It was not a big surprise when veteran director Kamal decided to lash out against Meera Jasmine in a regional newspaper column. Kamal, who directed her in four films, wrote about her utter unprofessionalism mentioning that he was never happy with her behaviour on the sets wherein she used to pick fights, not heed to the director’s advice and turn up late for the shoot.
Now, debutant director Manoj Alunkal, who made the recently-released film Ithinumappuram that has Meera and Riyaz Khan play the lead, has echoed the same sentiments against Meera.
Meera, who has always been hailed as a brilliant actress, has been constantly besieged by personal problems throughout her career, be it her family, finances or love life which could have found echoes in her career front too.
At a press meet organised in Kochi, Manoj and Riyaz were present but Meera was conspicuous by her absence. The female-centric film has Meera in a very powerful role of a woman who single-handedly raises her kids through various hardships.
Terming this film as one of her career’s best performances, Manoj expressed his disappointment at her failing to turn up for the promotion.
“I have been in this industry for the past 15 years and it took me five years of hard work to bring alive my vision. I wrote the story of the film and then zeroed in on the cast and the crew. I always had Meera in my mind for the character Rukmini because she fit the bill aptly. I was warned by my friends about her behaviour but I could not think of any other actress for the role. When I narrated her the story, she liked the script and decided to act.”
Meera asked for a remuneration of Rs 25 lakh for 30 days of her time. She specifically asked Manoj, who is also the producer of the film, to pay her the initial Rs 15 lakhs at her home before the shoot and the rest at her Dubai residence. Manoj did all these, but working with her was a bitter pill to swallow.
Directing a film has always been Manoj’s dream and he borrowed money from friends, banks and family as well as put in his own money to give shape to his vision.
“Leaving aside financial difficulties, I also had to go through mental trauma because of Meera’s irresponsible behaviour. She would not come on time and would only act in those sequences she wanted to do. The climax scene had a rain sequence, but Meera refused to do that scene and I had to eventually shoot it without rain. Since it was my story, I could make adjustments in the sequences, but ultimately what I had in mind was not completely transferred on screen. I wanted to give her directions regarding her acting but could not do so because of her nature. She would leave early, sometimes even without shooting a scene but somehow I managed to complete the film even after all these difficulties. I had to face additional financial burden on account of her ego and stubbornness,” he says.
Manoj mentions that after a very rocky first schedule, she did not turn up for the second schedule which forced him to lodge a complaint with the Producers’ Association. She eventually completed the second schedule a year after her marriage adding to his financial burden.
“Such artistes are a bane to the industry and as a director, I don’t want any other director to go through a similar fate which is why I spoke up against her,” he said.
Manoj though did speak highly of her talent. “She is a very good artiste and she gives you the exact output you have in mind.”
Her co-star Riyaz too agreed. “I have acted with Meera in various languages. She is a very good actress often making me raise the bar when it comes to acting with her!”