A GREAT ACTOR WAS BORN!
In my teens Kasiapuram had a different type of attraction for me. We were growing up. Visits to chandai now looked below our stature! Interests in rural games, swimming, ‘hunting’ – don’t ever imagine they were real hunting, they were all just walking through pathless fields armed with sticks and catapults – were more interesting. Two important things happened in this period. One was good and other one was bad. Good thing first! Our aunts planned for a big celebration in the school. I don’t remember what was the occasion for it. But it was planned to be a very big function and it was a real big thing for that small village. Daytime had small events like song and dance and the big show was reserved for the evening. It was a drama. The story of the prodigal son. Mostly my cousins from cities played the major characters. For the hero one of my cousins elder to me by two years was selected and was tutored by my aunts. He didn’t come up to their expectations. They were now in search of a ‘hero’. My name cropped up. Since they found me too young for that ‘heavy’ role, I was first given a ‘screen test’! I was asked to memorize a lengthy dialogue – the son coming back to the father with profuse apologies. I passed the test. Thus I became hero –in the very first chance of my ‘long’ acting career! And that cousin who was selected for the hero-role first, was given the role of just the friend of the hero!
I remember the long and serious rehearsals we had. My role was split into two – the first part was that of a toughie and later part of a softie. The two aunties trained me for each part, the younger Mary aunty for the brash role and Rose aunty for the later part. Their personal characters matched this ‘division of labor’. Then came the D-day. Stage with all lightings and screens rented out for the occasion should have looked grand. In one of the scenes I had to visit a hotel and eat something and then to find myself without any money to pay for it. I was given something to eat and the ‘prompters’ from the side urged me to straight away start the dialogues. But I, a sincere artist, would not budge so easily. So I took some eatable and had a bite. What an ill luck I had! What I bit was a hot chilly. I hurriedly took gulps of water and that didn’t help. How could I utter the important dialogues - since the drama was at the crucial turning point – with my mouth drooling with saliva caused by the miss-bite! So I hurriedly went for the sweet in the plate. But the prompter thought that I was using the chance to go for the sweets! Anyway who would understand the problem more than me? So I took the sweet and then started the dialogue. In the next part of the scene the hotelier pulls out my dress and throws me into the street. My appamma later told me that I made her moved to tears with my ‘terrific acting’ in that scene. I should have gone into acting, in retrospective I feel.