‘It’s great directors consider me a thinking actor’ : Mamta Mohandas
Mamta Mohandas ‘ comeback movie last year, Two Countries, struck gold at the box office. The past year also had her championing the fight against cancer, running marathons, travelling across countries and enjoying a different side of life that she didn’t have while she was completely immersed in her acting career. While any other actress would be in a hurry to make hay while the sun is shining, Mamta tells us that movies do not figure in the top of her priority list right now.
In a candid chat, the actress, who has just wrapped up her portions in Mammootty’s Thoppil Joppan, talks to us about how her steely personality has an influence on the characters she is offered and her career goals…
After Varsham, you are acting again with Mammootty in Thoppil Joppan…
I believe this movie will turn out to be really good. It’s not a full-length role but my character is fun and effective in the script. I play a med school student who is bubbly, very much in contrast with Mammukka’s role in the film. Her character brings in a lot of light in his life. It’s an out-and-out comedy.
Your last movie Two Countries was also a comedy. Is that what you are looking for these days?
When I watched Two Countries, it’s the difference between the characters of Dileep and I that made it seem like a comedy. If you look at my character, she had issues of her own; she’s an alcoholic and had problems while she was growing up. She wasn’t trying to be funny. She was just being herself. For me, it was a performance-oriented role. If I was drunk, how would I be? So I had my thinking cap on for the role. There were a lot of people who were in awe of how I played the character. But my character in Thoppil Joppan is more dramatic.
You are in your in 30s right now, so has the roles coming to you changed?
Frankly, I don’t know if the roles have been changing. If I look back, Passenger in 2008 had me as a journalist who represented the modern aggressive woman. I was offered to play the role of a mother even then. I think it’s there in my personality where people want to give me a role which has something to say. Subconsciously, I also want to be part of a film that has a message than doing a lover-girl role who sings and dances. I was never too fascinated or moved by such characters. If that was my calling, I might have made those choices very early in my career. In fact, I would have still been part of Tamil and Telugu cinema.
I choose to do different roles. It puts you in a place where directors and storytellers are like Mamta is a thinking actor so we have to give her something that has more value in terms of what she has to be conveying through her roles to the women of today.
Then I go through these major look changes — during my treatment and after recovery. So I find myself playing a mother, then a college girl and later a mom again. I don’t see myself being typecast, so that’s a blessing.
People are more aware of your personality in real life. Do scriptwriters highlight those elements in your characters as well?
They definitely do. For the longest time I used to debate it’s not like that in Hollywood and Bollywood but the more attention I pay to the details in terms of actor’s personalities and the roles they get, it becomes evident.
Once you lay the foundation or create the belief that this is your personality, then those are the kind of roles that come after you. So, if you are thought of as a person who is super easy to work with, they think they can go all over you and that’s the kind of roles that you get – the girl next door or the college girl who is always next to the hero. I think they are better off in the typical big hero films. I might not get the same thing. I don’t take myself too seriously but I think people do. So, when you demand respect or naturally command it, those are the kind of roles that come to you.
Being in Los Angeles, USA, for most part of the year must be blocking you from getting those good characters…
Definitely! In the past two years, I know very well that there are times when people have called me and I haven’t been there. I know some of the roles that other people have gotten here is because of my absence. I am not saying they are not worthy of it. There are many writers who tell me this. And I am pretty convinced that those are films that I would have done otherwise.
Are you planning to bridge that gap somehow?
You can’t bridge that gap. When I was here, I would have taken someone else’s opportunity as well. Glory doesn’t last forever; I am a very strong believer in that. I have got other priorities now and that’s why I have been living in Los Angeles. Also, I got to experience a beautiful aspect of life which once I didn’t have the freedom to explore, especially because I had responsibilities to shoulder. When you are living between Bahrain and India and your extended family is very close, it puts you in a position where you have to be there for everyone else as well, not just for yourself.
From being part of marathons to charity work, clearly your life is not limited to movies right now…
I think partially the reason for that is I am not trying to bridge any gap. The time I am staying away from India and films is honestly helping me take up other commitments more passionately. I couldn’t do that while I was living here and doing films. Some of my commitments then were quite headless; my mind wasn’t even fully present. Being away from here helped me get a perspective on what I should be doing. Be it running a marathon or being an advocate for cancer awareness, I do each of them with passion because I am away from this environment which can be over consuming at times. I have had a lot of actors, who live and are active here, telling me that ‘Mamta, I am so jealous of the way you live your life’. I tell them it wasn’t easy. I believe everybody can do it. But it’s all a matter of choice.
So what next in terms of your acting career?
My National Award is still waiting, so that is my career goal. I don’t want to hit Hollywood because it’s going to be a different focus altogether and I need to have that kind of energy. I am at such a happy place right now. I don’t want to push myself too much and think about money, opportunity and lose myself.
Recently, a couple of your glam pics from an award show drew flak from the netizens for being too daring. Does that even bother you a little?
Not at all. It’s so petty when something like this comes up. I bought the dress from L.A and people were like “she’s wearing something that beats even Hollywood”. I am coming from a different place right now. Nothing seems to be affecting me; it’s such an open world. Some of our people are the sorts who are publically dumb and privately smart. It genuinely doesn’t bother me. Please, I am going to wear that and more!