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|January 29, 2001||
"What's going on here? Who gave you permission to erect these sets here?" a woman shouts.
She is wearing dark glasses, wearing a police inspector's uniform and holding the policeman's lathi.
The frightened crew members mumble, "Madam, we have permission."
"Let me see the papers. Where is the director? Where is the actress?" and she rushes to the director and the heroine of the film.
Director Jo Mon and actress Indraja are puzzled.
And then realisation dawns. The police inspector is none other than Malayalam film actress Aishwarya. She had rushed off to visit her friend and actress Indraja from the sets of her recent film, Praja, opposite Mohanlal. In the film, she plays Maya Mary Kurien, an IPS officer.
"I had real fun fooling all of them. They all thought I was a real police officer! Haha!" Aishwarya guffaws.
Among the actors I have interviewed over the years, only a handful have been gracious, informal and friendly. Aishwarya is one such person -- pleasant, energetic and vivacious. Above all, she has a fantastic sense of humour.
Most of the female artistes retire from the world of films or fade into oblivion the moment they get married. For her part, Aishwarya went through a troubled marriage, childbirth, drug addiction and divorce. But she has come out of the most difficult period of her life successfully -- managing a seemingly impossible feat. She returned to the film industry known for its cruelty to married female stars.
Today, Aishwarya, mother of a six-year-old, is busy as a typical young heroine in her films.
The combination of Aishwarya and Mohanlal has always been an extremely successful one.
Their first film together, Butterflies, directed by Priyadarshan, a full-length comedy, was a huge success. That was before her marriage.
After her comeback, Aishwarya and Mohanlal were teamed together in Narasimham, again with Mohanlal and directed by Shaji Kailas. It is said that Narasimham is the biggest hit in the history of Malayalam cinema but Aishwarya was not prepared to share the glory. "It was an out and out Mohanlal film, and I am just basking in the glory. But it is a good feeling to be a part of a successful team."
Now, she is once again paired with Mohanlal. This time, the director is none other than Joshi, one of the most successful commercial directors in Malayalam films. Praja, produced and directed by Mohanlal, is also expected to set the cash registers ringing, what with Ranji Panicker, writer of Narasimham penning this story, too.
Mohanlal plays Zakir Ali Hussain in the film. He is not a goody-goody hero but a man with lots of negative shades, a la the memorable characters he had portrayed in Devasuram, Aaram Thampuran, etc.
Aishwarya spoke to me from Alleppey, where she was shooting for a film with Jayaram called Sharjah To Sharjah. "Yes, I think I am spending more time in Kerala these days. It is great to be with such talented people.'
Other than Praja and Sharjah To Sharjah, she is also acting with Suresh Gopi in Agni Nakshathram, and with Mohanlal in Kilukkam-2.
"This is the first time that I am acting in a film directed by Joshi. And, believe me, he is simply terrific. I have not seen any other director who is as meticulous as he is. If I so much as changed my hairstyle, he notices it and insists on me going back to the original one. He won't shoot unless I change the style. He's an amazing director."
"During Christmas 2000, my daughter was with me in Ernakulam, where I was shooting. She loved Joshi. Do you know what she used to call him? Santa Claus! His huge figure and the white beard reminded her of Santa, I guess."
"He is incredible. What sense of humour he has. He's such a good mimic, miming and cracking jokes all the time, that you will never know how the time passes when he is on the sets. There is not a dull moment when Jayaram is around; he keeps the whole unit in splits."
Sharjah To Sharjah is a full-length comedy. So you can imagine how the atmosphere is. The saddest part is that I am a very serious person in the film and I am not supposed to laugh when he does all these comic acts. It is so difficult for me to contain my laughter and keep a straight face. But I am enjoying every minute of the shooting."
"I didn't get to know Suresh Gopi much when we shot for Satyameva Jayathe. It is different now. He is such a warm and motherly person that everybody loves him. Yes, I did say motherly. The reason may be because he has four children! He even hugs like a mother!"
"Lal... he is special!"
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