Shobha was in Class 8 when he saw actor Kunjan in the film, ‘Resthouse’. “I had gone with my classmates to see the film,” she says. In the film, Kunjan was part of a group of college students, which included Prem Nazir, Ummer and Adoor Bhasi. “Kunjan looked like a hippie, with his long hair and bell-bottom pants,” she says. A few years went by. Shobha began working as a beautician in a parlour at Kochi called ‘My Fair Lady’.
Then from several directions, she received a marriage proposal, all for the same person. “One of my regular customers, Usha Maam, told me that there is an actor called Kunjan,” says Shobha. “She said he is a nice person, so why don’t I marry him?”
Shobha’s mother’s friend, Mary, stayed at Fort Kochi , near Kunjan’s family ‘tharavad’. Mary said, “Kunjan is a nice boy and has a good character. Maybe Shobha could marry him.”
Then Shobha’s former classmate Hazel Collis said that Kunjan was her brother Ivor’s close friend. “He is 365 per cent a good person,” she said. “Let him come and see you.”
Like all people, Shobha had apprehensions about marrying somebody from the film industry. Plus, Kunjan was not a hero and played all sorts of side roles, wearing odd costumes. Nevertheless, an official meeting was set up. “I was shocked when I saw him for the first time,” says Shobha. “He was not at all like how I had seen him in the films. He was a well-behaved person and looked smart. Kunjan told me he was not a superstar like Mammootty or Mohanlal. When he travelled by flight from Chennai to Kochi it was because the producer was paying for the ticket.”
Kunjan also told her that a film career is an uncertain one; sometimes there would be roles, at other moments, there would be nothing. “During tough times, he told me we would only be able to have ‘kanji’ and water,” says Shobha. “He talked in a frank manner. I liked that about him.”
After pondering for a while, Shobha gave her assent. They got married on April 28, 1985. And right from the beginning, Shobha realised that her husband was different. “Kunjan always said that there was no need to cook his food or pack his clothes. He did it all by himself. He told me not to wait for him if he is late from a shoot and insisted that I have my dinner, instead of waiting to eat with him.”
And like most men, he is a doting father to his daughters, Swetha, now married and just become the mother of a baby boy, and Swati, doing her Plus Two in Bhavan’s Vidya Mandir school at Girinagar. “He is not at all strict as a father,” says Shobha. “Kunjan is very caring, a family man.”
Other qualities include his sense of humour. “He is always cracking jokes to make me laugh,” says Shobha. “All the women, both in the industry and outside, love him. I am proud of that.”
Asked about his negative traits, Shobha says, “In the earlier years, I felt that he lacked ambition. He would not contact people and ask for roles. He says that a role will come to you only if you are destined for it. He is very relaxed, but I am not like that. I am very ambitious. But now, after so many years, I am okay with his attitude.” Incidentally, so far, Kunjan has acted in over 450 films.
Another negative point was that he would never go for parent-teacher meetings at school. “Even if he is at home, he would not go,” says Shobha. “Kunjan felt that he would draw attention to himself. That was painful for me. I wished he came along. I had so many things to handle.”
In 1985, Shobha set up a beauty parlour, ‘Live in Style’, and it is still going strong. Many celebrities are her clients. They include notables like Lissy Priyadarshan, Manju Warrier, Sulfath Mammootty, Suchitra Mohanlal and young heroines like Samvrutha Sunil, Reema Kallingal and Remya Nambeesan.
Meanwhile, asked for tips on having a long marriage, Shobha says, “You have to adjust to each other because during a marriage there will be many difficult moments.” She says that one of the most important duties is to love the husband’s family, as your own. “Your in-laws want your love and affection,” she says. “One must never ignore them.”