In the Malayalam film, My Boss, actress Mamta Mohandas plays Priya S Nair, the boss of a software firm in Mumbai. One morning, she strides into her office with long, bold steps. All the employees, both men and women, start quaking. Soon, people are called in, including superstar Dileep, who plays her assistant. She flings a bunch of papers at his face, telling him that he is no good. Others too receive a tongue-lashing. She swivels on her chair, picks up her phone, and talks to a client in impeccable English. After all, Priya, even though she is a Malayali, grew up in Australia, and is a confident and smart career woman.
“I was attracted to the role of the bossy Priya Nair because in real life I am like that,” says Mamta. “I am perhaps the only actress in the Malayalam film industry who could have carried off this role. Although this sounds arrogant, it is true.”
Like Priya, Mamta grew up in Bahrain. And like her character, she is feisty, intelligent, and charming. So charming that cobras become docile in front of her.
This happened during a shoot in a slushy paddy field in Palakkad in July this year. A comely looking Mamta, in a white sleeveless top and brown shorts, was playing football with Dileep and a few others in a scene from My Boss. “It was so slushy, that I would run for two minutes and have barely moved an inch,” she says. The shoot lasted for three hours, and when director Jeethu Joseph shouted, ‘Pack up time,’ the crew noticed a long cobra lying in the water. “I guess, it realised that I was a female cobra and decided not to do anything,” says Mamta, with a laugh.
The actress is in a happy mood because My Boss has become a superhit. “One reason for its success could be that the dialogues, situations, and clothing are fresh and contemporary,” she says. “Priya, my character, does have a heart, although in the first half it would seem as if she is a heartless bitch in the way she treats her employees, always shouting and screaming.”
There was a time when Mamta was also screaming, but it was in shock and sadness. On June 21, 2010, she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes. Fortunately, for her, it was at stage 2B. “When I initially heard it, I cried and cried,” she says, “I asked God, ‘Why me?’ Because I am an only child, my mother was going mad with sorrow.”
But the good news for Mamta was when the doctors said it was curable. She began chemotherapy at the Apollo Speciality Hospital at Chennai and it lasted for seven months. “Today my cancer is not in complete remission,” she says. So, Mamta has to do check-ups often. But, at the same time, she has been having an intense film career. Some of the films in which she has made a mark includes Big B with Mammooty, Passenger with Sreenivasan, and Sathyan Anthikad’s Kadha Thurannu. She also acted in the Telugu superhit, Yamadonga as well as in the Tamil film, Guru En Aalu.
Her attitude has changed because of her cancer. “Life is precious,” says Mamta. “It makes you realise that relationships, time, the air you breathe, the sun that you see in the morning, all things in nature, everything has to be deeply appreciated. The illness has ignited a hunger for life and to act my best.”