'I would love to play a tomboy'
Shwetha Menon has come a long way since her beauty pageant days.
The Miss India runner up who won the first Gladrags female super model and later on the Kerala State award, made her debut in films opposite Mammootty at the age of 14 in the Malayalam film, Anaswaram.
Nineteen years later, she teamed up with Mammootty once again in Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Katha, for which she won the Kerala State award.
Her most talked about new project is Rathinirvedam 2. When the original Rathinirvedam was made by late Bharatan years ago with Jayabharati and Krishnachandran, it made waves as it dealt with the sexual awakening of a teenager.
In the new version, Shweta Menon plays the role made memorable and controversial by Jayabharati. Here's what she has to say the role, and more. Excerpts:
Tell us more about Rathinirvedha 2...
Renowned director T K Rajeev Kumar is directing the movie and Suresh Kumar, who set the trend of remakes in Malayalam with Neelathamara, is producing it under the Revathi Kalamandhir banner. The script is the same by the late P Padmarajan.
The film tells the story of an adolescent boy who is infatuated with an older woman. I was overwhelmed when Rajeev sir offered the role to me. The shooting will commence soon.
Have you seen the original?
I haven't and I will not see it now, as I am doing the remake. I know it is a classic but I don't want to see it because I don't want Jayabharati's performance to influence me in any way. I don't want to copy the original. The new Version Rathinirvedham should be mine.
Image: Shwetha Menon
'There may be steamy scenes in Rathinirvedha 2'
The role is a bit steamy...
I don't know about all that. I am committed to this film as it is based on the script of a great story writer and one of my favorite film makers. I know the story line; it tells the relationship between Rathi Chechi and Pappu, a teenager. There may be steamy scenes to define their relationship.
Once when I met Padmarajan, he said he wanted to cast me in one of his movies. But it didn't happen. Now that I am doing a film based on his script so I am sure he will be happy wherever he is.
It was reported that you rejected an offer to act in the remake of Avalude Ravukal?
To be frank, I only came to know about the offer through the media. I didn't get any offer officially. Any way, I don't want to create any controversy.
Will you accept the role if it comes through proper channels?
I don't know. Some times I will, some times I won't. I know it was a great movie and Seema Madam rose to dizzy heights after that. And it is also a female centric role. But as of now no decision has been taken on that.
Image: Swetha Menon and Sidique
'I am a director's actor'
All your roles in films like Paleri Manikyam, Paradesi, Madhyavenal and Kayak... have been appreciated. Which is your favorite role?
I would say Aamina in Paradesi first because it was the first time I really took a chance. When P T Kunju Mohammed offered me the role, I was really shocked. Till then I was doing only glamorous roles. I was really apprehensive at first; I might have called him 100 times, just to confirm that he is really offering me Aamina. Aamina was the first risk I took and it turned out to be a turning point in my career.
Next of course is Cheeru, the bold and sensuous woman of Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathira Kolapathakathinte Katha. I had to portray both a young and older Cheeru. The transformation was a real challenge.
Sarojini of Madhyavenal, Revathy of Kadasham, Thamara of Kayam and even Suhra of Penpattanam are very demanding roles in different genres. enjoyed doing them all.
Did you do any home work for Cheeru?
No. When Renjith sir explained the role, I readily agreed as it was a period film with a bold subject. I came to know that it was based on a true story which took place at the end of the 50's. It was the first rape case that was registered in Kerala.
I am a director's actor and Renjith sir was the one who chiseled the character so passionately. He moulded me into the character. I haven't even read the book on which the film is based on. It is in Malayalam. I am a good observer so it really helped me portray Cheeru.
Image: A scene from Kadasham
'I haven't changed much. I am the same Shwetha Menon'
Did winning the Kerala State award change you?
I haven't changed much. I am the same Shwetha Menon. But it has changed my attitude towards cinema. I did my first film when I was 14. I did not take films seriously. It was just a time pass for me then. Later, I went on to win the Miss India runner up title and modeling became my profession.
I was really flabbergasted when I came to know that I had won an award. It took some time to sink in. I know awards give great responsibilities and audience will certainly expect more from you. An award opens new doors for you and good offers start coming in. Now I am really serious about cinema.
You made your debut with Mammootty and after 19 years, you did Paleri Manikyam with him. How was it working with him after such a long gap?
At the time of Anaswaram, I was only 14 while Mammukka was already a super star. I was scared to even share screen space with him. But now Mammukka is more like a colleague; he is a fantastic co-star.
Image: Shwetha Menon
'I don't choose characters according to looks'
Are you making a conscious effort to change your image from a sexy diva to a serious actress?
Look, I did Naan Avan illai 2 and Paleri Manikyam simultaneously. One was very glamourous while the other was not. I don't choose characters according to looks. I'm comfortable doing both glamorous and non-glamorous roles. I only want to be a versatile actor.
Earlier I wished to do the kind of roles Sharadha amma or Sheela amma did in their prime. I got my wish with Paleri Manikyam and Paradesi. Now I would love to do some tomboy roles and action films.
Image: Shwetha Menon