At 3 and a half age she began to learn classical dance and in less than 3 years she made her first public performance. She came to the tinsel world as a child artist Baby Valsala when she was 8 years old in early 50s. Now Valsala Menon, 70, has not lost the glitter and charm of a performer. She was in Kuwait last weekend to take part in the anniversary celebrations of Kalpak, Kuwait a theater group based in Mangaf. Valasala Menon spoke at length to Times at her nephew Pramod's flat in Salmiya. Excerpts:
I got married when I was 16. My husband was working in Mumbai, then Bombay. When we began living in Ghatkopar, Bombay, I got involved with several regional associations known as samajams. I started acting in dramas produced by Bombay associations. We even initiated a drama troupe named Kalamandir. I took 6 years off when I was busy with my three children. Those 6 years are the only period I was away from the field of art. As a mother I was crowned as Miss Trichur competing against young college going girls.
Of late I acted in 1983, a Malayalam film based around India's world cup win in cricket. At present I am acting in a yet to be titled Tamil
film. Mammotty's brother Ibrahim Kutty's son is the hero in that film. Taking notice of my Bombay performances, Ramu Karyat and Shobhana Parameswaran Nair, Malayalam film's then most famous director and producer respectively offered me a role to act in their film. My husband and I were in a dilemma. Who would look after our 3 boys? My husband suggested we put them at a residential school. I was not impressed. I believe children should stay with their parents at least in their school years. We refused that film offer.
I began acting when my children were at college. Now over 150 films in both Malayalam and Tamil and several TV serials to my credit, I am as active as ever. Earlier I used to get negative roles like step-mother, the evil mother-in-law and the like. I once got a letter from the fans of Mohanlal threatening not to take up such harsh stepmother roles. The fans could not digest my role scolding the superstar. I consider it recognition for my acting.
My husband died in 1990 and my children are settled. I live alone in a flat, gifted to me by my second son - perhaps as recompense for my not leaving them for the sake of film acting.