My 17th year is etched in my memory because that was the year I fractured my right ankle on a film set. I had been shooting night and day for three films—Muthal Vasantham, Vilangu (both in Tamil) and Sankeertana (Telugu)—in tandem and wanted to get some rest, and so climbed up some stairs to what I thought was a room upstairs. Only, it was a make-believe set and the landing on the ‘first floor’ was just a cloth. The minute I put my foot on it, I tumbled down 15 ft to crash on the floor beneath. I was screaming in pain.
My sister (Vinaya, a producer) still thanks God because Arun Pandian (now a DMDK MLA but an actor back then), with whom I was shooting for Muthal Vasantham, acted like a real hero and carried me to a hospital where he knew the doctors. I used to come for shooting on crutches; during that phase I shot for a song, Aarum Adhu Aazham Illa (*). Anyone can see I was just standing there and not moving, because I could not. I still remember that I had to shoot at the beach for the song and sand kept getting into my injured foot and frequently saline solution had to be poured into the bruise so I could continue working. I would come home and cry in pain. I underwent three operations to fix my fractures over the course of the year. Steel rods were put in, there was grafting—I had to do three classical dances for Sankeertana (Nagarjuna was the hero in this film). It was my toughest year. My acting career was threatened. I lost two films because of the fracture.
That year helped me get stronger physically and emotionally. Emotionally because there were producers who had signed me on and gave me an advance, but wanted it back when I was injured. But the silver lining is that I became a star later that year after Sankeertana became popular at the box office. My mom wanted to make me a dancer and that is why I learned Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. When I look down at my ankle, it still carries the scar of that terrible year. It’s still not as flexible as it had been once, but 1984 was also a turning point because I went on to become a star!
* You can watch this song at: www.tinyurl.com/8h5je3j
As Told To Pushpa Iyengar
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