Malayalam cinema has it that its A-lister heroes enjoy a sizeable fan following irrespective of their age. Their on-screen chivalry is looked upon as valour. The big Ms, Mammootty and Mohanlal, for instance, make heads turn each time they step out in style.
That being the case, a gender role-reversal did not go down well with the Malayali psyche when Rajini Chandy, a 69-year-old female actor, presented herself in glamorous costumes, beating age and gender stereotypes.
Rajini’s photoshoot grabbed the headlines, only for several Malayalis to howl and hoot at it. Their grouse? “She is too old for it”!
Rajini made her cinema debut in her 60s playing a grandmother in the 2016 movie ‘Oru Muthassi Gadha’. Later on, she entered Bigg Boss Malayalam season 2 as one of its contestants. A real-life go-getter, Rajini has a way with the critics.
“I met Athira Joy (photographer) during our Xmas celebrations. She had helmed an intimate couple photoshoot in the past. My openness to wear what I want, piqued her interest. We agreed for a photoshoot. She kept at it and sent me a reminder after sometime. I was game,” Rajini says.
One day, Athira came over with a set of costumes. There was swimwear in it too. “My husband I had lived abroad for many years and I have worn it in my 30s. Considering the possible outcome of me wearing it in a photoshoot, I accepted every other costume except the swimsuit. I had the backing of my husband and family. We finished the photoshoot in one go,” says Rajini.
Before Rajini sharing it on her social media handles, Athira put it across Facebook and it went viral in no time. Moral policing followed soon.
“Other than my entry into movies, we lived in a social stricture where intrusion into other people’s lives was totally uncalled for. We never dictated terms for others. My stint in Bigg Boss helped me deal with it. Back then, I was beaten black and blue on cyberspace. There was an incident when I threatened to end myself if they continue attack on me. Now I am used to it,” Rajini says.
Majority of the attackers made it a point to hide behind fake ids before unleashing a war of words on a person they have not seen or met before, Rajini observes. “Let them stand in front of me and repeat what they did on the cyberspace. I doubt if they dare saying anything other than ‘hi aunty’ or ‘hi gran’. Will they use profanity?” she asks.
“I am about to turn 70. Let me and others do what they like to do. Haven’t we seen people who spent their youthful days building family and taking care of children with no time left for their well-being? I am happy if I could be an inspiration for such people. If you see good, appreciate or ignore,” she concludes.
(with inputs from Chandrakanth Viswanath)