Hailing from Telangana, Shantha Devi aka Rukmini has been studying and practising acting and fine arts in the past few years, two passions she had dearly loved as a child.

Shantha Devi, a woman in her 60s, stands in front of photos on a wall ,wearing a pink blouse and grey sari, her face emotional
Features Art Sunday, January 15, 2023 - 14:59

Shantha Devi, over the phone, is shy, unsure of the little Malayalam she had picked up many years ago in Kerala. She had another brush with the language when she came down to Kochi recently, to exhibit her art at the Students’ Biennale there. That was a week she enjoyed, she says, being a 65-year-old student among a group of young artists, meeting people from different states speaking different languages. Now, back home in Telangana, this artist — who also began acting in the last few years — speaks modestly of the many passions she had missed out on in her early life and which she was earnestly going after now.

“Even as a child, I liked acting and art. But back then, all that was not allowed in my family. Now my husband, who recognised my interests, would always encourage me to do whatever I liked doing,” she says between sweet laughter and an exchange of words with her husband sitting close by.

M Krishna Rao, who retired from the Canara Bank, had a stint in Kerala for three years when the family moved to Edappal in Malappuram. That explains the Malayalam that he knows and she can understand. He translates Shantha Devi’s words to Malayalam when she needs to express them in Telugu.

“I grew up watching my mother do handicraft and developed an interest in arts and crafts. So I took my Bachelors in Fine Arts, specialising in painting. I painted nature,” she says.

Shantha Devi at the Students Biennale with young artists

Her works exhibited at the Biennale are mostly nature paintings. There is also an art work created out of her photographs from the various acting jobs she’s had (first image). That too happened late in life. “I mostly do mother roles. It began after a Masters course that I took in Performing Arts between 2014 and 2016. After that I started to get offers in theatre, short films, and then feature films too. I must have acted in about 11 films, out of which three have been released. In theatre, I could do the main role of an 80-year-old in a play called Golla Ramavva, adapted from a short story by [former Prime Minister] PV Narasimha Rao.”

It took more years for Shantha Devi, also known as Rukmini, to pursue her Masters in Fine Arts, a degree she had not been able to take for the past four decades. “After the BFA, I got married, began a family, and never painted for years. But now I want to, and my husband is always encouraging me to. I have now finished the first year of my MFA,” she says with the enthusiasm of a child.

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