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'She would have been alive had she not joined politics'
April 18, 2004 17:20 IST
Soundarya was Malayalam superstar Mohanlal's costar in his film Kilichundan Mambazham. Even a day after Soundarya's tragic death, Mohanlal was still in a state of shock. He spoke to rediff.com from Kerala:
"I still cannot get over the shock. I cannot come to terms with it. The news has shattered me.
"In fact, I am in no mood to talk. I am extremely sad.
"More than a costar, she was a good friend.
"She was also a part of the film, in the sense that she was [in the film] my lover who was no more alive, present only as a photograph.
"But we were to act in a Malayalam film together once again. She was acting in the Telugu remake of Manichitrathazhu and we talked about the film also.
"She felt bad about it -- he had told me [earlier] she wanted to see me do Kathayattam, saying she would not miss it the next time. We were so hopeful that she would be there the next time I performed in Bangalore."
Soundarya's first Malayalam film was with Jayaram, Yaathrakkarude Sradhakku (directed by Satyan Anthikad). The film was a huge hit in Kerala. The actor remembers:
"Satyan Anthikad and I were looking for a heroine who looked intelligent and mature for the heroine's role in Yaathrakkarude Sradhakku.
"We didn't want the usual heroine. We thought of many actresses but none of them fit the character we were looking for. Suddenly, Soundarya's face came to our mind, and we felt she was perfect.
"The problem was none of us knew her, and had no idea how to contact her.
"At that time, I was doing a film called Panchathantram in Tamil. I casually mentioned about Soundarya to Brinda, who was the dance master of that film. Brinda knew Soundarya very well, and she called her immediately.
"When I introduced myself to Soundarya, she said she knew me and had seen some of my films. I narrated the story to her and she was so impressed with the story that she agreed to act in the film immediately.
"We shot at Coimbatore. Soundarya was a bit hesitant at first, because she didn't know Malayalam at all. But in no time, she picked up a lot of Malayalam words. What impressed us was her simplicity and the willingness to be a part of the unit.
"Usually, actresses who come from other languages tend to remain aloof after the shooting. Not Soundarya. She was always with us, enjoying our jokes. Satyan and I were cracking jokes all the time, and she wanted us to translate all that to her. Her brother [Amarnath] would also join the gang. We had a blast for 50 days.
"When the shooting got over, she said she would miss the whole unit. She told us she had never laughed so much in her life!
"She used to call me quite regularly in those days to find out how the film was doing. The film was a huge hit. Then, she wanted to remake the film in Telugu, and she wanted both Satyan and me in the film. I didn't act in the Telugu version.
"After that, she called me when she was getting married. Unfortunately, I couldn't go for the wedding.
"I had called her three weeks ago requesting her to act in another Malayalam film. She told me about her decision to join politics then. She said she would be a candidate hence wouldn't be able to act. But she promised to act after May.
"I still remember the film she produced, Dweepa. My film Sesham was also vying for the National Awards. Somehow, we were so sure that both of us would get the Best Actor and Actress Awards. Both of us didn't get it. But she got an award as the producer of Dweepa.
"I still can't believe a person who had acted with me not so long ago is no more."
Well-known director Priyadarshan had directed Soundarya in Kilichundan Mambazham. He was shooting a Malayalam film in Thiruvananthapuram when rediff.com called him:
"The first time I met Soundarya was when she was acting in a film being made by Shinde, one of my assistants. I was called to do the pooja of the film, and that was when we were first introduced.
"Later, we met several times, and she wanted to work together one day. Nothing worked out till Kilichundan Mambazham happened.
"She was to South Indian cinema what Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit were to Hindi cinema. She was the queen here. I don't think there was anyone who was more popular than her in South Indian films in the last 15 years.
"For a person of her stature, she was a simple woman with no airs. She was very down to earth, and was concerned about people. That was what drove her to social work. She was very artistic and intelligent; quite different from the usual heroines you mostly meet.
"She used to talk about filmmakers like B V Karanth, and it surprised me initially when she talked about such films. You don't expect a popular actress to talk about such films. She also used to discuss Kananda writers and books. I would tell her I had read translations of U R Ananthamurthy, Sivarama Karanth, etc. Then, she would suggest other authors.
"That was why when she became a producer she decided to make a sensible film like Dweepa. I appreciate her for that.
"When we thought of making the film Kilichundan Mambazham, I wanted a heroine who would look like a beautiful, strong Malabari girl. Soundarya fit the bill. We decided then that if we didn't get her dates, we would change the story. Fortunately when I called her, she showed great enthusiasm to do the film.
"She was such an intelligent person that she had picked up quite a bit of Malayalam after she finished her first Malayalam film, Yaathrakkarude Sradhakku. And when I gave her the old Malabar dialect, she was surprised. She asked me, 'Am I speaking the same language? Is it Malayalam? It is so different from what I said in the other film.' That shows how alert and concentrated she was while shooting.
"From the location of Kilichundam Mambazham that she went to Delhi to collect the National Award she won as the Best Producer for Dweepa.
"During the shooting, she would tell me about her plans to get married and make serious films. Unless she produced such films, she thought, she wouldn't get to act in meaningful roles. Unfortunately, her plans have been shattered.
"She used to ask me, why don't you make serious films like Dweepa? Of course, she liked the humorous films that I made as she had great sense of humour. She had taken the rights of some of my films to be remade into Telugu.
"It did not come as a surprise when she joined the BJP. I knew she wanted to the BJP. She had told me so many times about her plans to join the BJP.
"She was not a great friend, but we were two very good colleagues. I still cannot believe that she is no more."
Legendary filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli recalls that he had not met actress-politician Soundarya before he signed up with Soundarya and her brother Amarnath, who also died in the plane crash with her, to direct Dweepa.
"She was a Bangalore girl, but I had never met her. Amarnath took me to meet her when she was shooting for a film in Hyderabad. I was simply struck by her simplicity and honesty.
"At first, I wondered whether she would really be able to do justice to the role of Nagi in Dweepa. But she played that role perfectly.
"Soundarya was such an intelligent and sensitive artiste.
[Produced by Soundarya and brother, Dweepa went on to win numerous accolades at national and international levels]. "Amarnath had asked me to make another new film with Soundarya in the lead. I was looking forward to working with her again."
Although Soundarya was from Bangalore, she was better known in the Telugu film industry over the past decade or so that she was in films. Bangalore was, of course, her home.
"Her death is a great tragedy for us all," said Karnataka chief minister S M Krishna, who stopped his election campaign to rush to the spot of the crash. "She had made a big name for herself, especially in Andhra."
To superstar Vishnuvardhan, the hero of film Aptha Mitra, which she completed shooting for just four days ago, Soundarya's sudden death was a great shock: "Her memory will hanut me forever. She was a very nice girl and a wonderful actress."
Comedian-turned-director-producer Dwarakeesh, who produced Mithra, adds: "Soundarya really liked her role in my film. I am glad she did it. "
Kannada actor-director V Ravichandran was forthright in his views: "Film stars should not join politics. Wouldn't she have been alive today if she had not joined politics? Her death is a great loss to the whole film industry, everywhere. I never expected that such a young woman would die so soon.
Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce president S Ramesh, also a politician, says that Soundarya and he had discussed making a dance film like the old Telugu hit Shankarabharanam, when the actress was in Mysore a couple of days ago: "She told me then, that we would discuss this further after the elections. Now we will never do that film together."
Reportage: Shobha Warrier, M D Riti