The veteran actress will be making her comeback to Malayalam with Prithviraj Sukumaran, Suraj Venjaramoodu and Mamta Mohandas-starrer Jana Gana Mana, which is set to hit theatres worldwide on April 28
For the longest time, actress Shari has been remembered for her role in Padmarajan’s 1986 film Namakku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal. However, that could change with Dijo Jose Antony’s Jana Gana Mana as the actress says the film is special to her for so many reasons. For starters, it marks her comeback to Malayalam after six years, it’s her first worldwide theatrical release and it also has her in a powerful role that she says will make an impression in the minds of today’s audience.
In an exclusive interview with OTTplay, Shari talks about sharing screen space with Prithviraj Sukumaran, Suraj Venjaramoodu and Mamta Mohandas in the film, why she’s blessed to have worked with Padamarajan and how OTTs have opened new doors for artistes of her peer group.
What attracted you the most about your role in Jana Gana Mana?
Firstly, it was a very powerful role. My character Shabana is a bold lady, who takes care of her two daughters played by Mamta Mohandas and Vaishnavi. The film is about the challenges they face; it’s their story and the characters of Prithviraj and Suraj become part of that. Shabana is not the usual ‘paavam’ amma character that we have seen and when Dijo narrated the script itself, I thought it was apt for my comeback after all these years. I have not done something like this before and that’s why it’s special for me. I am also sure that the youth audience would enjoy the movie and its characters. Even the role that Prithviraj is playing, is very different from the audience has seen him in earlier movies.
How was it working with the young actors in the film?
It's a power-packed film. From the rushes that I have seen, I am still surprised that such a movie has been made in Malayalam and I got to be part of it. I was very impressed with the trailer and teaser that have come out. You could spot how much Prithviraj has matured as an actor in the film. Even when we were acting together, I would keenly observe his performance and how he carries his role – be it the looks or the body language and expressions; he makes it all stand out and I appreciate him for taking that effort. I have told him this about how much I liked how he handled that character.
Even Suraj, we have seen him do diametrically different characters in lighter films as well as in movies like Android Kunjappan Ver. 5.25. I am amazed by the evolution of today’s actors as compared to artistes from my generation. I have a daughter who is 24 years old and I could spot how Mamta eases into such a role. It just gives you immense joy to work with such talented actors.
You have worked with legends such as Padmarajan. Jana Gana Mana is only Dijo’s second film but it’s easily one of the biggest films this year in Malayalam in terms of scale. How would you rate working with him?
You would hardly ever think it’s his sophomore effort based on how he has made this film. He is a perfectionist. He is also extremely clear about what he wants and you would know that from how he explains each scene and the character’s traits. My character is named Shabana and her daughters are Saba and Sana; so that’s the kind of attention that the scriptwriter Sharis Muhammed and Dijo has paid to the minor details in the film.
The film was shot during the pandemic. But the script demanded scenes with 300-400 people and there was no compromise from the team in that regard. So, he deserves credit for the scale at which it was made. It was also the reason for the delay. I was first narrated the script in October 2020 and was told that the movie would be done in 2-3 schedules. But we wrapped up earlier this year because there were so many challenges due to the pandemic restrictions. The entire team worked hard to bring out the movie as they visualised it in the beginning. Having Listin Stephen and Prithviraj as producers also helped the movie because they were aware that this film required such a scale and setting, and they were willing to support Dijo’s vision.
You have been away from Malayalam for a while now, but even now when people meet you, they still recall your evergreen roles from Nammuku Parkaan Munthiri Thoppukal and Deshadanakilikal Karayarila, which was ahead of its time.
Yes, they talk about Padmarajan sir’s movies. He is such a legendary director and I am blessed to have got opportunities to work with him. Deshadanakilikal Karayarila was ahead of its time; it was made when not many thought about such ideas. Even Munthiri Thoppukal for that matter.
In the case of Deshadanakilikal, it didn’t even strike me what the core theme was because I was very young and everything was new to me – including the language and the industry. I was just a beginner and everybody else were stars including Lalettan, Urvashi and Karthika. So, I was more concerned about that. However, I figured out the subtext only later.
For Nammuku Parkaan Munthiri Thoppukal, I asked a lot of questions. ‘Isn’t he her step father?’ and those like that. But you wouldn’t feel those overpowering the main storyline; it’s all subtly mentioned and brilliantly taken – it’s a clean film. Ultimately, it’s in the director’s hands. And I am blessed to have worked with such a legendary director and also the stellar cast of those movies.
You were also active on the small screen in the past few years.
Yes, but those ventures have taken a back seat now because of the pandemic and my daughter’s academics. I had taken a break and that’s when I was offered Jana Gana Mana. I thought since it was a movie, it would be done in a few months but it has taken almost two years. The positive thing is it’s my first worldwide release and my entire family is waiting for it. I have also done a small film titled Viddikalude Mashu, which will be released on OTT. It’s based on a novel written by Dileep Mohan and he is also acting in it.
With OTTs, there’s now a deluge of diverse content and it also offers exciting opportunities for artistes across age groups. In that regard, are you seeing a change in terms of the offers coming to you and your peers?
I believe everyone is now getting opportunities. Right now, there’s TV, OTTs and movies, and artistes can choose when they want to focus and thrive. I am often surprised watching some of the performances in the latest web series; where were these artistes all this time? During the pandemic, I have been watching a lot of movies and series on OTTs, and I am amazed by the talent we have across age groups and I am happy that everyone is getting work now.