Dramatic journey

in conversation

Dramatic journey

When Sudha Belawadi is on screen, she is busy guiding youngsters to rightness with love and chiding, sometimes both in excess. The Kannada TV/film actor is merely being a good mother, something her character has to live up to often.

In Mungaru Male (2006), her character Kamala dissuades the son from breaking a marriage that would have given him and his love interest a happy ending because of her belief that friendship between families is more valuable. Well...

On a summer afternoon, Sudha Belawadi, dressed in a kurta and pants, opens the door to her apartment in south Bengaluru that leads to a chat of much mirth and interesting anecdotes. There is a special guest, too, but not until midway into the conversation.

Among the many wall-displayed photographs in the living room, there is one of Belawadi Nanjundaiah Narayana or Make-Up Nani, her father. He was a renowned, passionate make-up artist and was recognised for his role in the 1973 film Abachurina Post Office, which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada. She recalls him as “a simple and disciplined man, fastidious about cleanliness. And, he teased us that his bathroom was so clean that we could eat there!”

By ‘we’, she refers to her family — mother Bhargavi Narayan, thespian and actor, and her siblings: Sujatha, Prakash and Pradeep. Her mother would always be active, sometimes working from nine to nine, and would warn her children against “criminal waste of time.”

“I was a quiet child in a house full of dramatic activities and visitors. Something or the other was always going on, you know. Script-reading, rehearsals, debates... I think, by the time I got the chance to talk, everyone would have had their say. Perhaps why I remained quiet,” she cackles (a deviation from her composed self so far).

But all her shyness would give way to self-expression when she went on stage. She was cast in a few plays at age five or six since her family was part of a drama troupe. “It’s strange and surprising that never once did I have stage fear. On stage, I felt I was walking the halls of my house. So comfortable a feeling,” she says.

Young influence

Sudha swears she is close to Prakash, the model brother whose guidance and the ability to complete cryptic crosswords in a jiffy seemed magical in her younger days. “He is still the go-to person for my queries, I still look up to him,” she says of the actor, writer and theatre personality.

Also, she met Satya, her husband, through him. “He is Prakash’s old friend. He was like a family member,” she stops there. Well, that surely seems like brevity built on hesitance! She has just articulately narrated her parents’ story in which theatre (a moustache in particular) plays the cupid.

Here is the love story, because who doesn’t like one? “My mother studied in Vijaya College in the 60s, when men and women performed on stage separately. So she played male characters. On one occasion, they needed a make-up artist and my father filled in the role. He offered to draw a moustache or paste a crepe moustache on her face, for better visibility. He also warned her that once it was fixed, it might stay there permanently. My mother said it didn’t matter because all she cared about was the impending play. He was impressed by her gutsy nature. He tried to woo her as a tenant of her house, and a few months later, announced in front of his parents about his wish to marry her. I don’t think my mother ever said yes. Now she wonders how she has four kids!”
A new voice

Enter Samyukta Belawadi, who according to her mother is “very dramatic.” She too is an actor who has the films Oggarane and Lifeu Ishtene! among others to her credit. She emphasises that there is never a dull moment at home because of all the dramatics in play. “Mom and dad make sure boredom is not allowed in the house. When I brood, my brother Shantu (Shantanu) and mom take the chance to imitate me with their acting skills, which becomes a reality check. Mom is a simple, honest (sometimes too honest!) person who enjoys the little things in life.”

What Sudha also enjoys currently is her role as Kala, a chirpy, forgetful character in the serial Shrirasthu Shubhamasthu. Because she “likes the comic streak in her.” It’s slightly different from the ‘mother personalities’ she has essayed so far on screen. Sometimes the repetition of dialogues “leaves me a bit hazy while shooting and I take a moment to realise which serial or film I am part of,” she exclaims about the nature of her work. But they are her decisions. (An Arts graduate, she has held jobs as a copywriter and publicity manager before entering TV and films.) “Very few serials and films give individuality and strength to supporting roles. Otherwise they mostly fade into one another,” she maintains, adding that “she reserves about 15 days a month for shooting.”

Her dream role is to play “an independent, well-rounded character in a powerful position, like a politician.” But she is quite overwhelmed with the reality of her life, especially when “people talk about my performances with passion and love. Many older folks pinch my cheek and repeat dialogues and actions from my films. I find them adorable. Forget money. Forget fame. Sometimes, I want to act just for the love I get from people.”

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