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`Mother' of all actors

She is one actress who has seen Malayalam cinema's metamorphosis through decades. In a conversation with John L. Paul.


Kaviyoor Ponnamma

What comes to people's mind when they hear of Kaviyoor Ponnamma is a comforting mother, dressed mostly in white saree. Few in this generation know that she has in fact acted as the mother of Satyan and Madhu, many decades back. The movie was `Thommande Makkal'.

After inaugurating a function organised to celebrate Tilakan's 50 years of acting in dramas and movies, she said that though younger to him, she had acted as Tilakan's mother in the movie `Periyar'.

"People used to love our combination and I used to get many letters appreciating the roles," says the actress, who is now 60. Ms. Ponnamma was born in Kaviyoor near Tiruvalla. As a five-year-old, she learnt music and used to sing in stage shows. But she did not see many movies. She started acting in dramas when she was 14 years, starting off with `Mooladhanam' of Thoppil Bhasi. After five years, came her first movie Kudumbini, in which she did the title role of the mother of two kids.

"Acting has changed tremendously over the years, mainly because of technological advances. Earlier, dubbing was an alien concept. We had to by-heart the dialogues. Also, the number of actors was limited. Over the years, cinema has grown technically. Close-up shots can now be taken even from a distance."

She has acted with Prem Nazir, Satyan, Madhu, Soman, Sukumaran, Vincent, Raghavan, Mohanlal, Mamootty, Dileep and even Prithviraj (in Nandanam).

Her last released movie was `Mambazhakalam'. She is now acting in `Vadakkunathan', in which Mohanlal is the hero. Here too, she portrays the mother of Mohanlal, Biju Menon and Kavya Madhavan. "The mother-son role of Mohanlal-Ponnamma has been accepted well by the audience. We do not feel that we are acting and we do not plan. Reactions come spontaneously."

She is all set to do a telefilm directed by Viji Thamby, for Amritha TV.

Having stayed at Chennai for 37 years, Ms. Ponnamma is now settled in Aluva. Her husband M.K. Mani was a film producer. Their daughter is now in Chennai and son-in-law a professor at the Michigan University.

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