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`I am a dancer-actress'

Shobana talks about her twin passions - cinema and dance



Shobhana

ALTHOUGH IT is the wrong season for mangoes, most film buffs in Kerala are eagerly waiting for Joshi's `Mambazhakalam' (Mango season), scheduled to be released in November, which casts Shobana and Mohanlal in the lead roles.

Your efforts to interview the actress on her `comeback' to Malayalam films finally succeed. Although the hotel personnel insist that `madam' has asked not to be disturbed, she says `yes' in her slightly husky, crisp voice.

The graceful woman who meets you at the door is very different from the tall and lanky teenager of `April 18', her maiden film in Malayalam. Dressed in black trousers and a shocking pink top, Shobana dimples, "I am in no mood to change. Moreover, after the interview, I have to rush to check the light and sound for my performance."

She shrugs aside her weariness and jet lag, as she enthusiastically talks for half-an-hour about her career, films and dance.

Curling up on a sofa, she laments the dearth of good critics. "Feedback is so important. Most people merely speak about a programme but no one does a critique on the performance of an artiste."

About the film

Changing the subject, she goes on to talk about working with Joshi on the sets of `Mambazhakalam'. "There is no way you can fool him. The minute your concentration slips, he spots it and corrects the flaws in a scene."

Ask her about her role and she says, "There are a lot of expectations about the film and my role in it. I would rather not say anything about it now," says Shobana, who plays Indira, the mother of a 10-year-old girl in the film.

Speaking about the plethora of characters she has essayed on the silver screen she says, "How many roles can you expect? A woman is either a wife, sister, daughter, lover or mother. It is up to the artist to delineate a character and give it life. It is like a raga. The raga may be the same but each singer infuses it with his style and that is when it becomes unique."

Her latest venture is a music video. It is "the sound of Bharatanatyam redefined and is an attempt to reach out to the younger generation and make them appreciate the wealth of our classical arts."

On her career

Refuting the suggestion that Shobana is concentrating more on dance, she says, " No, that is not true. I am a dancer-actress. One cannot be separated from the other. My aunt Padmini is a person like that. So are artistes like Vyjayantimalaji and Meenakshi. It is incorrect to say that one can either be a dancer or an actress and not both."

Her dance schools `Kalarpana' in Chennai and Muscat come high on her list of priorities. "A guru-shishya relationship is important. Since my disciples showcase my style, I work with each of them till I am satisfied."

Launching into an animated explanation of her role in Pamela Rook's `Dance like a man', she says, "I was curious to know what she would do with a subject like the classical arts. She gave me a lot of freedom and I was involved in all the different aspects of the film. It was a new experience. Not only did I choose the music for the movie, but also worked on its shooting, editing and choreography.

"It was a difficult role and I really had to work hard to bring out the subtle nuances in the character. It was like walking a tightrope. One wrong move or look could have changed the character of Ratna. She is very strong-willed and determined and there are shades of grey in her character that I had to portray with care."

Handling humour

Perhaps it was this sensitivity that helped her identify the underlying humour in movies such as `Thenamavin Kombathu', `Nadoodikattu' and `Meleparambil Aanveedu.'

"People often say that to be a good comedian one should appreciate humour or have a sense of humour. Yet, I have seen very successful comedians who are the most serious people I have met. So, I really don't know what helps an artiste to handle humour. Most Malayalis have a sense of humour. They are quick to spot a comical situation and they have a way with words and phrases to give a twist to what looks like an ordinary conversation. So many actresses like Ambika have also handled humour with a lot of panache," she maintains.

"It is nice to be back in Malayalam films. But since I had been working in `Mitr' and `Dance like a man', it is not correct to say that that I had been away from films."

`Mambazhakalam', which comes after a hiatus of two years, marks Shobana's return to Malayalam films after `Valiyaettan.'

"I have reached a point in my career when I can afford to be choosy and pick only the roles that I really want to do," explains Shobana.

SARASWATHY NAGARAJAN

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