Annie charmed her way into the Malayali audience’s hearts through her cute performance in the movie Ammayane Sathyam directed by legendary film maker Balachandra Menon. In her very short career of three years, Annie did a hand full of memorable roles that had created a mark in the Malayalam cinema.
After a hiatus, Annie returned to the mini screen, but in a new avatar. She shined as a cooking expert and a television anchor. Not just applauds and laurels but Annie was subjected to some brutal online trolling as well.
In a candid chat, Annie opens about her personal life, career and her love for food.
Which name do you prefer the most – Annie or Chitra?
I like being addressed as Mrs. Shaji Kailas. That is because I absolutely love to be known as his wife.
How is director Shaji Kailas at home?
He is an amazing family man. He tries to keep away tension when he comes home. He often narrates to me the stories of the movies that he plans to do. I would express my opinions and criticisms as well. Discussions about movies never happen in our house beyond that. But, he makes sure to ask the kids’ opinions after they have grown up.
Do you remember the first time both of you went to the cinemas together?
Hindi movie Khamoshi starring Salman Khan and Manisha Koirala was the first movie that we watched together in a theater. After that, we haven’t really been able to go for movies due to busy schedules. Shaji would take me for the preview shows of most movies. After our kids grew up, we try to catch the first show of the movies in the theater. During the lockdown, we watch movies mostly in Netflix and Amazon.
What are your favorite books?
Balarama and Kalikudukka (children’s magazines) are the two books that I really enjoy reading. I feel very relaxed reading those books. Shaji’s mother reads the newspaper everyday and narrates the news to me. Both of us have become used to this practice now. Shaji too would read newspaper for me as he knows that I am too lazy to read. I am someone who likes to live without any tension or stress.
What do think about your character Sruthi in Mazhayethum Munbe?
Even after all these years, the audience love watching me as Sruthi. I am really happy about it. In fact, Sruthi is one of my favorite roles. I haven’t actually acted in that movie. I am Sruthi. I am not joking; my own character too is similar to hers.
Director Kamal never even once scolded me on the sets of that movie. He would explain and enact each scene amazingly. Besides, I had too much freedom on those sets. That is why I could essay that role perfectly. Moreover, God’s blessings too had been with me.
What about the role of a ‘boy’ in the movie Ammayane Sathyam?
I truly believe in the blessing or benediction of God and the director as well. After I realized the depth of that role, I observed boys to learn a few mannerisms. It was Balachandra Menon who brought out the true artist in Annie.
Didn’t you run a catering unit called the Big Oven?
I ventured into catering as I have always been interested in cooking. I started Big Oven with my sister-in-law. However, we had to pull the shutters as we got busy with our kids’ studies and other things. We arranged a samosa joint for our son when he returned after completing his studies. After this became a huge success, we started the restaurant Rings by Annie.
How do you spend time during the lockdown days?
A woman used to come to our house to help me in the kitchen. However, she is unable to come now due to the lockdown. So, I and Shaji do the kitchen work together. He never forced anything on me saying that I am supposed to do that. He has always supported me. Even if he is angry, he would limit it to a call of ‘Chitra’.
You started a Youtube channel called Annie’s Home Kitchen during the lockdown days?
The idea to start a Youtube channel struck me when I wanted to do something to be active during the lockdown days. Shaji then told that he would do it. I stood behind him, giving instructions, when he cooked all those dishes. It was an amazing experience. We don’t see each other as celebrities. So, I could say that I have married the man of my dreams. It would remain like this until my death. My confidence is in knowing that it is the same for him as well. I do not expect anything back from my children. Shaji Kailas is the only person upon whom I always place my trust.
Do you miss Annie’s Kitchen? Your Kottayam slang was quite popular?
Annie’s Kitchen gave me the opportunity to be with my audience for an hour. While interviewing the guests for the program, I always think and wish that I should pass on lots of knowledge and information to the people through them. My family is based in Kottayam. But Thiruvananthapuram is where I studied and is now residing as well. In Annie’s Kitchen I speak naturally. What you see in the program is who I am.
What do you feel when you are trolled for a few episodes that aired on Annie’s Kitchen?
God had allowed me to be in the limelight for only three years. And I really enjoyed those times. During those days, I had learned from my gurus that only legends can perform without any makeup on. In my limited knowledge, I assume that legendary actors do that because they are confident about performing a character with perfection. I was surprised when I learned that the new generation of actors too performs without putting on any makeup.
The common people have always believed that artists appear in public with makeup just as we see them on the screen. In that program, I have tried to change misconceptions like these and also share the information that there are new artists in our industry who act without any makeup. I haven’t pointed my fingers at anyone in that program. As an ordinary woman, it pains me, seeing trolls like these that are created without watching the entire episode. But, I try to take everything positively.
I have no ill feelings towards the person who made that troll. Isn’t it a good thing if a person can find fame because of me? But whatever I told as a casual conversation was twisted and presented in a different light. I have nothing more to say about this matter.
Another video in which you discusses about family too have become viral...
I grew up in a joint family. From childhood onwards, I have noticed how the mothers in the family work hard to keep it one. My mother had taught me that a woman’s place should be a tad bit below her husband. I follow that philosophy.
I have no regrets doing that. However, I am extremely happy that today’s women are self-sufficient and stand on their own. Let them live their lives like that. Shaji always says that whenever we do or say something, there would be a group that gifts us bouquets and another that pelt stones. We should receive the bouquets and forget the rest.
Can you talk about the episode in which actress Kalpana was a guest?
Kalpana was like my own elder sister. I laughed a lot in that episode. No other guest had made me laugh so much. She had supported me ever since the time I came into the movies. We did three movies together. Just like Urvashi, Kalpana saw me too as a younger sister.
Would you get upset if Shaji Kailas scolds you for anything?
I won’t be upset if he scolds me or tries to correct me if I am wrong, because I have no qualms in accepting my mistakes. He may have pointed it out because he wants me to improve. He does that because he loves me a lot. Maybe another person cannot point out my mistakes to me. When he does that, my love for him only increases. Small chidings happen only when there is love. It is important to take everything positively. I was raised like this and have seen it in my family too. I am an ordinary Malayali homemaker.
Don’t you want to be active on the social media?
I have no accounts in social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. I am not interested in becoming a part of a different world through the social media. I really enjoy spending time with my children. Shaji always says that one should be updated in life. I am led by the knowledge that I earn through him; and I am sure that it won’t be bad. I blindly trust him. I am not saying it as a decorative statement. The saying that family is where harmony prevails is absolutely true in our case.
What do you have to say to the audience?
My audience is mostly mothers. In their minds, I am like their daughter. I believe that their blessings and prayers are always with me. I would be happy as long as it stays like that. I have no complaints. I am not someone who speaks one thing with something else in mind. I like speaking openly. That is why I can sleep with peace at night. I am even ready to correct myself or change if I am wrong. I wouldn’t have peace of mind if I am not open. I deem my life as a valuable glass without allowing it to break. I wish and believe that everyone’s prayers and blessings are with us.