KOCHI: Chitra met Shaji Kailas in 1994 when the director, accompanied by scriptwriter Ranjith, came to her house in Thiruvananthapuram to discuss her role in the film, ‘Rudraksham’. “Shaji asked me whether I was satisfied with the script,” says Chitra. “At that time, I was so happy just to work with a good director.”
During the course of the protracted shoot, in many places in Kerala, they grew close. But there were no overt declarations of love. “However, one day, Shaji told me a story of a girl he was interested in and wondered whether she had the same feelings,” said Chitra. “At the end of the anecdote he asked me if I was the girl, would I have been interested in marrying him?”
Chitra had a suspicion that the girl in the story was indeed herself and so she said yes.
Soon, the friendship blossomed, but the affair remained a secret. “We always kept away from each other in public,” she says. But fate caused an unusual meeting to take place.
In January, 1996, Chitra was going to Chennai, accompanied by an uncle, to attend the rehearsals for a mega show in Dubai.At the last minute, her uncle could not get the ticket, so Chitra had to travel alone. In a different seat, on the same flight, Shaji was also going to Chennai for some work. “But it was a hopping flight,” says Chitra. “When the plane landed at Bangalore, and some of the passengers got off, Shaji came and sat next to me.”
The couple had an intense conversation. “It was a time when there were no mobile phones, so we had a lot to tell each other,” says Chitra. Suddenly, Shaji took off a ring he was wearing and placed it on one of Chitra’s .
“And that was our engagement,” she says. Since they were of different religions — Shaji is a Hindu, while Chitra (Annie) was a Christian— marriage was never going to be easy. “My father is a conservative person,” she says. “And he would have been against such a wedding.” Sadly, Chitra’s mother died when she was in Class 8, and it was her dad who brought her up. Anyway, in 1996 itself Shaji committed to Chitra and they got married, through a registration ceremony, held at friend Suresh Gopi’s house on June 1, 1996.
“I felt very alone on that day, because I was leaving my family,” says Chitra. “But Shaji offered me unstinted support and love.” Thankfully, for Chitra, although her father was upset at the news, he reconciled with his daughter very soon. And three months into her marriage, at her own initiative, Chitra converted to Hinduism. “I felt it would be easier for the children if they followed one religion,” she says. Today, Chitra says she is very happy in her marriage. So, what are Shaji’s plus points?
“He is a loving, and understanding person,” she says. “I have never felt any lack in our marriage. When he comes home, after a shoot, he becomes a family person and cares for everyone including my mother-in-law, sons, Jagan, 14, Sharon, 10, and Rooshin, 8. He is also very supportive.”
When Chitra, along with her sister-in-law, Shanti, wanted to start a catering business, ‘The Big Oven’, it was Shaji who whole-heartedly supported the venture. “He has been our backbone,” says Chitra. “We started small and have come up. Shaji always says that if you struggle only then will you understand the value of money.”
Shaji has many positive qualities, but there is one negative trait: a short temper. “But he cools down immediately,” says Chitra. “There will be fights between husband and wife, but he never keeps any resentment inside him. Shaji is a perfectionist, and he can get upset if things are not done properly or if I did not do something which he had told me to do.”
But the marriage has been successful for reasons that will break a feminist’s heart. “I like a dominating husband,” she says. “If family life has to be successful, the best way is to obey the man.”
Asked whether there are advantages of being a celebrity’s wife, Chitra says, “When we go to functions, people treat us with respect. But, for me, the happiest role I like to play is to be in the shadow of my husband. I want to be known only as Mrs. Shaji Kailas.”