The Scent Of Acting
She is known as a TV and cinema artist. But it is on the stage, doing theatre, that one gets to see the actual power of her performance | By Shameem Faruque
On Jul 01, 2013

She stands apart, so does her name. Her name is Surabhi Lakshmi. The surname, her grandmother's, was her friends idea while sending her photo to ‘Grahalakshmi' for their photo queen contest! From her attire - a pair of jeans and a shirt worn with cool comfort - if you take her to be one of the modern types, then you are in for a surprise. She is a rustic beauty. It is not the life of the concrete jungle that helped her grow, but the simple and earthen life of her village.

Her story has an odd beginning. "Mother tried all ways out, jumping into a canal, eating what she is not supposed to, and doing heavy labour just to abort me as I was the fourth in tow and she was embarrassed about it. But I was stubborn and here I am!" Her childhood at Narikkuni in Kozhikode was picturesque with paddy fields, canals, and the gypsy artists who arrived with their kitty full of entertainments. Little Surabhi was hoisted onto such a little stage to perform by her father Andy. Thus an artist was born. Today, at 26, Surabhi enthrals the audience as she acts out the fierce ‘Chamba' on stage in the controversial play ‘Sakharam Binder' by Vijay Tendulkar. In another play ‘Erakalodu Mathram Samsarikkaruthu', she shook the stage as she transformed into the character a poor Tamil woman was forced to do prostitution. The plays were staged as part of Abinaya Theatre Research Centre's Summer Theatre Fest 2013. "I saw the ‘Bandit Queen' to know Champa better," she said.

"I am scared of ghosts," she laughs at herself.  Her life was simple but tough - the reason behind her aura that is raw and real. "I sold cashew nuts and bought tickets to watch Malayalam movies in Dinesh Talkies, alone," Surabhi says with an unassuming spirit of enthusiasm that strongly burns within her. She remembers her first Guru, Kalamandalam Satyavrithan Sir, who took 10-year-old Surabhi under his wings and trained her in classical dance. ‘Are you aware of the little art clubs in villages?," Surabhi asks, her pretty eyes blooming wider. Then instantly she went back to those days when she acted as little deities in mythical plays in her village. In 2002-2003,she became Kalathilakam from her Vadakara Vocational Higher Secondary.

Still far from a wider world of theatre, Surabhi was slowly, but steadily rowing towards it. "The news in a little piece of paper on the road side took me to Kaladi Sree Sankaracharya College for my BA in Bharathanatyam," she says, which she passed in first rank. Destiny was moulding her. Winning the ‘Best Actor‘ competition in Kairali channel and doing Jayaraj's ‘By The People' and movies like ‘Gulmohar', ‘Thirakkatha', and ‘Kancheepurathe Kalyanam' that followed later were stepping stones. But theatre was in her all along. She chose MA Theatre and for the play ‘Kannadi' by K Vinodkumar, they stepped out of the college premises and ended up winning South Zone National Youth Festival. Soon, Suvarna Theatre's ‘Yakshikathakalum Naattuvarthamanangalum' won her the prestigious Kerala Sahitya Nataka Academy's best actress award in 2010. And another feather on her cap was the Best Actress in Abudhabi Theatre Fest. Meanwhile, Surabhi was financially supporting her family too as her father had passed away. KK Rjeev's popular serial ‘Oru Kathayile Raajakumari' made her familiar among the mass.

"Those who know me say that I am insecure," she says amusingly. "I am afraid to be alone. I want people around me". But during rehearsals, all focused, she opts to be alone. In the play ‘Sakharam Binder', she takes up the very rough Sakharam. In real life, she gives respect from where she gets it. "To the men who look down on me, I give the same back" - Her senior in college who got a loud slap from her knows it better.

For Surabhi, theatre is a temple. "That is where your ego must die. Otherwise, you cannot manage a single act. It is a total give and take. Its roots run deep into the earth unlike cinema, where things happen more on a superficial level". ‘Abhinaya' is like her second home now.  Anyone who has seen her roaring on stage as Champa [Sakharam Binder], showering abuses on the man trying to insult her, would totally agree that Surabhi is firmly rooted in  her village soil which sprouts as intense energy that lights up the stage each time she steps in to perform.

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