Away from the arc lights
Yesteryear actor Rajashri who was recently honoured with the MGR Award for 2004, looks back at her life and career.
PICTURE OF CONTENTMENT: Rajashri.
The other heroine of `Kadhalikka Naeramillai' has also done it this year erstwhile actor Rajashri was chosen for the MGR Award for 2004 recently. (Kanchana, also a heroine of `Kadhalikka ... ' was presented the MGR award for 2003) You catch up with her a couple of days before the awards ceremony. "The honour comes as a total surprise! It's more than 25 years since I quit the arc lights that I'm nervous about going on stage to collect the award." Rajashri's words are punctuated with a self-conscious laugh. The last time she donned make up as an actor, was in 1977.
Age has not withered Rajashri as much as you would have thought. "Don't expect me to believe that! A couple of years ago the entire cast of `Kadhalikka Naeramillai' met at director Sridhar's place. Filmmaker Baghyaraj was also there. He didn't seem to notice me at all. Instead he asked others why I hadn't turned up. When they pointed out to me, you should have seen his expression! It's not easy for people to recognise me now," she laughs.
But for an actor who has had many hits with the likes of MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan to just call it quits one fine morning and go into hibernation, couldn't have been easy. "My husband was a highly educated man and a senior politician. All he asked for was that I should forget acting. I felt I should respect his wish. I left when offers were still pouring in," she recalls. Her last film was in Kannada. In Tamil it was MGR's `Naalai Namadhae.'
Rajashri's only son is in the U. S. "I called him up and told him about the award. He was happy too. `Send me the picture ma,' he said." The cheerful tintinnabulation in her voice is still intact.
Keeping up promise
From the immortal `Kadhalikka Naeramillai,' which gave a beautiful beginning to her career.
Rajashri's husband passed away suddenly when her child was just four. Yet the actor has kept up her promise to him to this day! "Many ask me why I can't do television now? But I'm reluctant," she says. However, she has not severed ties with the film world. "I still have many friends from the industry. Saroja Devi calls up whenever she's in town. Recently Saradha, Vanisri, Jayapradha, Sachu, Padmini, Rajasulochana and I met over lunch. In fact it was Sachu who first called me up and told me about the award," she says. Rajashri spends her time in meditation and being a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba, you can often spot her at Sundaram, their Chennai centre.
It was the Tamil comic classic, `Kadhallikka Naeramillai,' that catapulted Rajashri to fame. "When I got a call from such a big banner as Chitralaya asking me to be present at the studio the next morning, I couldn't believe my ears. Many artistes had been considered for the role, I had heard. The song, `Anubhavam Pudhumai,' was the sequence that was shot first. They liked it and I did the film," she recalls.
Rajashri went on to play the same role in Telugu with Nageswara Rao and in Hindi with Shashi Kapoor she was the only one to repeat the role in the remakes. Acting in `Bhama Vijayam' and also later in `Anubhavi Raja Anubhavi,' under the stewardship of K. Balachander was a great experience for her. "I remember Nagesh pulling my leg often shouting out `Dhigilazhagi' whenever I was on the sets," she laughs. (In `Bhama Vijayam,' a thief refers to her by the name.)
Getting back to the subject of awards she says: "I've done three films with the CM (She's great!), and I've also acted with her mother Sandhya as her daughter."
Beginning as a child artiste in `Naga Devadhai,' Rajashri went on to do scores of films in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi and Kannada. But today she is a picture of contentment, leading a relaxed life and taking care of her old sister.
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