HYDERABAD: Haritha plays the role of Akhilandewari Ghattamaneni, a powerful and initimidating matriarch in the TV show, Mudda Mandaram of Zee Telugu. Considering the love and the ratings that the show has, it is no wonder that the series recently completed a 1000 episode run and is still running strong. As a part of Mudda Mandaram for over three and a half years, Haritha is on the peak of her television career now in her early forties. So much so that she is now recognised by her screen name more than her own. “It happens way too often,” she laughs adding, “My real name is actually Shanthi.
But after I turned to showbusiness, I took on the screen name Haritha. And now after Mudda Mandaram, I am more often called and refered to as Akhilandeswari.” And the mutiple identities do not leave her in any crisis. She is well-adjusted by her fame and her “name”. “It’s a blessing to have these many people know me by my screen name. It only shows the penetration that the show has over those who watch it. My audience treat me as a part of their family and what more can an artist as for,” she chimes
All Work All Play
Working on a series for three and a half years and a thousand episodes can be gruelling, and more so for someone who has a bustling family, kids and all. However, showbusiness has not taken a toll on Haritha. She has it all under control. “It has become a routine now. I set my boundaries too. Ideally everyone on set know that I prefer leaving by 6:30 pm on a work day and they work accordingly. But on the occasions when I might have to work through the night, my family, even my kids, are very accomodative.” Despite the long hours, Haritha finds it “a bliss” to be busy with Mudda Mandaram. “Mudda Mandaram has one of the highest ratings on TV and to be a crucial part of it only makes me feel more important and responsible. The hard-work is not something that will reduce the fulfillment I get from the show. Moreover, each daythat I go on set it feels like the first day all over again - the same excitement and the same drive,” she says
When family has your back
Haritha’s husband Jackie, also a well-known TV star, being a part of the showbusiness knows the ups and downs that it comes with. Still blushing at the mention of her husband, just shows how in love she is with her life partner. “Life is jolly with him,” she says chuckling. “He is a funny man and knows me inside out. We laugh together, work together and take breaks together. It is definitely necessary to find family time away from work but we are able to find family time at work too as we are from the same business and it can’t get any better.” Jackie also knows his way around pleasing his wife, it seems. “He knows me too well. He can tell when I am too stressed and he knows what to do when I am,” she narrates. “I love shopping and every chance he gets he takes me out shopping and I instantly unwind with him,” says the forty-something.
Home away from home
With two kids and a loving husband, a supportive onscreen and offscreen family, Haritha believes she is the luckiest person in the world. She also believes that her crew is her family. “I have worked with them for so long that now we have a strong bonding. We are so affectionate to each other on set that we make sure each one is fed and is rested. We take care of each other’s needs and make sure they are alright,” she gushes. “It’s not just me, I treat them like my family because they treat me like I am theirs. At Zee Telugu, we are actually like a Kutumbam and we stick together in thick and thin,” says Haritha.
Attention not an issue
Being a household face, Haritha does get hounded by fans at least locally, especially when she is on her own time with her family. But unlike other celebs who run away from them Haritha indulges everyone of them. “I am known for that,” she exclaims. “Anyone who knows me knows that I will oblige to anyone who comes up to me for an autograph or a picture patiently without complaining. It’s no other reason except, they are the reason why I am enjoying everything I have. They are the reason I have work. And this is the least I can do. It’s a blessing to have so many people treat you like you are one of their own. Now I am their family. For such a big honour, a picture is a very small price to pay,” she says assertively.
After such a long run at the showbusiness, one might think that she has seen it all, but she says that her family never fails to surprise her. Narrating a recent incident that moved her to tears she says, “During the last Zee Kutumbam Awards, the team somehow got my mother to leave a video message for me which they showcased at the award function in Dubai. It had my mother talking about how proud she is and how she loves that now people recognise me as Akhilandeswari rather than as she named me. It was the sweetest gesture ever! I was in tears. It is not everyday that you have your parents say such things to you. I was elated.”
No stopping now
Even at an age when most women in showbusiness hang up their shoes, Haritha is in no mood to slow down. As one of the main leads of a highly-rated show, she is prepared for the long run. “I intend to keep on with my profession. I will keep at it as long as I physically can. Zee Telugu has been incredibly supportive through it all and I believe my association with the channel and the show will go on for much longer,” says Haritha solemnly. And what’s the next step we ask and pat comes the reply, “I’ll work towards and see these 1000 episodes turn into 2000!”