Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Humble Tribute to Malayalam Cinema's Sukumari


Like Malayalis across the world, I too was deeply shattered by the passing away of Sukumari, one of Kerala's most versatile actresses. She breathed her last at a Chennai hospital two days ago. As an actress, Sukumari had the kind of passion and dynamic presence besides brilliant acting skills that made people enjoy all her performances spanning over five decades. 


Her performances were so natural and memorable that she added considerable substance and depth to the story line itself.  She had the audacity to make every one of her characters, including the bland and bad ones, stand out as striking and memorable. Her dialogue delivery, her sense of humor and flawless timing struck a chord with Malayalis spanning all ages and walks of life. 

About Sukumari
A bit of info about this fine actress: Sukumari was born in 1940 in Nagercoil. She made her debut into the world of Malayalam cinema as a child artist at the age of ten. 
She was the first cousin of the legendary Travancore sisters - Padmini, Ragini and Lalitha. She was well versed in dancing but she swung to different realms within the cine field. 
Across the years, she strengthened her position in the Malayalam film industry as one of the most versatile supporting actresses  donning various roles as comedienne, mother and so on. She acted in more than 2,500 films and her name is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the number of films she acted in. In 2003, she was conferred Padmashree. There isn't a single movie that I can remember feeling disappointed by her portrayal of a character. 
About Sukumari's Personality
In the film fraternity, the love and respect for Sukumari is tremendous. Her friendship with Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa, for instance, is well known. News reports continue to mention how Jayalalitha paid a visit to Sukumari in the hospital some days ago and how they shared a deep friendship that went beyond the realm of movies. Reports from the media also mention that Jayalalitha told the doctors to take good care of her because she was a "precious" person. Indeed, she was 'precious' for Malayalis across the world. She made us cry, smile and laugh like no onelse did especially from among the actresses.
Super stars, actors and actresses cutting across several genres, established directors and ardent fans say she was exceptional in the film industry because of her passion for acting and her compassionate nature towards all. Though she had shared screen space with  big stars from the South such as MGR, Sivaji Ganeshan, Gemini Ganeshan, among others, she remained simple in her ways and accessible to all - super stars and budding stars. She is reported to arrive at film sets with an armful of snacks for everyone, offering and sometimes serving food to those on the sets. She is known for her sense of equality - having never discriminated between stars, technicians and so on. While her proximity to super stars was well known, she was accessible to all and behaved with utmost love and generosity to everyone. She saw every one as her own children without any discrimination - a rare quality today, particularly among popular actors and actresses. 
Sukumari's Memorable Movies
Personally I love all the roles that Sukumari portrayed in Balachandran Menon's and Priyadarshan's movies best.  These roles were versatile, vivid and enabled this brilliant artist to showcase her acting skills to movie buffs. 
One of the Malayalam movies that deeply touched me and had me crying several times was Sthreedhanam (meaning: Dowry). While the key actors were Jagdish and Urvashi, the role of Sukumari as the helpless mother of daughters who had to be married off without much dowry was brilliantly portrayed. Her mannerisms, body language, simplicity, quiet pride - all of this beautifully and painfully brought to life the dilemma and agony of a mother of daughters. 
Some of the must-watch movies starring Sukumari in versatile supportive roles are:
1.  Anuragakodathi (Comedy)
2. Poochakkoru Mookkuthi (Comedy)
3.  Boeing Boeing (Comedy)
4.  Panchavadipalam (Comedy)
5. Vandanam (Comedy)
6.  April 18 (Family Drama)
7.  Chiriyo Chiri (Comedy)
8.  Aye Auto (Family Drama)
9.  Kaaryam Nissaram (Family Drama)
10. Sanmanasulavarku Samadhanam (Family Drama)
11. Njanguludey Kochu Doctor (Family Drama)
12. Prashnam Gurutharam (Family Drama)
13. Manicheppu Thurannappol (Family Drama)
14.  Akaashaganga (Horror) 
15. Thenmavin Kombathu (Family Drama)
16. Achuvintey Amma (Family Drama)
There are many many movies that I have missed listing here, not because they are less memorable but because I am unable to recall all her fine movies at one go. These are the ones that remain evergreen in my heart. 
Farewell & a Lesson to Learn
It is difficult to believe that this veteran actress has passed away into another world. We all pray that may her soul rest in peace and may we all learn something from the rich legacy she left behind in life - of looking beyond social statuses and of valuing all relationships without expecting anything in return. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy 7th Birthday to the Sun of My Heart


I have to confess this to you but you have probably guessed it anyway...okay, let me just take a deep breath before I say this.....




Motherhood & Parenting Blues

I am not a natural, hands -on mom.  Okay, I've said it and I feel better already. But I guess you already guessed that ages ago. Get ready for more. I am not done yet.

I almost never wanted to become a mother in the first place. Not because I am a feminist or that I feared I would put on weight (which happened anyway) but because I feared that I wouldn't be able to love my baby like other moms naturally do. Even while growing up with girls, all they could talk about even in Std 4 was about getting married and having babies. That sounded disgusting to me. I believed then that I had greater things to do, or so I told myself. And the books I constantly read threw open a more expansive view of the world.  As I grew older, the prospect of motherhood didnt evoke any interest in me. What's the big deal - is how I saw it. 

Later as I grew more mature in my perspectives, I saw that many children felt unloved and unwanted by their own parents. And I didn't want to be a total failure at the most important thing - loving one's own kid. 

Loving your Baby: Can it be complex like rocket science? 

So, throughout my pregnancy, I went on reading stuff on how to love your baby kind of books. Those books made my fears worse because it sounded as though loving your baby is rocket science. But when the doctor placed newborn, wailing, pink-as-candy Jyotiraditya against my cheek just after he was born and doc said to me, " Say hello to your rosy cheeked prince," an ocean of love swelled up inside my heart.

I was filled with so much joy and within my heart, there were powerful waves of love reaching a crescendo and I knew then that loving one's baby is every woman's instinct.  

And I knew with  certainty that I have not felt that kind of love for anyone in my entire life. Honestly, it was like jumping down a cliff, heart plunging and it didn't even matter whether one had wings to land safely. All that mattered was that pure moment of absolute bliss shared between my baby and me. No one in this world could possibly have felt what I felt when I held my newborn baby in my arms. It was as though I had been reborn again. And yes, it was a  new birth for the two of us.

But lets come back to reality. Bump! Did you feel that? Or was it just me?  

Anyway, none of this gushing about Adi makes parenting easy for me. I constantly see moms who are so super good at parenting, constantly tracking their child's growth, mapping out their child's career to a perfect T even before they start crawling, 'fixing' admissions with top schools years ahead, tracking every activity and measuring outcomes in a bullish 'my kid should be the best' way. 

SORRY. I couldn't be a mom like that. I would rather shoot myself in the knee than become a mom like that. It conflicts with everything that I believe in as a spiritual seeker. 

And no, I don't believe in spoon feeding my child, watching his every step like a hawk - no thank you. I haven't been brought up like that by my parents and I won't do it with my son. It is my choice. If that makes me a careless, irresponsible mom, fine.

But wait, I am not saying that I am right.  

How Time Flies When Kids are Growing Up

After all, Jyotiraditya and I have our "issues." We also have many one-on-one conversations. Yup. It's a real conversation where I don't accuse, blame or scream at him. But I tell him how, what and why something is not acceptable to me. We discuss it and when it turns out that he isn't getting my point, I will tell him firmly that it is the new rule and he can discuss it with me next week after we have worked on it together. This usually works. To win my point, I usually help him understand how it benefits him personally to do what I am asking him to. I don't offer bribes or incentives of any sort to make him accept what I am saying but I reason it out with him.

Like most Indian parents, Sanand and I have worked doubly hard in this parenting journey.  Through raising Jyotiraditya, we have learned a lot as parents and from each other's strengths in tackling different situations relating to Adi. By doing so, yes, we have learned a lot about each other as well. Perhaps that is why most Indian families want newly wed couples to have kids fast - because the experience of parenting deepens and strengthens the relationship between a man and wife and takes it to a completely deeper, powerful level.  

As I gear up for my son's 7th birthday, I can see the changes that the past years have triggered. Jyotiraditya is growing taller now. From a shy, introvert child who had seemed to be frightened by the world and with the absence of parents who seemed to work 24X7, he's come a long, long way. He learned to choose his own clothes at the age of two and indicated clearly what he would eat and what he would not. He had never had to be toilet trained. He learned that on his own when he was one and a half years old. He became a regular visitor to the British Council at the age of two, poring over the pages of colorful children's books, asking me to read them out in a baby language that he could understand easily. And when he used to have nightmares in the night, my mother taught him the Gayatri mantra, the Sai Gayatri mantra and the Devi mantra to ward off his fear. He also learned the first four verses of the Hanuman Chalisa - all this at the age of two. Whatever he does, he does it with a passion that makes others follow him whether it is playing cricket, football or whatever. 

He regularly does mantra chanting, meditation and loves to read and listen to stories before he falls asleep. He loves to read until he tumbles to sleep. He listens to me carefully, corrects my Hindi, tells me off if he isn't happy with something that I am wearing or eating as though we are best buddies. He points out to me if there are double dhamaka deals in the store where we buy our daily provisions from. I love all of that. 

Parenting Journey
Sanand and I are in this parenting journey together in a way that no one else can be - everyone else can just watch and maybe offer suggestions from the periphery but the two most important stakeholders in a child's life (besides the child)  are the parents. We know our son better than we have understood ourselves or even each other. We may not look at parenting the same, or treat issues in the same way all the time. I would not let my son out of my sight even for a moment whereas Sanand would give him 'independent moving space' and I'd probably die worrying about whether Adi would get lost! 

But it is in these differences in parenting that we, as parents, also grow, mature and learn to find new spaces in our life together. After all, all those years ago when we first fell in love and decided to spend the rest of our life together, we had expressed to each other that we wouldn't be 'natural' at parenthood but I am glad that we were blessed with Adi because with him and through him,  the two of us have come a long, long way from that point when we began our life together. 

While I do believe that we are the least trained husband and wife to take on this role of parenting, it is our son Jyotiraditya, who makes our life perfect by being there in our life just the way he is. If God asks me whether I want to change anything in Adi, I would say, "NO, thank you" because I love him as he is - with all his strengths and quirks. 

Grandfather's Words of Wisdom for Jyotiraditya
I want to end this post with the words that my father said to me about Adi recently

"The sky is the limit for Adi, my grandson. He can choose to build his destiny to great heights and I am sure that he will. All my life, right from my childhood, I wanted to be a doctor so that I could serve people who are in need. Perhaps age has made me slightly wiser and selfish, but I want my grandson Adi to be  a STAR, to become some one who leads, not serves, someone who inspires others to serve a great cause that empowers them to lead better and happier lives. I am growing old but my dreams for my grandson are vibrant and full of grandeur. I may not always be there to see what Adi becomes but wherever I am I know that I will watch over him with all my love and he'll make me proud just as he makes his parents proud with everything he has accomplished. I always took pride in the accomplishments of my daughters. But with my grandchildren, the feeling of pride has more than trebled. I pray to God for their happiness and well being always."

Happy 7th Birthday, Adi - the Sun of my Heart!

♥♥  I thank you with all my heart for reading my post. I dedicate this post with love and gratitude to all of you who love your family and work for the family's happiness and well-being. May your life be forever blessed with an abundance of loving thoughts and energy always. ♥♥

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India is my Country & my Pride