If you have been a Padmarajan fan, it would be sacrilegious to forget Queen Mary. She was a constant fixture in Padmarajan’s ode to eternal romance, 'Namukku Parkaan Munthirithoppukal'. She was the companion of Solomon’s mother and a silent witness to the Solomon-Sophie romance. Who can forget Solomon’s affectionate drawl when he calls his ‘Queen Mary’ But Annie Susheel who played Queen Mary disappeared from the silver screen soon after the film. Annie kept thinking of writing a note about her favourite filmmaker during his birth anniversary but somehow it never happened. She kept thinking that maybe the time wasn’t right for that. Finally, on his 31st birth anniversary, she decided to break her silence. Padmarajan discovered her on a basketball court. She reminisces about the experience of working in 'Namukku Parkaan Munthirithoppukal'.
Everything started with a speech
At our Kozhikode Providence College, which is run by a Christian institution, KSU was always a clear election winner. But once through individual votes at College Union election, Ebby Varghese was elected Chairman and I became the Arts Club secretary. A lot of responsibilities were on the arts club secretary. We managed to get hold of writer and director Padmarajan as the Chief Guest and I had the task of introducing him to the audience.
I had done thorough research on his biography and made an impressive speech. I think he also liked it. When he left after the prize distribution ceremony, he gave me a film offer. I was to act as a basketball player in his next film along with the other players. That was my first appearance in Parannu Parannu Parannu that headlined Rahman, Rohini, and Sukumari.
Though I acted in that film, I was ignorant about the technical aspects of a film. I remember saying some dialogues to Nedumudi Venu and Sukumari and assuming that I had given my best performance for that film. On the day of the release, I went with my hostel mates and matron to watch the film. I wanted them to watch my “amazing acting.” But I realised that none of my scenes were there. All I could see were my long shots, playing basketball along with the team, running, jumping, and exercising in groups. When I myself found it difficult to spot me on screen, how can I expect others to find me? I was really embarrassed.
When I called Pappettan he informed me that due to the long duration most of the scenes were hacked at the editing table. And most of my fine acting moments also got edited out in the process. It was very disappointing. But I told myself that I was able to act in a film despite not graduating from any film institute. Not just that Padmarajan had already kept a character who was mature than my age for his next film. Though it wasn’t easy to keep both basketball and studies together, I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to be part of a Padmarajan-Mohanlal film. I had to face a lot of opposition for taking up this role. But eventually, my hard work paid off as the role was instantly noticed.
Hilarious shooting tales
The shooting was near a house at Mysore Palace. It had a huge compound. The hero and heroine lived in opposite homes. The location was a beauty.
I played this homebody, a distant relative of Reethamma, played by Kaviyoor Ponnamma and Solomon’s cousin. Solomon does mention to Vineeth that she is a widow and her husband died long back in Kuwait. I do all the work in that house along with pigeon rearing and gardening.
She also finds out about Solomon’s and Vineeth’s love interests. She also plays the peace facilitator to Solomon and his mother’s occasional tussles. This was what Pappettan briefed me about my role. I still remember what Pappettan told Renji Panicker in an interview—“Annie acts well. She is a natural.” That was like winning the Oscar for me.
This was a role that required a mature performance. And I was skeptical whether I would be able to pull it off. This was soon after I got admissions for BA in college. There was also the matter of basketball practice. The shooting was in progress. Some of the respected directors of today like K Madhu, Blessy, and Unnithan were his associates. The cinematography was by Venu. Actor Indrans was doing the costumes. Then I was tall and thin.
But my character required a more heavyset figure. They also figured out a solution for that by fixing me padded buttocks. It was the duty of the costume chap to fit me those buttocks each time. There was no other makeup or else. They took a scene featuring Ponnamma chechi, Lal, Vineeth and me that day. Unfortunately, they forgot to fit my extra buttocks. Pappettan discovered this before the scene shoot. He asked Indrans loudly with a laugh—“Where are Mary’s bums?” This was enough for those behind and in front of the camera to look at me from head to toe. It was really an embarrassing moment for me. The whole set erupted into laughter seeing Indrans running amok to find my padded buttocks. After that, there were enough people on the sets to remind me about this.
Another day shooting was at Mysore St Philomena’s church. A lot of Malayalee students had come to watch the shoot. In that scene, there was Shari and family, Ponnamma chechi, Vineeth, and me. When they all asked for Shari’s autograph it was quite thrilling and a bit embarrassing when they also asked for my autograph. But I did that willingly. The next shoot was at Bangalore’s vineyards. Though I didn’t have any scenes there, just to see the vineyards I asked Pappettan’s permission to visit the location. My mouth watered at the sight of juicy purple grapes waiting to be plucked. During my return, I had two baskets of grapes in my car.
I was shocked to hear about my dearest Pappettan’s untimely death. I found it hard to believe. Even to this day, I don’t like to remember that fateful day. It was a personal loss for me. If he was there, I would have acted in his films. It was his death and the realization that the cinema field is not for me that made me discontinue my acting career. His death is an irreplaceable loss to Malayalam literature and cinema, and I take this opportunity to offer red roses in his memory. I feel proud to have associated with him in two films.
The thin tall girl in Namukku Parkaan Munthirithoppukal later became Air Deccan’s Airport Manager. She got married to Sushil Thomas and has a son, Rohan. They are settled in Thiruvananthapuram. The director of the family-run enterprise, Shelter Engineers and Contractors, Annie Sushil is also an independent journalist.