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Urvashi Sobha committed suicide on 16-Sep-1980

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    Posted: 27 November 2009 at 1:08pm

Urvashi Sobha committed suicide on 16th of September 1980

The story of Shobha (1961-1980) is a saga of astounding professional success overshadowed by overwhelming personal insecurity and anguish. Shobha, whose real name was Mahalakshmi, was the daughter of actress Prema. Prema had acted in few Malayalam movies in the 60s, but could never make it to the top league. Her own failures had made Prema determined to make her daughter Mahalakshmi succeed where she had failed. Mahalakshmi went to work early; she acted as a child artiste in a few Malayalam and Tamil movies. Noteworthy among her Tamil movies as a child artiste was Chandrababu’s ‘thattungaL thirakkappadum’ (1966/Vishwabharathi) wherein Baby Mahalakshmi’s performance as the child Lakshmi won widespread praise, perhaps an initial indication of the greater laurels to come. And in Malayalam, Mahalakshmi, renamed as Baby Shobha stole the show in ‘udyOgasta’ (1967/Geetanjali) amidst the presence of veterans like Satyan, Prem Nazeer, Madhu, Sharada and Sukumari. She went on to act in few more Malayalam movies as a child artiste, before making her debut in an adult role in Balachandra Menon’s ‘utradaraatri’ (1978/Nangaserry Films).Urvashi_Sobha_committed_suicide_on_16th_of_September_1980

In a brief period (1978-1980), Shobha made a fetching mark in all the four southern languages, covering herself with glory by winning the coveted ‘urvashi’ award when she was just 19 years old. Shobha was a natural performer and essayed her roles with realistic simplicity. She exploded the myth that only arrestingly beautiful faces could make it big in films. She had an inexplicable charm, and a personality that exuded distinct elegance and charismatic innocence. A miraculous coalescence of endearing vulnerability and immense inner strength, Shobha graced the portals of South Indian cinema like none other. And in that incredible short span of time, she managed to walk away with the honours in exciting projects of exacting filmmakers; both venerable veterans of the craft and young torchbearers of experimental cinema found to their delight that this dusky petite woman’s shy smile was a facade that secreted an intense, smouldering persona, a powerhouse of unbridled talent blessed with an individualistic stamp of expression…

Shobha’s Malayalam movies include Ekakini (1978), ulkatal (1978), Ormakal marikkiumO (1978), bandhanam (1978), entE neelaakaasam (1979), ‘daliya pookaL’ (1980) and ‘shalini entE koottukkaari’ (1980). Shobha won the Kerala Government’s Best Supporting Actress Award for her performance in K.S.Sethumadhavan’s ‘Ormakal marikkumO’ and the Best Actress Award the next year for her essay in Thoppil Bhasi’s ‘entE neelaakaasam’. In her short tryst with Malayalam cinema, Shobha earned the approbation of great masters like M.T.Vasudevan Nair, K.G.George and Sethumadhavan.

The Kannada populace had a glimpse of her extraordinary screen presence in Balumahendra’s ‘kOkila’ (1977), while Singitam Srinivasa Rao and Bapu harnessed Shobha’s histrionic voltage in the Telugu movies ‘tharam maarindi’ (1977) and ‘manavoori pandavalu’ (1978) respectively.
Perceiving a rare spark in the upcoming actress, K. Balachandar cast Shobha in the pivotal role in ‘nizhal nijamaagiRathu’ (1978), his Tamil remake of ‘chilakkama cheppindhi’. But the delayed release of the movie saw Karaikkudi Narayanan’s ‘achchaaNI’ (1978) marking Shobha’s debut in Tamil. Balachandar was followed by Mahendran, who made Shobha a household name all over Tamilnadu with his trail blazing ‘muLLum malarum’ (1978). The Tamil movies that Shobha acted subsequently were oru veedu oru ulagam (1978), agal viLakku, chakkaLathi, oru vidukathai oru thodarkathai, azhiyadha kOlangaL, yENippadigaL, veettukku veedu vaasappadi, pasi-all 1979, moodupani, vEli thaaNdiya veLLaadu, ponnagaram and saamandhippoo- all 1980, and anbuLLa aththaan (1981).

The euphoric celebrations over Shobha winning the coveted National Award for her heartrending portrayal of a rag picker in ‘pasi’ had barely commenced when there came the horrifying news of Shobha’s suicide. Her fragile relationship with Balumahendra had developed irreparable fissures and not being able to cope with the emotional trauma, Shobha is said to have taken the extreme step…

There was a public hue and cry over her death; investigations were ordered with righteous promptness. The air was rife with suggestions of foul play.. In an insightful analysis on celebrities, their insecurity and vulnerability, consultant psychiatrist Dr. Suresh Kumar sums up thus “Often, the victims do not make clear assessments based on proper judgments. The partner might have entered the relationship with entirely different motives. When reality hits the victim, a crisis brews. This sets off memories of an unhappy childhood that is always associated with rejection, abuse, despair and fear of abandonment.” (The Hindu)… Balu Mahendra wrote a sentimental series of musings in Kumdudam titled ‘shObhavum naanum’. K.G.George made a movie that was largely a biography of Shobha- lEkhayudE maraNam-oru flashback (1983) starring Nalini and Gopi told the sordid story with stark reality. However, no investigations or analysis would bring back Shobha…

26 years have gone by… yet memories of Shobha linger on… the humble Thilakam exhibiting rare dignity as she turns away the penitent Chalam contemptuously in favour of the loyal Kasi… Valli almost walking up to the altar to marry her ‘engineer’, only to change her mind in the last minute and run back to the arm of her beloved brother… the widowed Gowri defying public outrage with the courage of conviction to resume her college education… the village teacher Indhu who unknown to herself evokes the first pangs of love and lust in three of her adolescent students… the wretched rag picker Kuppamma gulping biriyani naively after allowing herself to be seduced by a truck driver…. Defining moments of Tamil cinema.

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