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September 23, 2000


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'I won't act after I get married'

Shobha Warrier

Rambha was excited.

Rambha She was off to Iceland. "I've never been to Iceland or Greenland," she exclaims, her eyes twinkling.

The phone rings incessantly. All her friends and well-wishers in the industry want to wish her a happy journey.

In tight jeans and red T-shirt, Rambha looked every inch a film star.

I had seen her first Malayalam film, Sargam, and I found the transformation from a simple, non-glamorous girl to a sexy siren quite amazing. I was curious. Wanted to probe into the transformation more deeply.

What I found was a refreshingly honest and charming person. Excerpts from my discovery:

How did you, a schoolgirl from Andhra Pradesh get to act in Sargam, an offbeat Malayalam film?

Long story... I was happily studying in a school in Vijayawada until my sister got married and moved away. My brother, too, went to Bangalore for higher studies.

That left me alone and unhappy. Then my aunt in Madras asked me to stay with her -- at least there, my cousins were around for company.

Rambha I had visited Madras earlier during my school vacation and promptly fell in love with Marina beach. There's no beach in Vijayawada, you see. And coming to Madras from a small place like Vijayawada was like going abroad!

So when my aunt invited me, I grabbed it. But convincing my parents was tough -- they wanted me to stay with them. Finally, they relented, and I came to Madras to stay with my aunt.

Those days, I was a chubby, shy, quiet little girl scared of talking to strangers. At school, they all thought I was arrogant. Actually, I wasn't. Just plain shy.

Then, the principal of my school asked me to participate in a programme for the annual function. I had never stepped on a stage till then. I was horrified. But the principal insisted.

My role was to act as Goddess Amman in a play. Imagine that!

It so happened that, after the play, I had to go to the stage to collect a couple of prizes. Though I was to receive only one -- for my handwriting -- I was to collect the prizes of the others in my group. I was the leader, you see. So,

The chief guest noticed and asked me, "So, you got many prizes?"

I replied, "No Sir, I got only one. These are for my group."

And he happened to be the friend of director Hariharan!

A couple of days after that, my principal wanted to meet my brother. He said, "Some filmi people wanted to contact you."

Were you excited to hear the news?

Of course! See, we were not in any way connected with films... films were something we saw in theatres and actors like Chiranjeevi were our heroes!

So all my friends, cousins and I were very excited when this offer came my way.

But strangely, when Hariharan's office contacted me at home, I got scared. How can I be an actress?

Actresses were like angels, I thought! (laughs)

Actresses had to be very beautiful, they had to dance very well, they had to walk gracefully and they were very slim.

But then, my friends said, "Since they invited you, why don't you go to the office? You didn't go after anyone. We want to see our friend as a film star.' I was more scared than excited.

I was in for a disappointment when Hariharan Sir did the makeup test.

Rambha There was absolutely no makeup, just a little lip gloss and a bindi. And I wore a long skirt and a blouse.

When my friends heard this, they were disappointed, too. How could a heroine act without makeup? "No lipstick? No hairdo? No makeup? No jewellery? What kind of a movie is that?" they kept asking me...

I blithely expected a famous hero like Chiranjeevi to act with me in the film!

My excitement was mainly because I thought I would be able to see all the top heroes. When I asked Hariharan's manager who the hero was, he said, "Vineeth."

"Vineeth, who?" I asked.

Can you believe, till then I didn't even know that I was going to act in a Malayalam film?

Were you disappointed when you heard that Vineeth was your hero?

Mmm... no. We went to Kerala to shoot the film. I enjoyed the experience, though I didn't know a single word of Malayalam. Looking back, I don't know how I managed all those emotions. I did whatever Hariharan Sir showed me.

I had a fabulous time at the location fighting with Vineeth and the others. We were all young and new.

And Vineeth would tease me a lot. You know, I was -- still am -- very conscious of my weight. Vineeth would moan, "Aaaah!" whenever he had to lift me...

And you won the Kerala state award for your first film!

(Sighs) I did.

The saddest thing was that I didn't go to receive the award -- I was clueless about what an award was!

Hariharan Sir scolded me later for not going to Trivandrum. What's more, the film had won a national award, for which I had an invitation but I didn't go. What a fool I was! Now, I feel very sad about it.

Didn't you get any award after that?

Noooo...Whenever I see an award function on television, I feel very, very bad.

How did the next offer come?

AVM Productions saw the stills of Sargam, and called me to act in a Telugu movie.

Rambha It was a totally different experience. I got a good, modern dress to wear. I had lipstick, heavy makeup, jewellery, false eyelashes, the works. And I felt...

Like a real heroine?

Exactly! I felt like a heroine for the first time. I had to wear short dresses in the film, but I didn't feel bad at all as I had seen other heroines wearing short dresses in films.

When you first start acting, you don't know when to say 'no' and where to stop.

Slowly, you learns the tricks of the trade. You hear other heroines tell the directors that they will not wear swimsuits, revealing dresses, etc.

So I learnt from experience. Had I been from a film background, I would have had someone to guide me. Luckily, nobody forced me to wear anything.

You said earlier that you didn't learn dancing, and you were scared to dance initially. But now, you're supposed to be a good dancer...

To tell you the truth, I still am not very comfortable doing dance numbers. I feel really scared.

People say I am a good dancer. They haven't seen the number of rehearsals I do!

Actually, the really good dancers are those who dance behind me. Unfortunately, they don't get prominence.

I had the luck -- I got good songs, choreographers -- and I got known as a good dancer, while they are really the excellent dancers.

Do you feel luck played a major role in your success as a top heroine in Telugu and Tamil?

Rambha Definitely. Because when I entered the film industry, I didn't know the A, B, C of acting.

Now, I think I have achieved something.

But let me tell you something. I'm still the same person. I am friendly with everyone -- no airs!

Jagpathi Babu and Prabhu Sir call me Donkey. Do you know why? Because I wear heavy saris and lots of jewellery in my films! Prabhu Sir says only donkeys carry so much weight!

Do you regret having not completed your studies?

Yes, I do. Recently I worked in a Telugu film, about school and college life. Afterwards, I felt like going back to school and college. Alas, I can't now.

How did your school friends treat you after you became a heroine in films?

All my old friends from Vijayawada came to see me when I went to shoot there. When I entered the room, they all stood up. I felt very bad. After all, they were my school friends.

They thought I was a big heroine! They touched me as if I was an alien! I was wearing a salwar-kameez that day.

But then, they said, "Please show us your stomach, yaar. In all your films, you have such a flat stomach. We want to see how it looks!"

And they took me inside a room and made me show my stomach to them! (Laughs)

But you know what? You can never have friends in the film industry.

Why? Is it because of competition?

Could be... Two heroines can never be friends. You are bound to have ego problems, unfortunately!

It's so sad, no?

Yeah, I do have friends, visit them, go for their parties... But when it comes to work, I keep a distance.

I have learnt this from experience. If an actress says she has a very good friend in the film industry, she is a hypocrite! At some or the other point, there's bound to be jealousy, ego...

Even if I am acting with my own sister, I will be competitive. I will do my best. It's up to her to fend for herself and do her best.

What about actors? Do they not feel jealous?

True. In fact, they are more jealous than actresses. They have more ego problems. But they don't show it.

Rambha You're acting in Hindi films, too. Do you want to continue acting in Hindi, or would you like to concentrate on Telugu films alone?

Look, I never dreamt of becoming an actress. When I did, I never thought I would reach the top.

I never expected to be such a hit in Tamil. Ullathe Allithan happened all of a sudden. And I was called a successful heroine here, too. I think I'm lucky to have achieved so much.

If I were not invited to act in Sargam, I would have been working somewhere else. Or I would have got married like my sister... like any other normal girl. So, I didn't plan on anything.

Acting in Hindi films happened by accident.

It is all because of God's grace that I have achieved this much. I am not greedy. When you are going up, you must also remember you will come down one day.

Will you continue acting even after marriage?

No... but you can continue to act till you look good. I won't act after I get married. And it will be an arranged marriage.


Not because I think it is wrong to fall in love. I promised my parents that I will marry the person they choose for me.

Even if I fall in love, I will ask the man to approach my parents. I have seen actresses don't have a good married life. I don't want that to happen to me.

I will not act after marriage. That's for sure.

Why do you think most actresses stop acting once they are married? Acting is like any other profession, isn't it? Other working women don't stop working after they get married...

Do you think your husband will be happy if you continue acting after marriage?

Do you think your children will like to see you hugging another man? Children are more possessive about their mothers than husbands.

Besides, after marriage, heroines get only mother roles!

As I came out of the huge house, two youngsters hanging around near the gate confronted me.

"Is Madam inside?" they asked me.

Not having seen crazy fans before, I said "Yes."

It was only when they said, "But the guard said Madam was not in. We just wanted to see her. He is not letting us. Will you, please?" that I understood the gravity of the situation.

I sheepishly smiled at them, and walked to my car. As I was starting it, I saw that they had followed me.

"Did you see Madam? Did you touch her? What dress was she wearing? Will you take us in?..." the questions were never-ending.

As for me, I fled the place as fast as I could. I had no choice to leave Rambha's admirers brokenhearted...

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