"People like whatever a child does. But as an adult, one has to work hard to be appreciated."
Were you totally cut off from the film industry all these years?
Shalini. Click for bigger pic!
Yes. I met him only once in between. That was also long back. After I became a teenager, he had not seen me. See, he was looking for a teenaged girl for his film Aniyathipravu. When he asked me to act in that film, I said, 'No uncle, I don't want to. I am studying. I have no interest in acting.' He didn't say anything but gave me the story and asked me to go through it. And I liked the story. Then I thought about it a lot, discussed with my parents and finally we decided to give it a try.
How long did it take you to say yes?
Four days, I think. We discussed about it a lot. See I can't say 'no' to Fazil uncle because he was the person who introduced me to films. He was very much interested in me acting in Aniyathipravu. I acted in the movie and it became a big hit.
Now you must be getting quite a lot of offers.
Yes. But I don't want to do all kinds of films. I want to be very choosy. I don't want to do glamorous roles also. My second film as a heroine was with Mammotty. As his sister.
So, from his daughter. you have graduated to being his sister. How was it like, after acting as his daughter in a lot of films?
Yeah! I was his daughter in, I do not know in how many films. So, I too wondered how it would be like to be his sister. But it was nice. He was teasing me all the time that as Baby Shalini, I was very naughty, disobedient, etc. He said I used to even answer back. I must tell you it was an experience working with him.
He must have been your 'uncle' when you were a baby.
Oh, I still call him uncle.
Does he not object?
No, how can he? I can't call him sir now. He was my uncle and even now he is my uncle. Don't forget I was his daughter for a long time.
Baby Shalini. Click for bigger pic!
In the last few years, when you were not in films, were you in touch with anybody in the film industry?
No, I was not in touch with anyone. My sister used to go for shooting in those days (she was the heroine in Mani Ratnam's Anjali). Some of them used to enquire about me, that's all. Otherwise, I never met anyone. I was involved in my school and studies. Acting had no place in my scheme of things then. My life centred around my school, my studies and my school friends.
In the last two years, you have acted in half a dozen films. Does that mean it's likely you will stop studying after your 12th standard and concentrate on acting more?
No, I will never do that. I told you, my first priority is studies only.
So, you want to be an educated star?
My ambition is to have a good educational qualification first. But I am not ambitious at all as far as films are concerned.
Who has instilled in you this yearning for education?
My teachers used to tell me, 'You can be a film star but never ever leave studies for films.' They made me understand that education should be my goal in life. Other things like films come later. That is why I want to be a well-educated and qualified person first. I want to be an educated film star and not an uneducated one.
How do you assess yourself as an actress?
Every time I see my film, I feel I have to improve a lot. There is a lot of difference in emoting as a child star and a heroine. I am improving with the help of so many people around me like Fazil uncle, Mammotty uncle etc.
As a kid, it was so easy. They used to ask me to stand in front of the camera and when they asked
me to cry, I cried. When they asked me to laugh, I laughed. It was as easy as that. I did not know why I was asked to cry or laugh. That never bothered me also. Now it is different, very, very different. We have to get involved in the character more.
But you were quite good as a child star?
I didn't say I was bad.
Shalini with Jayaram. Click for bigger pic!
Without any preparation, you could deliver the goods well.
People like whatever a child does. But as an adult, one has to work hard to be appreciated.
When you were a baby, were you aware of the fact that you were a celebrity?
I think I knew. I had attended quite a few functions as a child. I had to even sign autographs.
Did you enjoy all those attention?
I liked it. I welcomed it and I enjoyed every moment of it.
Did you become arrogant because of all the attention you got?
No, no. I liked women hugging me, kissing me and taking photographs with me. They showered a lot of love on me. When I see all those old movies of mine, I feel how fast I have grown up.
Was it a shock to your friends when you decided to act once again?
You won't believe they were the people who used to tell me all the time, 'You will enter films.' But I used to vehemently deny it. Even one of my teachers used to say that I would become a film star. But I told her, 'No Ma'am, I'll never.'
Why were you so much against movies even though you enjoyed the excitement of being a star attraction as a baby?
I didn't want to, that's all. I really do not know why I was against becoming a movie star. Only studies was there in my agenda.
What kind of an actress are you? Do you prepare yourself thoroughly before the shooting, or are you a spontaneous actress?
I think I am a spontaneous actress. But I would like to have guidance from the director also.
You have dressed quite well in your movies. Are you very particular about your costumes?
I am very particular about my dresses, but only when I am acting. Otherwise I dress like any other teenager in jeans, salwars, frocks, etc. For movies, I refer fashion books and it helps me a lot in choosing the right designs and colour patterns for the character. I myself go and buy all my dresses. I am very insistent about the accessories too.
I buy matching shoes, bangles, ear rings, etc. But in real life, I don't wear jewellery at all. I don't wear gaudy dresses also. Only simple dresses for me. I don't like to get dressed up. I am not bothered about others seeing me in these kind of plain and simple dresses. That's me. The dressed-up Shalini that you see in movies exists only in the movies.
Are you a religious person?
Every Sunday, I go to church even if I am out shooting. Whenever I have nothing to do, I go to church and pray.
Shalini. Click for bigger pic!
Do you pray everyday?
(Shocked) Of course, it is a must. Everyday I must pray. Not only Christians, I feel all human beings should pray.
Have you met Mother Theresa any time?
No, but I have met the Pope. I did a film called Minimol Vathikanil and the film was shot in Rome and the Vatican City. My dad was carrying me and standing close to the place from where the Pope meets people and our people were shooting from far.
The Pope came out, touched everyone, blessed them and do you know what he did to me? He took me in his arms and kissed me. They filmed all that and it was there in the film. But I was too small to understand the importance of such a meeting then.
But do you know whom I am really crazy about? Michael Jackson. I am very, very crazy about him. My room is full of his posters.
The saddest moment in my life was when I couldn't meet him when he came to India.