In Conversation with the Brilliant Shwetha Menon – 2020
About Shwetha Menon –
Shwetha Menon is a model, actress and television anchor though not in that order! She was born in Chandigarh to Malayali parents, where her father (in the Indian Air Force) was stationed at that time.
She competed in the Miss India contest in 1994 and finished third runner-up behind Sushmita Sen, Aishwarya Rai and Fransesca Hart. She became the first Gladrags female super model in 1994 and then, Miss Asia Pacific semi-finalist in 1994.
Though her predominant work is in Malayalam and some Tamil movies, ShwethaMenon has notable contributions in Bollywood movies including Asoka (2001), Maqbool (2003) and Corporate (2006).
Her many awards include –
Kerala State Film Award
2009 – Best Actress – Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathirakolapathakathinte Katha
2011 – Best Actress – Salt N’ Pepper
Filmfare Awards South
2009 – Best Actress – Malayalam – Paleri Manikyam: Oru Pathirakolapathakathinte Katha
South Indian International Movie Awards
2012 – SIIMA Award for Actress – Special Appreciation – Rathinirvedam
2013 – SIIMA Award for Best Supporting Actress – Ozhimuri
No wonder she is one of the highest paid celebrities in Malayalam cinema!
Now after that introduction to Shwetha Menon, here goes my conversation with her….
Me – Hi Shwetha, thank you so much for sparing the time to speak with me. So, what’s keeping you busy during these lockdown days?
Shwetha Menon –Hi, Aniruddha, how are you? I hope you and your family are safe and sound.
The lockdown seemed like a boon in the beginning, an opportunity to spend time with the family, try new things, especially to cook new things for the family, and all in all – enjoy a long-awaited break. But only so till the April end. From May onwards, there was some confusion as uneasiness and restlessness started creeping in.
Everything, including the food, the lifestyle, all turned simple and normal. The questions – that were haunting – included – how long and how far? Now, in June, I am quite a carte blanche, but feel more hopeful as parts of the country start wriggling out of the lockdown and the general mood turning not so somber.
Me – Very true, we were all feeling confused…. Thanks for asking Shwetha, they are fine….
Well, if you hadn’t been an actor, what would you be?
Shwetha Menon –My father always wanted me to serve humanity as a doctor or as a scientist. My dream was always to be a pilot. As they say, “Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit”
Me – Alright, which is your most favorite character/role on the silver screen (Bollywood/Hollywood)? If you were to play it, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Shwetha Menon –My favourite all-time actress is Meryl Streep, much like anyone else’s. I have followed her work throughout the last few decades. One of her recent movies, August: Osage County (in which she co-stars with Julia Roberts) depicts a strong-willed and disputatious woman, Violet, who is a drug addict as well as oral cancer patient.
I admire her performance for the complexity of emotions that often engulfs the character; torn between her love and empathy for children and her disdain and derision for her husband’s unchaste ways. On her own, she is a victim of both the life and the lack of it.
Now, if I were to play it (good god!), I would have added few glimpses of the love life or few pages from the life of Violet as an inveigling and luscious woman who would have loved the life before things turned quite a déjà vu.
In recent times, The Sinner on Netflix has a character, played by Jessica Biel; a young mother -who is trying to lead a new phase of life – forced to recall the worst incident in her life as fait accompli. I would love to play the role as it is without much addition to it.
Me – Wow! Both Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts are amongst my favourite actors too!! Now, who’s your favorite author and book? Why?
Shwetha Menon – My favourite author is Joseph Campbell, especially for his work, The Power of Myth which has influenced me tremendously and left a huge impression. It has certainly made me more broad minded and lenient at a time when religious tension is rising.His oft-repeated phrase, “Follow your bliss” is something that fundamentally touches our innate desires or goals in life. It’s a must read, let me assure you that.
Me – Great! Joseph Campbell goes on my wishlist!! What is your personal favorite performance of yourself?
Shwetha Menon – I would rate Cheeru in the Malayalam movie, Paaleri Manikkam in 2010-11 and Kali Amma in Ozhimuri(2013) as my best performances so far.
Me – Great choices! Award winning too!! Now, in life, what makes you smile and what scares you the most?
Shwetha Menon –I am an easy-going person and find fun and an element of happiness in everyday moments. I am compulsorily or compulsively happy, you may say.
My biggest fear is the loss of my loved ones. I can’t imagine a moment in life, without them.
Me – Yeah, that’s true for most of us…. Now, can you tell me one humorous story from your acting career?
Shwetha Menon –The hilarious moment was when I could not recognize Subhash Ghai during a party. The great man introduced himself to me as an assistant to a big director to the roaring laughter of my friends. Still, I believed him!
Me – Ha Ha, that must have been a real face-palm moment!! Now the next one, is there a role you have not played but would like to someday?
Shwetha Menon – Many of them are there. I think action roles are exciting and I want to play few of them. Then comes the role of an Erin Brockovich or a Miranda Priestly. Many roles played by Viola Davis are an inspiration. I was very tempted by a role by Elsa Pataky in Tidelands on Netflix.
Me – Yeah, Elsa Pataky become more well known, commercially, after her appearances in the Fast & Furious series. Now a curveball! If you ever got stranded on a remote island, and you could choose 5 items to have with you, which ones would they be?
Shwetha Menon –Hmm, Aniruddha, this is the toughest one so far. Are you drawing parallel between the lockdown and the stranding? Well, I would love to have a book, a coffee set, sunblock, a camping kit and a mobile phone.
Me – Sensible! Well, which of your roles was the most challenging for you to capture?
Shwetha Menon –I think my role as Kali Pillai in Ozhimuri was very challenging for a convincing depiction of a sultry young woman on the one hand and an equally fiery matriarch in the latter part of the movie. I was at least six months pregnant when the shooting began for the older age scenes. Even the death of the character, falling by way side, was tough to enact due to the high hormonal reactions within me.
Me – Yes, that must have been stressful… Now the last one! After the lockdown ends, which film/serial will we see you next in?
Shwetha Menon –I have few on-going shoots (partly done before the lockdown) and few proposals which were discussed during April and May. I have two movies, probably to be released immediately after the lockdown.
Me – That wraps it up Shwetha, thank you so much for your time and it was such a pleasure having this conversation with you! All the best for your future endeavors and stay safe!!
So that was my conversation with Shwetha Menon, thanks for reading!
*Keep watching this blog for more such interesting conversations!
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