The mini-screen beckons

Charmila was once the toast of Mollywood, debuting as an actor with Mohanlal-starrer Dhanam.

Charmila in a still from ‘Mangalyapattu.’

Despite the fact that many of her films went unnoticed at the box office, Malayalis have always loved this doe-eyed beauty and still remember her roles in films such as Keli and Kabooliwala.

After a break, she returned to the industry with character roles. She was last seen in Lal Jose’s Vikramadityan.

Although she was part of a couple of shows on Tamil channels, Charmila says she chose to stay away from daily soaps. The actor has now made an exception by acting in a serial, ‘Mangalyapattu’, on Mazhavil Manorama.

She talks to Friday Review about her new innings. Excerpts:

On the mini-screen

This is the first time I am working in a serial. I used to get offers, but most of them were of the same mould – the meek, subdued character. It was like going to school in a uniform every day. But the role in ‘Mangalyapattu’ came as a surprise for me.

On her role

I play Menaka, the owner of a textile shop. She is autocratic and people are scared of her. Actually, she is soft-hearted and is suppressed by her family. You rarely get such strong characters on television. A heroine can expect to bag a role like that, but I never expected to play such a character at this age. I should thank my director, Faizal Adimaly, and those in the cast for helping me out. They are patient and teach me everything.

Her journey in tinsel town

I wanted to be an actress or an air hostess. The latter was out of question owing to my height! But my father wanted me to become a doctor or a scientist because I was good in studies. My parents wanted me to settle in the United States or France since I have my relatives there.

I had been exposed to films from a young age and had resolved to be an actress. Sivaji uncle [Sivaji Ganesan] and Balaji uncle [producer Balaji], were my father’s close friends and on Sundays I used to go to see film shootings. Thus, I fell in love with cinema. I acted as a child artiste, that too as a boy, in one of Balaji uncle’s Tamil films when I was in kindergarten. Later, Balaji uncle showed my photo to Mohanlal sir and that’s how I got my first movie, Dhanam, directed by Sibi Malayil. I was 13 then. Just imagine how a 13-year-old would feel when people come up to her for her autograph. Would she like to go back to school again? (Laughs) Thus my journey started and I later acted in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. I finished my studies through distance education.

Experiences in Mollywood

I didn’t know Malayalam and there I was making my debut opposite a superstar. I was extremely nervous. But Lal sir (Mohanlal) was so patient in our first combination scene that I am still indebted to him. We had to go for many takes and he was cooperative throughout.

In Keli, my second film, I was a school teacher. Bharathan sir had to work a lot to make me walk and talk like one.

It was in Kabooliwala that I played myself on screen, a free-spirited girl. It was a break from the homely image. Each film taught me a lesson and Malayalam cinema is what I love the most.

Plans ahead

I am busy in Tamil films. My ambition is to write scripts and screenplays. In fact, I have two scripts ready and the day I get the right director and producer, the film will go on floors. As an actor, now I am game to do negative roles.

(‘Mangalyapattu’ airs on Mazhavil Manorama, Monday to Friday, 8 p.m.)