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Shwetha Menon’s excitement is palpable as she finally takes our call. She says telephone calls have been pouring in from her family, friends, fans and the media to congratulate her for winning her second Kerala State Film Award for the Best Actress.

“I am happy that I have won the awards for two very different roles. My first one (for Ranjith’s Paleri Manickyam) was for a difficult, complex woman called Cheeru who had no say over her life while Maya in Salt N’ Pepper is a contemporary woman who is the mistress of her life,” bubbles the actor over the phone.

Salt N’ Pepper, the sleeper hit of 2011, saw Shwetha come up with a sterling act as a dubbing artiste and foodie. In fact, the movie was the appetiser for a feast of films that followed and rejuvenated the jaded palates of viewers of Malayalam cinema. She says she was confident the film would do well and often told Aashiq Abu, director of the film, that it would prove to be a winner. “The reason why I was so sure is that the film was so real as opposed to reel. Moreover, it was all about food and so I knew it would relate to all,” she says.

“This movie proved beyond doubt that one does not need to be coochie cooing all the time to make a romance work. In fact, actor-director Lal ettan, who plays Kalidasan, the male lead in the film, and I worked together for a day or two only and yet it was such a sweet film. You just need a word or two or even a glance to convey the depth of your feelings. Even silence is so articulate at times,” says the actor, who is enjoying a dream run in her second innings in the Malayalam film industry.

It is actors like Shwetha who are finally making Mollywood realise that female actors who have crossed their teenage years can still carry a film on their own. The Malayalam film industry, notorious for its paucity of roles for women in their thirties, is finally rediscovering these actors of substance. Sarojini, a character Shwetha essayed in the film Madhya Venal, won her the praise of Iranian director Bhaman Ghobadi, who was jury chairman of the one of the international film festivals of Kerala.

Shwetha will soon be seen in yet another award winner – P. Balachandran’s Ivan Megharoopan, which has won the Kerala State Film Award for the second best film. She plays Maya Maheshswari, a nurse who looks after the protagonist P. Madhavan Nair in the movie, which is said to be inspired by the life of poet P. Kunhiraman Nair. In an earlier interview to MetroPlus, the actor had said that her aim was to play a wide variety of roles. And she seems to have succeeded in that. If her viewers have seen her age in films like Paleri… and Paradesi they have also watched her play the title role of Rathi in T.K. Rajeekumar’s Rathinirvedam and the competitive career woman Sareena in Thalsamayam Oru Penkutty.

Another plum role that is in the offing is in Madhupal’s latest film Ozhimuri, in which she plays Kaliamma, the mother of Lal’s character. Set in places in Kanyakumari, which was once part of erstwhile Travancore, the movie has the characters speaking a dialect that is unique to those regions. “Madhupal helped me breathe life into that character. But I could not dub for Kaliamma because I have never heard that dialect before. She is a hard woman who goes through a range of emotions. She screams, shouts… if I had dubbed her, in my condition, I would have probably delivered,” laughs Shwetha.

And when is she due?

“In the first week of October,” she laughs, all set to play the mother of all roles.

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