At the age of 21, when she was acting in her first film, a girl named Mamta Mohandas knew nothing about her career or the film industry. I did not try to know more about the film as I did not have much interest in it. But for more than 15 years, Mamta has become an integral part of Malayalam cinema. The actor, who excelled as an actor and singer, has already started his own production company. Mamta’s face is full of confidence as she survives the setbacks and illnesses of her life. Mamta opens her mind to the fact that film and life have changed over the last 15 years
It has been 15 years since Mamta came to cinema. Isn’t such a great career rare for a heroine?
I am very happy to have completed 15 years in cinema. There were a lot of collapses, uncertainties and big crossings during this time. It was a journey that was not at all smooth. Sometimes it seems that many incredible things have happened. Everyone has their own ups and downs. So did I. It is considered a great blessing to have been able to overcome the crisis and get characters for the lead hero more than 15 years ago.
The movie and the characters have changed, how much has Mamta changed?
Mamta is not the 21-year-old who came to the cinema today. Experiences taught a lot of facts. Life has taught me a lot more than film. I have gone through every stage of my life in every depression. I have been in the United States for the past six years. I have never in my country received the Freedom of Thought that that country has given me. It was that country that taught me who I was and what I could achieve. For the past six years I have been able to grow as an individual and live in that country. To put it bluntly, many may evaluate it in different ways. But there is no fulfillment without being open.
Setbacks, illness, and failures in individual life. Did Depression Never Come?
Losses and failures are temporary. That is not the end of life. Then why depression? We must never hide from our failures. When I was first diagnosed with the disease, I did the same in 2009–2010. When we have a setback, we tend to remain silent for the sake of those who love us. We do not have to worry about them.
But actors often try to focus more on their work when such crises occur in life. But I am not. I would abstain completely from such things. Because in life I did not like acting. If someone asks you if you are happy, you can not imagine having to lie. I’m been in a lot of depression. We often find it difficult to cope with our breakdowns. During that time I stayed away from movies. He took breaks because he could not perform well in the film. Such breaks poured a lot of energy into the comeback.
Mammootty, Mohanlal, Jayaram, Suresh Gopi, Dileep, Prithviraj and many more. Didn’t the experiences with them affect Mamta?
It is a great privilege to be able to work with so many great actors. We can worship someone on the screen. But when we see the same person in person, we have a different experience. Sometimes we get the energy we expect from them. Some we like on the screen and others personally. I have a great personal relationship with Mammootty. In person life he is not like you see him on screen. Rajini Sir is just like that. In total, I only spent a few hours with him for the Kuchelan movie. There was a really big song in that movie at first. But for some reason it was cut short.
If I had been looking at political correctness back then I would probably not have been in that movie. I’m the first one out of that set. But I did not. I played my part from there. Only one shot in total was mine in that movie. It was an event that caused me great distress. But my respect for Rajinikanth increased due to some incidents that took place later. The cast of the film ever told him that I was worried. He called me. Mamta I did not know any of this. He told me he was sorry. I do not know what to do with it. So I learned a lot of things like this while working with them.
Feeling you have ‘Run out of gas’ emotionally?
Never. In terms of age, nothing happened to me except that I lost some of my late twenties. But what I got back was bigger gains than that. So I don’t think it’s a loss. The biggest setback I have ever faced in my life has been health. I got a chance in the best movies but could not act in any of them due to ill health. I tried to reassure myself that I had not been judged. But how can that be so peaceful? Not so easy.
Mayukham, the first film, was not a big hit. I have never had anything in my career to say it was a lucky movie. As a result, my growth was very slow. If the years were taken away from me I would have learned many valuable lessons instead. How many people would have such an experience? It was those experiences that drove me forward and motivated me to live now. I firmly believe I would not be anywhere without those experiences.
How to overcome crises?
My surroundings influence me the most. When I come home, I only have a job. That too without breaks. Unable to take leave from work except for unhealthy reasons. I am very free when I go to the US. No work. His surroundings are very positive. There is a difference between the natives and the natives. Sometimes I feel like no one here is being charged at all. It was that country that helped me the most in overcoming adversity. My health deteriorated in 2014 when I was filming Varsham. That’s when I decided to go to the US. But I told him not to come with my parents. Because I wanted to go through that situation alone. It was beyond my comprehension that they cared for me. I do not know what to do.
Don’t we have to thank the disease then?
Yes of course. My growth is very much related to my disease. I never learned anything, even when I was sick twice. But I get a lot of insights when I meet a few people who go to the US and go through the same situation. It was great that I had a good family. Others there came from broken family backgrounds. No parents, no money, nothing. Contact with them changed me a lot.
What about working with many talented directors from Hariharan to Rajamouli?
It is a great privilege to work with them. But there is one thing that comes to my mind when I think of them. I do not know. But the question remains whether I worked with Iowa directors on their best films. I acted in the movie Yamodonga. But not if you ask me if that film is Rajamouli Sir’s best film. Mayukham is not one of Hariharan Sir’s best films. That’s why I always say that my growth was not so easy. I have never had an easy success. I was worried when the first Tamil film Sivapathikaram did not hit. Sivapathikaram is doing after the super hit movie Vishal Sandakozhi. When that film failed, there was talk in the industry that I was an unlucky heroine. I’m responsible for that failure. That’s when I realized that this is the film industry.
I was invited to the film Arundhati before I did Sivapathikaram. But I was afraid to act in Telugu cinema then. I had never seen a Telugu film. I had never even heard that language. My knowledge of cinema was so limited. That is why I have not been able to act in some of the best films of the best directors. I know when Sir Rajamouli says that Arundhati was a big hit. That’s when I realized I had made the biggest mistake of my career. I didn’t even know what I was doing in Carrie’s early days. I didn’t even have the desire to find out who the producer or director who called me was. I was so indifferent.
When Sir Hariharan’s call came, I wanted to see him. Because I went to Carnatic music class only because I was a fan of his film Sargam. I have worked with so many actors and so many directors. But the question remains whether I was able to participate in their excellent work.
Did 15 years of film experience give you the courage to become a producer?
I was able to be a part of it at a time when the film was undergoing a lot of changes. Many revolutionary steps were taken during this period, beginning with the transition from film to digital. I was able to see, understand and get to know the film. He wanted to enter the production industry with a film. But Kovid shattered 19 hopes. That is when the song of Ekalavyan is heard. So I decided to make a musical video with him. That is the video of ‘Lokame’ which was released last day. The film I am making will follow this.