Shelly urges Malayali audience to watch 'Shaitan' before criticising the series

‘Shaitan’ directed by Telugu filmmaker Mahi V Raghav has been released on Hotstar in seven languages, including Malayalam. Photos: Imdb, Video stills: Hotstar

Actor Shelly N Kumar had earned a place in the hearts of Malayali audience with her performances in several super hit television serials. She also won appreciation playing the meek Usha in ‘Minnal Murali’.

The actor who was recently nominated for the Best Actress award at the South Indian International Movie awards for her role in Tamil movie ‘Thangameenkal’, has made her digital debut with the Telugu series ‘Shaitan’. However, the actor’s bold scenes in the series soon became a huge discussion on social media. Shelly says those who criticise her for performing those scenes should watch the entire series before passing any comments. ‘Shaitan’ directed by Telugu filmmaker Mahi V Raghav has been released on Disney+Hotstar in seven languages including Malayalam. Shelly gets candid, to Manorama Online, about her character Savithri, a mother who is willing to kill or die for her children.


It was Mahi C Raghav’s assistant, Ravi who had suggested Shelly’s name to the director for the role of Savithri in ‘Shaitan’. Ravi had watched her in ‘Thangameenkal’ and had loved her performance. Shelly says that Ravi had offered her a role in Mammootty’s Telugu movie ‘Yathra’ which was directed by Mahi. However, she couldn’t take up the role then. Meanwhile, Ravi had wished to cast Shelly in a movie. That is when ‘Minnal Murali’ got released. Ravi, after watching Shelly’s performance in ‘Minnal Murali’ spoke about her to Mahi. The filmmaker too watched the movie before calling her to speak about the web series.

“Mahi sir told me two stages in Savithri’s life would be portrayed; one as her younger version and the other as the older one. I play the mother of grown-up kids. The makers asked me whether I had any qualms in playing such a role. I said that I was alright with that. He then discussed about the sexual content in the series. There were some scenes of forced sex. He added that those scenes couldn't be avoided as they were important for the story. He asked me whether I had any problems acting in those scenes. I enquired whether he believed that I could pull off the role and he answered that he did. I was curious to know how they had planned to shoot those scenes. He replied that he had no idea since it was the first time that he was directing a genre like this. But, he promised me that there would be nothing that would make me uncomfortable. I was interested when I learned about the character. So, I decided to portray this role. It was a great experience working with that team,” says Shelly.

Art as means of communication

“Savithri was constantly in my thoughts immediately after I heard about the character. I was really impressed by the character. However, language was bit of a problem as it is a Telugu original series. I didn’t expect the makers to select me when I attended the audition as my performance wasn’t that good due to the language hurdle. But, they chose me for the role. Interestingly, the actors who played the mother and her three children are not Telugu-speaking actors. The crew had given us the screenplay in English well in advance.

I would often call the associate director to learn about my scenes, almost one month before the shoot began. I memorised the dialogues only after understanding the meaning. So, I was comfortable when the filming began. Besides, my co-actors too were extremely supportive. Art was the common medium for communication between us; there is no language for art. Besides, we were comfortable as all of us knew English. We understood the depth of our characters. Not just me, Malayali actors Manikandan and Lena too had played pivotal roles in this series,” noted Shelly.

Madanappally, the beautiful village

The series was shot at a beautiful countryside called Madanappally at the Karnataka – Andhra border. It took around two weeks to complete the first schedule. Shelly recalls that the entire series wasn’t shot in a single stretch for thirty or forty days. She would shoot for four or five days before taking a break. The filming that began in March 2022 had ended in October.

“Madanappally is a village in the interiors where you couldn’t take the caravans. The production team was worried whether the actors would be comfortable. But, we were ready to adjust. They had arranged a comfortable resting area and a clean toilet for women. They made sure that we had everything we wanted. The production was managed by ‘Three Autumn Leaves’ owned by actor Mahesh Babu. Madanappally is a place that isn’t discovered by the movie people yet. The villagers were really good to us and cooperated with us. The production schedule of ‘Shaitan’ was incredibly professional,” says Shelly.

Here is how the sex scene was shot

“I was worried on the day when the first sex scene in Shaitan was shot. I then started thinking that it was not a real sexual act, but just our job; it was our duty to do our job perfectly. The cinematographer, director and the actors had a meeting that morning. They had prepared a sketch of how they had planned to film the shot. Besides the actors, only the cinematographer and the focus puller were present in that room while the scene was being shot.

All the assistants were given a break that day. The lighting was done as if the light was coming in from the window; but, the windows were actually closed. No one was allowed to enter the room. The crew made sure to make us as comfortable as possible. They took only the shots that were necessary. We weren’t forced to do anything that wasn’t required for the plot. I had to pull up my saree until my knees for the scenes. There were women on the sets to help me. Women headed many departments in Mahi sir’s sets. Women had been there to help and assist us,” recalls Shelly.

Viral scene

Shaitan has been released on Hotstar in seven languages including Malayalam. Shelly thinks that not many audiences have watched the entire series in Malayalam. She is upset that only the sex scenes have become viral in Kerala. Meanwhile, many are surprised that Shelly had acted in them. “Those scenes are important in the plot. But, only the sex scenes are made into reels and are being shared widely. The series have become popular in that way. Those who watch those viral reels do not know whether they are from a movie or a series. ‘Shaitan’ is a really good web series. It has become super hit in Telugu and has been garnering positive reviews. Last week, Hotstar had given us a grand party. They said that this was one of their best original series,” says the actress.

Future projects

Shelly is awaiting the release of two Malayalam movies. She will next be seen in ‘Narayaniyude Moonnu Aanmakkal’ starring Alencier, Joju George and Suraj Venjaramoodu. Meanwhile, the post production work of another movie is underway. Currently, Shelly is acting in ‘Oru Bharatha Sarkar Ulpannam’ alongside Subeesh Subi. The movie is directed by TV Ranjith. Shelly says that she doesn’t mind acting in web series or in movies if the character is good.

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