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She is no cry baby

Shilpa Nair Anand

Lena Abhilash is a popular face on television.

Photo: S. Gopakumar

VIEWERS' DARLING: Lena Abhilash's career is on a roll.

Every week, Monday to Friday, many television viewers tune in to Asianet to watch `Omanathinkalpakshi,' or rather to watch the latest upheaval in Jancy's life. Lena Abhilash's portrayal of Jancy has won her many fans at home and abroad.

`Omanathinkalpakshi,' however, is not Lena's first acting break. She has been acting since she was in kindergarten. Not only has she acted but she has also directed and written plays while in school. Lena was first noticed by her school principal and it was she who suggested Lena's name to director Jeyaraj. "She was planning to launch a theatre group. At that time Jeyaraj sir was looking for a new face, and she suggested my name to him."

After doing films such as Jeyaraj's `Sneham,' `Karunam' and `Shantam,' Sathyan Anthikkad's `Kochu Kochu Santhoshangal,' and Sibi Malayil's `Randam Bhavam' she took a break to complete her post-graduation.

Armed with a post-graduate degree in clinical psychology, Lena worked as a clinical psychologist in a Mumbai hospital for some time, but gave that career a go because, "It was very draining and disturbing. Dealing with people who are disturbed is very strenuous. I was planning to do my doctorate in psychology, but I realised it was not for me. Acting is more enjoyable, besides it pays well too."

To television

After her short-lived stint as a psychologist, she made a comeback to television. She was hosting `Your Choice,' on Asianet for a while, when she was told that the makers of `Omanathinkalpakshi' were looking for a new face for the serial. She met the makers, and she was signed on. Besides `Omanathinkalpakshi,' Lena is acting in `Ohari' being aired on Amritha TV.

The characters that she portrays in the serials are as different as chalk and cheese. If in `Omanathinkalpakshi,' she is the all-suffering Jancy, in `Ohari' she is a go-getting businesswoman. Ask her how she moves between these two roles that are very different and she laughs, "That is what being an actor is all about." Lena makes it clear that she is very different from Jancy, who by her own admission is a "cry baby." But she defends Jancy, "To see someone cry all the time may seem tedious, but there are women like Jancy who suffer in silence. These are real-life women."

Contrary to what people may say about Malayalam soaps being nothing more than tearjerkers she says that she gets positive feedback not only from viewers in Kerala but also from non-resident Malayalis, "My friends in Australia and America say that these serials have committed viewers there. For them, it is a means of keeping in touch with home." She is surprised by the affection that is showered on her by viewers, particularly women in Kerala, "It is very touching, women come up to me, hug me and ask if my problems have been solved. There have been some women who have asked me to go and live with them if I - Jancy has problems at home. To them I am Jancy, they call me Jancy and tell me their problems. This has been one role that is very fulfilling."

Screen switch

She has switched screens, so is she game for another switch? Making a comeback to films is not part of her immediate plans for her career. "Although I have worked with some of the best directors in the Malayalam film industry, I have not been able to get substantial roles. I am not on the lookout for a role in a film, but if there is something that I find interesting then I will definitely give it a shot," says Lena.

She adds that there is a bias when it comes to signing an established television actress to do a film, "I don't think it is a problem for male actors but there is definitely a bias or hesitation, when it comes to signing female actors for films."

For the time being this Bangalore-based actor is satisfied with her work.

The hectic shooting schedules are very demanding, she has to travel back and forth from Kochi to Thiruvananthapuram but Lena is not complaining.

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