre, so I was used to acting in front of everybody.”

Siddhi represented her school at the Soorya Theatre Festival at Thiruvananthapuram, where she played the lead role in Habib Tanvir's Hindi play, 'Charandas Chor', which was translated into English.

Nevertheless, just before the first shot, at the Amal Jyothi College of Engineering, at Kanjirapally, in May, she stood in front of the camera and prayed. “The cinematographer [Anend C. Chandran] was sitting on top,” says Siddhi. “So I said, 'This is my first scene, so you better make me look good'.”

Not only did she look good, but she acted well also. Both producer Vineeth Sreenivasan and senior director Lal Jose praised her performance. Asked whether she enjoying the shooting process, Siddhi says, “I like everything about acting: the sets, costumes, and the shout of 'Roll, Camera, Action'. It can be a tiring experience. There were many sleepless nights. And you could be shooting for 48 hours at a stretch. But I enjoyed it.”

And her parents Dherendra [who acts as a head of the department in one scene] and Lakshmi are also enjoying this unexpected foray into Mollywood by their elder child.

They came to Kochi from Bangalore fifteen years ago and fell in love with the city. “Apart from Kerala's physical beauty, I like the people,” says Dherendra. “Malayalis are gentle, polite and do not have a vulgar way of talking, as it is there in other states.”

As for Lakshmi, she can read, write and speak in Malayalam. “I can also sing Malayalam songs,and my friends proudly show me off to their relatives,” she says. “They are thrilled I have become a Malayali.”

Siddhi is also a Malayali at heart. “My favourite food is red rice and avial,” she says. On holidays, she likes to go to the Marine Drive and watch the boats. As for her brother, Shrikar, 13, he says simply, “I like the big houses in Kochi.”

Meanwhile, when asked about her future plans, Siddhi says, “My priority now is to complete my BBA [Bachelor of Business Administration at the St. Joseph's College of Commerce, Bangalore]. However, if I get a good role, I might take it up.” 

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

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