In 1999, Samyuktha Varma was in Mysore for the shoot of the film, ‘Chandranudikkunna Dikkil’. She was a newcomer, along with Kavya Madhavan. “We sat some distance away from the seniors,” says Samyuktha. They included Biju Menon, Dileep, and Manju Warrier. Suddenly, somebody brought along a Malayalam film magazine to the set. Many made a grab for it. Ultimately, Dileep said, “Let Biju read it aloud and we can hear it.”
Incidentally, there was an article on Samyuktha, where the writer had described her debut in the film, ‘Veendum Chila Veettukaryangal’. “There were words like ‘upcoming actress’ and ‘bright promise,’” says Samyuktha. “I vividly remember Biju reading it aloud and I have preserved the article to this day.”
She says that they grew close, although there were no dramatic scenes of courtship. “Biju is a reserved person, a man of few words,” says Samyuktha. “In the end it was a love-cum-arranged marriage.” Both the families are from Thrissur and knew each other.
Biju and Samyuktha tied the knot on November 21, 2002. So, after ten years of marriage, what does she like about Biju? “His biggest plus point is that he has remained close to his middle-class roots,” says Samyuktha. “So he loves to attend ganamelas, have tea at wayside shops, or attend the Thrissur Pooram. But now it is becoming increasingly difficult just as for any other public figure.
Whenever Biju is at home, and if he has the time, he visits old friends. “These days, it is mostly their parents that he sees,” says Samyuktha. “Most of the children are working elsewhere and the elders are all alone.”
Perhaps, the only negative trait is that Biju finds it difficult to say no. “It has hampered his career,” says Samyuktha. “Biju has done certain roles which he did not want to do. But I feel that he has now learnt, to a certain extent, to say no.”
What Samyuktha is excited about these days is the evolution of Biju as an actor. “In the earlier years he was not his natural self,” she says. “There was an innate shyness. But, in ‘Ordinary’ (released on March 17), where he plays a bus driver, he is so spontaneous. I remember the scene where he applies the brakes to bring the vehicle to a halt. Then he raises his arms to relieve the tension on his back. It was wonderful.”
But is it wonderful for two artistes to marry each other? “Many people told me that I would have a lot of problems by marrying an actor,” says Samyuktha. “But looking back, because I am an actress, I can understand all the problems that Biju faces on the set. For example, when he is doing an emotional scene, I will not call him on the phone. And I know that strenuous scenes can give him neck and back pains. You might also get a severe headache. I have experienced it myself.”
Meanwhile, as a celebrity couple, they have many pleasant experiences. But Samyuktha goes tongue-in-cheek as she describes the reactions of people. “In Kochi when people see us, they pretend not to be watching,” she says. “It seems that they feel it is beneath their dignity. So, they deliberately look away. But there are some who will come up and speak jovially. There are others who whisper to others, ‘There is Biju Menon and his wife Samyuktha. Don’t look!’ And sometimes we can overhear that too!”
But there are negative aspects to celebrity-hood. “This happens when we go to the temple,” she says. “People stare at us when we are praying. That is one occasion when we wish we had some privacy. Or they might come up and talk to us.”
Another place is the hospital. “People are curious to know why we have come to the hospital,” she says. “When I gave birth to my son, Dhaksh Dharmik [in 2006], there was a big crowd present. It was a complicated pregnancy. My child had to be taken to another room to be given an injection. As my sister was taking him, many people surrounded her and took photos on their mobile phones. The baby had just been born and my husband had not even seen him. I was quite upset by all that. But then, there are far more positive than negative experiences for us.”