Sethu Lakshmi played the role of Madhavi Amma in the film ‘How Old Are You?’ for which she won the Kerala State award for Best Supporting Actor in 2014.

Malayalam actor Sethu Lakshmi struggles to raise Rs 40 lakh for sons treatmentImage Courtesy: Sreengrab of Asianet Video
news Human Interest Monday, December 03, 2018 - 18:36

For those who have watched Rosshan Andrrews’ How Old Are You? Madhavi Amma is a distinct memory that won’t fade easily. In the role of a house help, she lives in a small hut. She annoys Nirupama played by Manju Warrier, every day, when they travel in the same bus to the workplace, with queries about her life. But Nirupama visits her at her home, after Madhavi Amma gets diagnosed with a tumour. The sight of Nirupama coming to see her makes the old woman emotional, her eyes welling up with tears.

The role of Madhavi Amma fetched actor Sethu Lakshmi who essayed it, the Kerala State award for Best Supporting Actor in 2014. However, the 76-year-old actor is now waging a real-life struggle to raise Rs 40 lakh within a few months for the kidney transplant surgery of her 43-year old son Kishore.

A late entry into the glittering film world, the veteran actor has been into theatre for long and hence her savings don’t match the fame she has as an acclaimed artiste. Hailing from a moderate family background, Sethu Lakshmi and Kishore live in a rented house. Kishore’s kidney failure was diagnosed 10 years ago and since then Sethu Lakshmi - an actor who has donned the roles of a poor, daring mother or aunt with aplomb, is now at the crossroads in real life, trying to save her son.

After 10 long years of undergoing dialysis, the doctors have finally suggested a kidney transplant for Kishore. The transplant has to be done within three or maximum six months. Kishore himself is an actor who is part of television comedy shows. “He won’t listen even if I tell him to not go for work. The doctor also supports him saying we shouldn’t block an artiste from doing their work. But I feel weakened when I feel his suffocation, whenever he is down. For years, he lived with the disease without getting it checked,” she says. Kishore is married and has two children.

Speaking to TNM, Sethu Lakshmi says, “When he would be having leg pain or any kind of fatigue, he would apply balm and leave it like that or would take some medicine. He won’t share with us even if he had any difficulty. He lived with it for four years without even realising it. One day, he just collapsed and that was when he was diagnosed with kidney failure. A minimum of Rs 40 lakh is needed for the kidney transplant. But that’s not all. A huge sum is needed for the follow-up treatment and medicines. I am 76 years old, and I have to make as much as I can for my son, for he should continue his life even when I fall sick. Not that I don’t earn, I do. But that is not enough to meet our daily expenses as well as the dialysis costs. Sometimes, he will fall sick all of a sudden, and would be immediately shifted to hospital and admitted in ICU. At first, we had sought treatment at the Government Medical College hospital, but as there was not much improvement, we shifted him to a private hospital.”

Sethu Lakshmi says she was paid less in both television serials and movies. “But I can’t say anything on it as there was a time when I waited for roles. Now I get decent remuneration after bagging an award and that gave me confidence in negotiating for a better salary,” she adds.

Hailing from Nilakkal on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, Sethu Lakshmi has lived in Attingal and near Medical College but now lives in Vattiyurkav, all in rented houses. “We are ordinary people, we always lived a moderate life,” the actor says with a melancholic voice. She has four children- three girls and a son, who is the youngest. Her elder daughter died of blood cancer. Sethu Lakshmi and Kishore used to run a drama theatre called Chirayinkeezh Anugraha. The troupe had produced hit plays, but they had to abandon it after Kishore became sick. Kishore’s wife is not employed. As a theatre actor, Sethu Lakshmi has won awards four times. But like many others who have run theatre groups, she and her son were also motivated by the passion rather than the objective of earning money from it.

“My daughters are married and settled. Not that they don’t help us, but how much can they do? They all live on two or three cents of land and have to take care of their children,” she says.

A person with disability, who is a Facebook friend of Sethu Lakshmi did a video, explaining her plight after coming to know of her condition. The video shot recently exposed her life to the outside world. “Thousands of people have watched the video and I got a few calls.  On Sunday, Manju Warrier called me asking how much the expense would be and how she could help. But, how can I ask her for money, without trying myself. I told her that let me first raise as much as I can, I will ask you if that won’t be enough to meet the expenses,” Sethu Lashmi says with utmost self-respect.

Sethu Lakshmi had a mild cardiac arrest four months ago. “When Manju called, she asked me not to get tensed or sad,” she says with a smile.

About help from other people in the film world, she says, “They all have been good to me. AMMA gave me membership without taking a fee, which is more than Rs one lakh. AMMA also gives me a pension of Rs 5,000 per month. It is not fair to plead for help often.”

Sethu Laksmi can be contacted at : 9567621177. Contributions can be made to: Kishore A, A/C Number: 34425779207, CIF Number: 87920990765, IFSC Code: SBIN001025, SBI, CGO Complex Poonkulam Branch. 

Finally, Deepa Nisanth apologises to poet Kalesh for publishing his poem in her name



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