Life is a never-ending stage for K L Antony and Leena, an actor couple from Poochakkal near Alappuzha. When most people their age plan a retired life, they reinvented themselves. And, it is their spirit and talent that got reflected in superhit movie Maheshinte Prathikaram, making them perhaps the oldest couple to make a filmi debut.
The couple, Chachan and Ammachi (father and mother) to three children, played parents in the movie but not as a pair. While 77-year-old Antony, with some 60 years of stage experience, played father to protagonist Mahesh, 66-year-old Leena, who has over 50 years in theatre, played mother to heroine Jimsy.
“The roles came to us. We never went after anyone,” says Antony in a modest-but-firm voice. “Dileesh (director) and Shyam (writer) were friends with our son Lasser Shine. They knew us for a long time. However, they took real notice of us after a channel did a programme on our life,” he said.
Antony is a recipient of Gurupooja Award from Minister for Cultural Affairs, K C Joseph for his contribution to the amateur theatre last year on the World Theatre Day. He came into the limelight some six decades ago through a play ‘Jeevitham Arambhikkunnu (Life begins)’ which won the first prize at the youth festival while he was a student.
The husband and wife were together on stage in 2014 September, after a gap of 25 years in the Keraleeya Kalaravukal organised by Edakochi Prabhakaran Kala Mandiram.
The play ‘Ammayum Thommanum’ written and directed by Antony had only two characters, Thomman and his mother. The play which progressed through the couple’s dialogues was yet another proof for their unrelenting spirit. In the stage devoid of any props, but a microphone and make up, Leena played mother to her real life husband Antony!
“It was Edakochi Salim Kumar who forced us to be onstage once again. However, the response was thrilling,” says Leena.
Life for Ideology
Antony, a native of Fort Kochi, entered the stage as a child artist where he played a boy from a Communist family, who is orphaned after his parents are jailed. Even after the play, the Communist ideology stayed close to his heart and wrote dramas in support of the same including ‘Iruttara’ against the Emergency.
“I stuck to amateur theatre as I staged dramas for the reformation of society. It was a challenge and not for monetary purpose. I had to sell my house for this and had to sell books for a living,” says Antony.
He met Leena from the stage who started her career as a stage artist at the age of 12. She debuted in professional drama through the double role in ‘Kadamattathu Kathanaar’ by the renowned troupe Kalanilayam. Some of the dramas, in which she played prominent roles, include Aswamedham, Doctor, Ezhu Rathrikal which were later turned into films.
Both of them have only nice words about the crew of their first film. “We had a fear that the film world would be pompous. We were wrong. Every one from producers Ashique Abu and Rima and Dileesh and Shyam were supportive,” Leena said.
“Fahad (Fazil) was a real support. He used to encourage after every shot. The first film was a great experience,” said Antony. They have a couple of offers from the film world. However they are not overwhelmed. “It can happen or not. But we are happy that the people liked us,” says Antony in his practical wisdom.