Location Diaries: Making a mark
Shanthi Krishna talks about her experiences in the films Nidhra and Chinna Mul Peria Mul
In her very first film, Nidhra (1981), actress Shanthi Krishna was standing by the side of a barbed wire fence, at a rubber estate in Pala. In front of her was her on-screen husband, a mentally-disturbed man called Raju played by Vijay Menon. In the shot, Raju had to run swiftly down a slope. “I was supposed to follow him,” says Shanthi.
But she was only 16 years old and wearing a saree for the first time. So when she ran, she tripped and fell. In order to cushion her fall, Shanthi reached out and grabbed the fence with her left hand. Unfortunately, a spoke went right through her palm. “Because of the intense pain, the nerves become numb. Very soon, I could not feel anything,” says Shanthi. “But I could see that my hand was covered in blood.”
Director Bharathan rushed up, along with the other crew members. “They were worried about whether I had fallen on my face,” says Shanthi. Meanwhile, the production controller Gopi covered Shanthi's hand with a towel. Immediately, she was bundled into a vehicle, along with her mother, brother, and Gopi. They rushed to a hospital in Kottayam.
The nurses, on inspecting the hand, said that stitches were needed. Shanthi agreed even though she was afraid. “It was a scary situation,” she says. “When they began work, one nurse held my legs, but I kicked her away. Then, at one place on my hand, I refused to allow them to put stitches.”
Meanwhile, Shanthi's mother was crying. “This is my daughter's first film, and already she has been hurt,” she said.
After a couple of days, Shanthi returned to the set. But adjustments had to be made. For the climax, when both her hands needed to be shown, Bharathan used the hands of producer KJ Joseph's daughter.
Today, Shanthi still bears the scars of that incident. On the back of her left hand, between the forefinger and the thumb, there is a whitish mark, shaped like a tear. On the inside of her palm, across her fore, middle and third fingers, there are stitch marks. “Accidents happen and there is nothing you can do about it,” she says.
This was also the case on the sets of the Tamil film, Chinna Mul Peria Mul (1981), which was directed by NS Rajbharath. Shanthi plays a blind girl, whose roommate is murdered by a villain, Anand (played by Raja). However, Anand leaves his bracelet behind and comes back to collect it a little later.
Meanwhile, Shanthi is walking in her room. Suddenly, her bare feet hits the bracelet and she picks it up. Through the use of Braille, she can read the name, 'Anand' written on it. She knows that Anand will be coming to kill her. So, she stands against a wall, holding a pair of scissors behind her. Anand enters, locks the door, and approaches Shanthi with a telephone wire. As he tries to strangle her, Shanthi plunges the scissors inside his stomach and runs towards the door.
"The director told me specifically that I should only touch the wooden frame and not the glass," says Shanthi. "But because I was running so fast, even though I held the wooden frame, the momentum resulted in my head hitting the glass and it broke into a shower of small pieces."
Shanthi quickly turned her face to one side, but a piece grazed her left cheek. Not surprisingly, there was a cut. And once again, she was rushed to the hospital. "Thankfully, it was a superficial injury," she says. "But there is still a slight mark on my cheek."
She pauses and says, "Even with the utmost precaution, shooting is still a risky business. Anything can happen at any time."