Shanthini singing about her journey

By BRIGITTE ROZARIO

THE younger generation remembers her as Auntie English on Astro TV. The older ones may know her as a pioneer member of The Instant Cafe Theatre Co, which she joined in 1989 and as one of the local actresses who starred in the Hollywood movie Anna and the King in 1999.

Not many people may know that she is also a singer. Her “Look at Me” solo singing gig was first staged in Space.Toccata in November. It will also be staged from April 22-24 at the Theatre Lounge Cafe Plaza Damas 3, Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur.

From 9pm on those three nights, she will share stories about her journey of life and sing some golden oldies.

At this stage in her life, Shanthini feels that she has done so many things. Fellow thespian Jo Kukathas, who is her artistic director, gave her the idea to present this solo singing gig while telling stories about her life and connecting them to songs that relate to it.

“I was actually six when I had my first stage performance. My mum, Nalini Venugopal, who was a well-known singer/ performer in the 50s right up until she passed on in 2004, got my sister, Sukania and I to dance the twist to one of her songs on RTM.

“Actually I started off in the industry, singing. I stopped doing solo singing shows when I started Instant Cafe although in that company I did all the singing items and also acting. So it’s not a case of ‘starting singing now’, I’m just taking up where I left off.

“I’ve been singing since I was a child. I haven’t taken any formal lessons. I however have been blessed with a natural singing tone, so that helps,” says Shanthini, who just turned 58 in January.

She admits that while she is very comfortable on stage, she is a bit nervous about remembering all the lyrics of the songs!

She will be singing some songs by Jim Reeves, Helen Reddy, Nat King Cole, Elvis, and Roberta Flack.

While she doesn’t want to reveal the details of her show, Shanthini says, “It starts off with me as young as 11 and how I started singing and takes the audience through the ages till it gets to where I am now.”

There are plans to take the “Look at Me” show to other cities in Malaysia, like Penang, Johor Baru and Malacca, but what is lacking now is someone to organise it for her. Being a freelance artist, she has to do everything – securing contracts, negotiating, and that can be very challenging.

Shanthini has a lot of other things on her plate.

She started The Jumping JellyBeans (JJB) in 2000, specialising in productions for children. JJB has performed throughout Malaysia, and has gone to England, Denmark and Australia. It has also participated in International Children’s Theatre festivals in Iran, Singapore, India and Germany.

Shanthini currently conducts storytelling workshops in government schools, reaching over 1,500 students. She can also be heard on radio and TV commercials doing voice-overs and jingles.

She is as active as ever and doesn’t look to be slowing down at all.

“I have no issues about ageing. I love the place I am in now and wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t aged. Personally, I haven’t faced any discrimination in work, because I create my own work. When one does that, age does not come into play. It’s my ability to do what I have put forth,” explains Shanthini.

She challenges herself to stay active by taking on a varied number of projects which, even if she hasn’t experienced it before, she will just research and “just get on with it”, which is a good approach to life at any age.

“I think everyone goes on a different journey. You cannot compare someone’s else’s life with yours because each person takes a course that suits them best. What applies to me may not be suitable for someone else who is over 55. Age to me is just a number. I don’t see it as a hindrance at all. It’s all in the mind! As long as one enjoys good health, you can take on the world!”

For more information on the Theatre Lounge Cafe show, go to https://www.facebook.com/theatreloungecafe/.

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