Star With A Sense Of Right

She’s an accomplished actress, a doting mother and the perfect wife. Sumalatha Ambareesh, wife of cine-star turned politician Ambareesh, has done more than 200 films in all South Indian languages, including a few in Hindi. Today, after having worked in the film industry for more than 25 years, the veteran actress continues to do quality roles in regional language cinema and has recently gained much popularity in Andhra Pradesh for the Oprah-style talk show that she hosts. RITZ meets the graceful actress who promotes women’s empowerment and hopes to start her own NGO for the upliftment of women sometime soon.  

Sumalatha Ambarish isn’t your stereotypical heroine with airs and graces and an entourage trailing behind her. An actress of much repute who has churned out superhits and blockbusters in all South Indian languages, she has a sensible head on her shoulders, her value system firmly in place with her family and its welfare being her top priority.

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“My husband, being a minister (for housing with the Karnataka State Government), his schedule is demanding and despite my filming schedules I make it a point to be around when he needs me,” she tells. “Similarly for my son Abhishek, who is completing his Masters in UK, I try to be around whenever he is home. Making family my top priority was something I decided on and consciously abided by from the very beginning,” adds the beautiful lady.

Born in Chennai and raised in a Telugu family in Bethapudi, Andhra Pradesh, Sumalatha made her debut in films at the tender age of 15 with a Tamil movie but gained much popularity in Malayalam cinema because of the kind of roles that came her way. Her grasp of all South Indian languages gave her an edge over her female counterparts and she easily bagged roles in the industry, making films in four different languages. “In fact some of my best roles have been in Malayalam films,” tells Sumalatha, adding that she was extremely lucky to work with some of the best directors across all four industries.

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“I got into films by chance,” she says, describing how the thought of entering the world of cinema had never occurred to her since she came from a completely non-film associated family. “I entered a beauty contest in 1979 and from there on, one thing led to another, I was approached by a director and to my young 15-year-old mind it seemed like the offer of a lifetime. My only regret is that I began acting so young and could not complete my formal education due to that. Hence, both my husband and I have insisted that our son Abhishek must complete his education before he makes the decision on what he wants to take up as a career option,” she tells.

Presently though the star-couple have no plans of launching their son’s film career. They’re happy to allow the youngster the opportunity to make his own choices. “I don’t want him to have to live up to the expectations of others simply because he is a star-child,” she tells. “Let him decide what he wants to do and we will unanimously support his decision.”

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A staunch propagator of women empowerment and equal rights, Sumalatha says that the talk show that she presently hosts in Telugu has opened her eyes to some of the atrocities that women face on a day-to-day basis. “I try to spread the message of being independent, earning your own living and not cowering down to abuse and violence through my show. Yet, each time I have a woman who opens up to me on the show, it breaks my heart to see them suffering,” she tells.

Considering her privileged lifestyle and position that enables her to reach out to those in need, Sumalatha says that she plans to start an organisation that will work towards the betterment of such abused women, offering them a new change to pick up the pieces of their life and start afresh. She’s already in talks with a few likeminded people and hopes that her plan will soon see fruition.