As An Artist, I Get To Be Myself : In Conversation With Shamlee!

My siblings are my harshest critics!

When you think of child actors in the Tamil film industry, Shamlee is one of the most popular and successful child artists. A national award winner, she went on to do 60 movies as a child. She took a break from films and made a comeback in 2015. After a few movies as the lead, she took a keen interest in art and went on to pursue it as her career. Recently, she showcased her work and hosted her first solo exhibition in Chennai. In an exclusive interview with JFW, she talks about her passion, art and movies.

Transition from an actor to an artist

I went to Singapore to do my Diploma in Film Production, there I got interested in art and it’s various forms. I wanted to learn how to make art and I took up short courses until I moved back to Chennai. I still wanted to pursue art and learn more about it. But everyone wanted me to do photoshoots and take up movies and so, I did that. But on the side, I was on a quest to find a mentor to learn. That’s when I found out about AV Elango who is also my mentor to date. I asked him if he could teach me, also around the same time I signed 3 films in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu. So I would sit in my caravan and practice every single day. People around me didn’t get it, they asked why art, you can do that later in life too. But I feel connected to it and do it every day.  

What inspires you to make art?

Sometimes your passion can choose you. It’s not always the other way. Sometimes you look at something and instantly feel connected to it so you’re stuck with it in a good way. You feel free, liberated even while creating art. Everything around you will inspire you. Everyday life inspires me to do art. 

What’s your process behind creating a piece of art?

Every painting is a different process. Some might directly come from the heart, some might be an idea in mind that I note down and ponder over, some might even need me to do a rough sketch before I start the painting. Every frame of mine has a woman, the form of a woman itself is very beautiful. A lot of canvases are very conceptual, there could be a story around it. It could be something from my life, or someone’s else life, someone around me. It depends on how it manifests in my head.
Sometimes, a piece needs practice but otherwise, it’s all from the heart. 

The two industries are different from each other, movies and fine arts, what’s your opinion?

When I was a child, I did 60+ movies. As a child I didn’t know much, I was just curious about the new atmosphere. But as an adult, I didn’t feel connected to the movies or to the acting. But doing the art makes me feel more connected and feel more of myself. 

Initial reactions from your family and friends when you made the switch?

I was the first one in the family to do art. So, it was hard for them to understand what I was going to do first. But they were still supportive. As for my friends, they were super supportive. I don’t have a large group of friends, I have 2 to 3 close friends who are supportive. They are supportive to the point where one of them found my current mentor and the other friend flew with me to my shows and art classes. So, I’m grateful for them. And my siblings are my harshest critics. We just have fun like every other sibling, they ask a lot of questions about my art but at the end of the day, it’s all fun and not everything is taken to the heart. 

People still think of you as Anjali, what is your reaction to that?

I’m used to it now. People still think of us as Baby Shamlee and Baby Shalini. Tamil people remember me as Anjali and other industry people remember me as some other character that I did then. I worked across all languages, so different people have a different memory of my characters. 

In 2015, You and Ajith sir did a photoshoot. Will there be any future photo shoots? 

He is interested in photography and he wanted to do a photoshoot as I was planning to do movies at that time. But I’m not someone who is comfortable doing photoshoots. I was thinking for a long time, then I realized if I’m doing a photoshoot I should be doing it with my brother-in-law. Then I told him we should do a photoshoot then we did it. After that, we haven’t done any photoshoots. For the future, I don’t know if he is still interested in doing photoshoots. You should check with him about that.

Are you planning to come back to the movies?

 It’s a difficult life, it’s not easy being in the limelight. I’m not planning to come back into movies as an actor. It takes too much of my time. For the last few years, my focus has been on art up until this time. I’ve invested myself in this completely.  

Will there be more showcases anytime soon?

My first big achievement is my solo show called “SHE” in Chennai and I did a group show in Dubai. I also did two shows in Bangalore. After this, I plan to exhibit in a lot of other countries as well. Again, this month I’m doing a show in Bangalore.

What is next for you in the field of art?  

I’m learning glass painting, and in my next show, I might have my glass artwork too. After that I want to do sculptures, I don’t do it full time but I want to get better at it. I also want to get into installation art too and want to do it full-time. I’m also learning digital art and want to do it after. I probably want to exhibit that in my next solo show which might take more than 6 months. 

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