The new age viewers of Malayalam cinema may not be familiar with the name Beena; but they cannot forget the character Bhavani from the super hit comedy entertainer Kalyana Raman. Actress Beena Joseph drew applauses in the theater as the house help who rejects Pyari’s (played by Salim Kumar) romantic advances in the Dileep-starrer.
Beena, who is known by her screen name Beena Kumbalangi began her career as a leading lady. But she soon got sidelined into minor roles. She played the role of Damayanti in Kallan Pavithran which is touted as one of the cult classic movies in Malayalam. She was just an 18 year old when she performed alongside seasoned veterans like Nedumudi Venu, Bharat Gopi and Subashini.
This year, on November 16, Beena would turn 60 and has been in the industry for more than 4 decades. However, this talented actress never received the laurels or the opportunities that she deserved. She was cast in minor roles and had even taken a sabbatical for some years. Though she managed to land a few noted characters in her second outing, it too vanished soon. Life wasn’t too compassionate to Beena. Now, a new house is being built in Kumabalangi with financial aid from AMMA. However, the construction has been stalled due to the pandemic and the lockdown. She currently stays with her siblings. Her husband died and the couple had been childless. Beena says Rs 5000 that she gets from AMMA is her only income now. Beena opened up about her career and also about the struggles in life.
“I hail from Kumbalangi. I became lonely after my husband passed away. I have been living in rented houses at various places for 25 years. Even now, my dream of having a house of my own isn’t fulfilled. Illness and other difficulties too bother me. How long can you live by depending on others? I don’t know whether to live or die,” says Beena.
Beena’s husband Sabu died when he fell from the upper floor of their rented house. He was paralyzed below the waist when he was infected with severe chicken pox in 2004. He was suffering from memory loss and other diseases as well. One morning he had followed a cat to the upper floor to feed it. However, Sabu slipped and fell down which resulted in his death.
Big screen heroine
Randu Mugangal is actually Beena’s first movie. She then essayed a small role in Mamankam. It was only after these movies that she acted in Kallan Pavithran. But, she didn’t get lead roles after it. “I wasn’t aware much about the movies during those days. I did all the roles that came my way. I didn’t know how to choose movies or ask about my role. I soon got sidelined to minor roles. I was bored of all these after some time. That is why I decided to take a sabbatical of 13 years. Meanwhile, I got married. I came back into the movies through Sharjah to Sharjah and then acted in movies like Kalyana Raman, Pulival Kalyanam, Chathikatha Chandu, Sadanandante Samayam and Chronic Bachelor. I did two television serials as well. In Sadanandante Samayam, I played a character called Vedikettu Janu. I mostly got such characters during then. But, my offers dwindled after Chathikatha Chandu. I haven’t acted in a movie for more than a decade now. It’s almost like I am out of the field. I cannot remember how many movies I had done. I may have done more than one hundred films,” Beena tries to recall her past days.
N Govindan Kutty, the guru
Beena loved dancing as a kid and took part in the art festivals at her school and church. She was offered the role in Randu Mugangal through N Govindan Kutty, the noted actor who was also her uncle’s close friend. She played actress Dhanuja’s daughter in the movie. Though she was cast in the lead role in Jeassy's movie, Ambika replaced her in the last moment. Legendary director Padmarajan offered Beena the role in Kallan Pavithran seeing the photographs that were taken for Jeassy's movie. Beena recalls that mundu and blouse was her costume in Kallan Pavithran. However, she was cast only in roles which required her to wear the same costume, after that.
Beena says many used to call her promising good roles, but she would realize that her character was insignificant only after she began acting.
Beena was 36 years old when she married Sabu. The couple courted for sometime before tying the knot. It was at Kozhikode that they met each other. Soon, their friendship bloomed into love. “I decided to get married when I thought that I needed a companion. It was my husband who encouraged me to come back to the movies. I had no idea where to turn to after Sabu died. I struggled a lot as I didn’t have any money. I couldn’t even pay the rent.
It was then that Edavela Babu came to know about my condition. They weren’t aware that I was struggling so hard. I didn’t tell them either. Babu came to see me when he knew about my husband’s death. After seeing my condition, he asked me to choose a location and promised to build a house for me there. Now, I don’t go hungry as I receive monetary aid from AMMA. However, it isn’t enough for the medicines. I could live better, without depending on anyone else, if I had opportunities in movies. That is my only prayer,” concludes Beena.