The doctor who preferred the arc lights
For a doctor who wanted to specialise in her field, facing the camera in different roles has now become a passion. Meet the doctor-turned-actress and TV anchor...
IN MY school days we were drilled in English exercises on "expansion". Our favourite topic then was 'Man proposes, God disposes'. Now I can think of no better example for this than Dr. Sharmila, the big artiste of the small screen. Daughter of Kothandaraman, who had a pharmaceutical concern, Dr. Sharmila was a class-topper in C.S.I school, basically whom you could dub an all-rounder. A voracious reader (even now we found her pouring over the book "On the street where you live" by Mary Higgins Clarke) she is found reading even in between shooting spells.
Does this statement "Man proposes, god disposes" ring loud and clear in your life? "Of course", she replies emphatically. Fluent and a good conversationalist, she enlightened me on how she proposed to be a medical person and completed her M.B.B.S. but God disposed or ordained that she be an artiste. "After completing M.B.B.S. I was keen on specialising in general surgery or psychiatry, but God saw to it that I was offered interesting assignments from big banners, difficult roles, out of the way roles endlessly and hence there was no time even to look up" says Sharmila and "I plunged full swing into acting and hope to continue till the going is good".
Even as I am seated in her presence, she answers calls for `Nurse Nandini'. The immense popularity of this role has made her a household name, especially with women and children. Did the fact that you are a doctor help you in playing the nurse realistically? "Not really" she admits "but being a medical person was very helpful on another occasion. On the sets of Ajit's starrer `Citizen' the hoardings of the village deity fell off onto the carpenter's head. He was grievously injured. This was near Pulicat Lake in a remote place called Palaverkaadu. The victim was rushed to where I was seated. After the initial medical treatment, we rushed him to Chennai and the consultants there complimented me on the timely application of my knowledge and skill. It was heartening to know that I was able to help." As to her flair for acting, she avers that her training on stage at school and Bharatanatyam tutelage from 5-15 years under guru Nadana Gopalakrishnan are the contributory factors. Formal training she says, in classical dance improves ones body language immensely and helps one to emote better.
Sharmila looks upon Rabi Bernard as her godfather. Initially it was he who selected her to anchor the quiz shows on JJ TV along with programmes on interviewing celebrities in `Indha Vaaram Ivar'. Having had a good response, she now wanted to delve into science and politics and at this point, the reputed psychiatrist Dr. Mathrubootham, who wanted to conduct sex education discussions on the small screen, selected her for reading the letters from the public, since he felt that it would be better to have a medical student in the team. Dr. Mathrubootham became her friend, philosopher and guide and Sharmila was dubbed "gutsy" and these shows brought her a lot of publicity, so much so that even director K. Balachander took notice of her and offered her plum roles in tele-serials such as `Jannal', `Irandaam Chanaakiyan' etc. She acknowledges Balachander as her mentor and guru who taught her the nuances of acting, and with that, what followed was a spate of offers from the big banners Madras Talkies with the offer of a role in ``Punnagai'', AVM's `Crime Diary' and to date `Nambikkai'.
Would you love to play any particular role? "I have a secret desire to play Nandini's role in `Ponniyin Selvan' she comes out honestly. I would have had immense satisfaction as a practising doctor, but this success though short-lived, is sweet in its own way, she pensively states. She is happily married to A.L.N. Mohan, Creative Director of HMV's `Sa Re Ga Ma'.
The sheer dignity with which she handled the sensitive issues in the programmes with Dr. Mathrubootham was enough proof to her mature stature on TV.
Dr. Sharmila concedes that if you learn to synchronise what you propose to be with what god disposes you to be then, she assures in true Kipling fashion, "that yours is the earth and everything that's in it".
THARA MOHAN RAO
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