When Neena John saw Vysakh at her brother Naveen’s wedding in 2005, he was already a familiar figure. Vysakh was Naveen’s friend, he lived near their house, in the town of Kanhangad (Kasaragode district), and was also on TV.
At the time, Vysakh was the anchor for the Ponpulari morning show on Surya TV. (For the show, he took the name of Vysakh, while his actual name is Ebbey Abraham.) He had also begun working as an associate director in the films of Johny Antony like Kochi Rajavu and Inspector Garud.
“I regarded him as my brother’s friend and nothing more,” says Neena. “I did not notice him much, but Vysakh told me later that when he saw me at the wedding, he was instantly attracted.”
A few days later, Vysakh’s family sent a wedding proposal to Neena’s parents. “They were apprehensive because Vysakh did not have a regular job,” says Neena. She herself was not sure. Neena had completed her degree in nursing from the Kovai Medical Centre and Hospital, Coimbatore, and had just begun a job as a lecturer in Mangalore. “I also had plans to go abroad and work in either Britain or Australia,” she says.
But destiny willed a different course. Vysakh and Neena met at a restaurant at Kanhangad. “We spoke on several subjects,” says Neena. “And I liked him.” So Neena said yes, and the marriage took place on November 12, 2007.
The initial years were a struggle as Vysakh wanted to embark on a career as a director. He started work on Pokkiri Raja in 2008. As he worked, Neena could immediately notice facets of Vysakh’s character. “Right from the beginning, Vysakh was confident about his abilities,” she says. “Sometimes, I thought, it may be overconfidence. But Vysakh told me that to make good films you needed to be positive-minded. There are many stresses and strains. For a director to overcome this, he has to believe in himself.”
But there are drawbacks, too. Vysakh is a workaholic. “Once he is making a film, he is distracted most of the time,” says Neena. “He is always thinking about the movie. So even though Vysakh may be at home, his mind is elsewhere.”
Another aspect is his short temper. But this is usually caused by tensions on the set. “Sometimes, I get upset,” says Neena. “But the good thing is that when Vysakh loses his cool, the next moment he feels bad and tries to make up.”
Meanwhile, after all the hard work that Vysakh puts into his films, it is not surprising that he goes through a great deal of tension the day before a film’s release. “Vysakh is constantly worried about how the film will fare at the box office,” says Neena. “He comes home on Thursday to spend the day with us.” The family consists of Neena, daughter Isabella, 3, and son, Dave, 1.
On Friday morning, the couple will go to pray at the Basilica Of Our Lady Of Ransom at Vallarpradam. Later, they will see the first show. “Both of us cannot enjoy it because we are wondering about the reaction of the audience,” says Neena.
Incidentally, all the four films by Vysakh — Pokkiri Raja, Seniors, Mallu Singh and Sound Thoma — have done well. Out of that, Pokkiri Raja and Sound Thoma have completed 100 days. But for Neena, she liked Seniors the most. “I liked his direction,” she says.
In their free time, both Vysakh and Neena have a common hobby: they endlessly watch films at their home theatre. “We see a lot of English films,” says Neena. “The last one we saw was World War Z [starring Brad Pitt]. When Vysakh is watching a film, he hates to be disturbed. He will observe the shots and how the people are acting. If Vysakh wants to talk, he will put the film on pause.”
For Neena, her most memorable moment was not connected with films. That was when the family spent three months at Naveen’s home in Brisbane, Australia, in February. “We travelled all along the Gold Coast,” she says. “There were so many beautiful parks and lakes. One day, my brother hired a Volvo bus and drove it himself as we went to spend a day in the nearby hills. It was a time when we could relax as a family.” Interestingly, even in Brisbane, Vysakh was seeing a lot of films.
And Neena is candid enough to admit that cinema is her husband’s first love. “I am not jealous of his passion,” she says. “After all, he is making a living out of films. It is just that when he is on an outdoor shoot for a long time, I miss his presence. And so do my children. My daughter always says, ‘When is Appa coming home?’” Nevertheless, Neena says she has a close bond with Vysakh.
Asked for tips for a successful marriage, Neena says, “Both husband and wife should find a common interest. For us, we both love watching films. When I express this interest to Vysakh, he feels energised. You should also forgive each other’s shortcomings. If there is genuine love between the spouses, a marriage will never break up.”