In what could be an epic casting coup for Malalayam film fans, south Indian actress and Indian classical dancer Shobana revealed that she is in talks with a celebrated actress to end her three-year hiatus from movies.
“It’s not that I don’t want to do films. I am waiting to get a good script from Manju ji [Manju Warrior]. She’s a good friend and if the work is good for both, then we might work together,” Shobana said in an interview with tabloid!. Shobana was last seen in the Malayalam thriller Thira in 2013 and is notoriously picky about films.
It’s easy to figure out why Warrier and Shobana hit it off. Both are consummate Indian classical dancers and occupy a rarefied berth in the Malayalam film industry. Both were offered substantial roles in films in the 1990s, an era that was dominated by superstars Mammootty and Mohanlal.
Shobana stole the thunder from Mohanlal in the hit supernatural thriller Manichitrathazhu, and overshadowed Mammooty as his crippled lover in the touching romance Mazhayethum Munpe, while Warrier effortlessly shone in the crime drama Kanmadham.
If these two actresses get together, it’s the equivalent of two Khans of Bollywood — say Aamir and Shah Rukh — uniting for a project. Stars have to be aligned for that kind of union.
The star, 46, has acted in more than 200 south Indian films. But the famously single Shobana, who is mother to an adopted girl, isn’t as fixated with the world of films anymore. If you want to see her, she brings her dance spectacle Trance: Dancing Drums to Dubai’s Ductac this week.
“I don’t miss the world of movies. To me, it’s not about the lure of camera. It has always been a question of whether I can learn something new from a film role or not. If I find myself spacing out while I act, it’s just not for me. I can never take something on if it doesn’t allow me to learn. What’s the point?”
Even today, she has movie manuscripts that remain untouched.
“People are fed up of me doing that … I tell them, I will read their scripts tomorrow. I really irritate a lot of people, I know ... If an actor of my calibre goes looking for roles, I will surely get it. But I don’t want to do that,” said Shobana with a helpless laugh. She has a full life now and isn’t willing to rock the proverbial boat.
According to film folklore, in 1985 alone, she acted in 16 films. Her hits such as Innale, in which she played a woman grappling with memory loss after an accident, or her more recent 2001 drama Mitr My Friend, which explored the Indian immigrant experience in the United States, are still considered some of the best films to come out of Kerala.
But it’s the world of classical dance that has captured her imagination. She runs a dance academy, The Kalarpana Institute, in Chennai, which has more than 100 students at any given time, and is busy touring the world with her dance productions.
Her latest show Trance, which will be showcased in the UAE on October 21 and 22, is one such example.
“With an English title like Trance, many have asked me if it’s electronic music, or if they will be transported to Goa. My answer is a strong ‘no’.”
The troupe, led by her, does, however, attempt to take the audience to a state of heightened consciousness through different forms of classical dances interwoven with music by a live orchestra.
“There will be mythology, dancing and music that contain eclectic sounds and rhythms … I am trying to present music and dance that I love and it doesn’t pertain to my own spirituality,” said Shobana.
A review of Trance published in the Indian daily The Hindu called it a holistic experience that merges different streams of thoughts and fuses Sufi elements with Indian classical and folk music.
“Fusion represents a large possibility for me to grow as an artist. It doesn’t put me in a box. I have trained for 30 years in Indian classical dance and there is nothing more beautiful in my eyes than stepping out of the box. That experience of fusion has given me the strength to reach out … I hope the audience enjoys this creation as much as I have putting it together,” said Shobana. At the time of this interview, she was gearing up to perform Trance in London.
While she might revel in dance recitals, it’s the audience who’s the king for Shobana.
“I do not lie on stage and I do everything in my power to make them enjoy my performance. We give them the best we have to offer. I bend [over] backwards for them ... In the US, the audiences drive for miles and arrange for help to look after their children during my shows, so I never take my audiences for granted. I start on time, I try to accommodate the kids who are in the aisles ... I don’t have any problem with that. I want the audiences to be relaxed. At the same time I have reached a stage where I cannot be dancing for the audiences alone,” said Shobana.
Confused? She has reached a stature in her life where approval from the audiences is a by-product of all that hard work she has put in.
“It gives me peace if it is a job well done. But I don’t feel elated. It’s a good feeling, I admit because I am responsible for my audience’s happiness. But sometimes it is the smaller things that give me great happiness: a student’s mother who comes up to me and says that her child is dancing well. That’s elation for me.”
Don’t miss it!
Trance: Dancing Drums is on October 21 and 22 at Centrepoint Theatre, Ductac, Mall of the Emirates.
Tickets are Dh75-Dh300 at platinumlist.net and ductac.org.