Brewing the perfect shot – Shwetha Menon is glad to reprise the role of Maya in Black Coffee, a spinoff of her state award-winning film Salt and Pepper.
In an industry notorious for its paucity of roles for female actors in their late 30s, Shwetha Menon broke the glass ceiling with a plethora of roles that saw her play a wife, mother, sister, seductress and even an older woman romancing a younger man. Not content with playing a strong woman on screen, she proved that she was equally bold off screen; not shying away from expressing her frank opinions on various issues or taking politicians to task for their misbehaviour. Her turn as a TV host has many an audience member experiencing her warm hugs and some even requesting those warm embraces, naughtily claiming that they had participated in those shows just for her hugs. With her trademark booming laugh, Shwetha was always quick to oblige. She was recently seen in Guinness Pakru’s Fancy Dress where she played a housewife.
An actor who has acted in several Bollywood films before changing tracks to Mollywood, Shwetha talks of the lingering influence of the roles women actors played in the 80’s and 90’s, “Woman actors were given fantastic roles that were on par with men. Even if the female actors played quiet characters, their roles were power-packed; audience came out of theatres remembering those characters. I have been greatly influenced by those kinds of roles and I felt my role in Fancy Dress was one such.”
A return to the Salt n’ Pepper days
The hit Mollywood film Salt N’ Pepper released in 2011 saw Shweta come up with a sterling performance as a dubbing artiste and foodie. She went on to win her second Kerala State Film Award for Best Actress for her role in this film. Now that the spinoff of the film, Black Coffee, has been announced by actor Baburaj, there is nobody happier than Shweta about reprising her role in the spinoff too. She gushes, “In Salt N’ Pepper, Lal and I do not meet till the last scene. We shot our scenes separately and Black Coffee takes off from Maya and Kalidasan’s marriage and their relationship from there on.” She states that it will be great getting together with that team, “I basically like working in such atmospheres where I get pampered a lot and these people pamper me a lot.”
Winds of change
Shweta is very appreciative of the recent changes happening in Mollywood with regard to the script, characters and technicians. Leaving aside the traditional hero-heroine concept, Mollywood is more invested in strong characters, immaterial of screen time. She says, “When I hear a story, I look at how much my character will contribute or attribute to the film. I do not want to do blink-and-miss roles anymore. After a while, a role is more than the screen space – it is about satisfaction, team, co-stars and director. There are such amazing newcomers on the scene who are so confident about their projects. They know exactly what they want and do their homework beforehand,” she takes a moment and states, “Mollywood is evolving beautifully.”
The frank Shweta is on show when she opines, “I don’t know how many decades it is going to take for this to change!” She goes back in time to her days during her debut film Anaswaram, “There were so many supporting actors who still remain that even now. Economy has gone ahead, life has evolved but some things still remain unchanged!”
Role in A.M.M.A.
There is no coyness to her when she talks of her responsibility or the seriousness with which she sees her role as an executive committee member of A.M.M.A. “When we took over, we had lot of issues to deal with. I just felt that it was not right to throw issues at one person and expect changes overnight! Change is inevitable and has to happen and one which we all need.” She staunchly says that as an artiste and a woman actor, she has been outspoken about her likes, dislikes and wants from day one. Shweta recalls a memorable moment during the recent general body meeting, “What I felt was the most beautiful step, though a baby step was that women came out and spoke especially artistes playing character roles.”
She explains in simpler terms, “As a lead actor we get certain privileges, but for a character artiste to come forward and speak about their experience is a huge deal! Women have to come out and talk. We have to fight for ourselves. Organisations may be there but they have their limits.” She says that age-old laws are slowly being rewritten across the country. A.M.M.A., she adds, is a 25-year-old organisation and that members are walking the path to change. She informs that there were also a lot of positive aspects she saw in the charitable organisation and names one, “There are these yesteryear actors who look forward to these meetings and fly from wherever they are to meet their old friends and revisit nostalgia. There is so much energy in them!”
While Shweta is serious about her film career, there is no compromise when it comes to family. In the midst of this interview, her young daughter Sabaina interrupted her demanding that she be fed lunch. The very doting mother immediately gave her full attention to her daughter and excused herself informing that she would talk later. Shweta called back as promised and states, “I am not actively involved in social media because it takes away from my family time. Me time is as important as my work and I try to balance both!”
With a booming laugh she quips, “I don’t want to talk about my upcoming projects till I need to say something definitive.”
A woman who lives life on her terms and enjoys it to its zenith, be it showing her prowess in the Bottle Cap challenge or the Blindfold challenge, she believes in remaining positive and seeing the positive in others.