Actor, dancer and now, a writer. ‘Veenira Aadai’ Nirmala has been busy working on translating a Hindi book into Tamil during the lockdown
Music lovers can seldom forget the hit song of the 1960s, ‘Chithirame Nilladi’, featuring young Nirmala in the film Vennira Adai. It marked her debut in the Tamil film industry and earned her the prefix ‘Vennira Adai.’ Nirmala went on to do over 400 films. In the recent past, she has been working in television serials. The veteran actor talks about her long film career and her passion for classical dance.
‘Vennira Aadai’ was your first Tamil film. But was that the first time you faced the camera?
Not really. My first shoot was in Bombay for a song in the Hindi film ‘Jwala,’ directed by M.V. Raman. In Tamil, I had a few misses before Vennira Adai came my way. I was to act with MGR in a film produced by ‘Friend’ Ramaswamy. But after the test shoot, they felt I was too young for the heroine’s role. I also missed the chance to work in Kadhalikka Neramillai, directed by veteran Sridhar.
While you were being featured as a heroine, you also accepted cameo roles
Yes, I was open to do cameos. I did a dance number in Idhayakkani, that starred MGR in the lead. I did dance sequences also in Annaiyum Pithavum, and Thunaivan. I only looked at the production house and my role. If I felt comfortable, I would accept the offer.
About your foray into the small screen…
While I was busy doing films, Janaki amma (MGR’s wife) offered me a role in the serial ‘Aadi Varum Thene,’ produced by one of her relatives, Madhu Mohan. After that I was roped in for character roles in serials such as ‘Janani,’ and Khushboo’s ‘Kalki.’ ‘Deivamagal,’ was my latest assignment. It was aired on Sun TV. I would have done just four to five serials but am happy that they were one of the most-watched shows on TV.
What is the biggest tribute or praise you got and from whom?
Among the many awards and accolades, I consider the compliments that I received from MGR as one of the best and the most memorable. He praised me for my performance in ‘Bharathi Kannama’, a dance ballet, based on the songs of Subramania Bharati and staged during the poet’s centenary celebration. The late Jayalalithaa was also present on the occasion and appreciated my dancing skills.
How do you feel looking back at your celluloid journey?
Very happy. I have acted in all the four regional languages — Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. It was only because of films that I have earned a special place in the hearts of the people.
How did you pursue your love for Bharatanatyam?
I was delighted when I performed on January 1, 2013, at the Chidambaram Nataraja Temple. The next year, on January 1, I performed at ISKCON Temple, Chennai and in the subsequent year, it was at the Vellore Golden Temple. I teach dance at Tiruvallur to young aspirants from the farming community. I have nearly 30 students in my school and I am happy to teach them.
How have you been spending time during the lockdown?
The lockdown has helped me unearth my hidden talent as a writer. I am working on a book, originally written in Hindi. I am translating it into Tamil. But until I get the author’s permission, I can neither reveal the title of the book nor the author’s name. I will complete it in a few months. If everything goes well, the book might be released sometime next year.
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