TV actress Yamuna has been a house hold name ever since the beginning of the mega serial culture in Malayalam. Her character called Lisy in the iconic mega serial Jwalayay still remains one of the most memorable roles. Having completed two glorious decades in the mini screen industry, Yamuna still continues her amazing journey, portraying strong women characters. Yamuna opens up about her personal life and also about her experiences as a leading television actress.
Aruna became Yamuna
Yamuna was just 19 years old when she made her mini screen debut, 23 years ago. It was an Onam album song directed by one of her friend’s brother. While the editing of the album was progressing, noted writer Kaavalam Narayana Panicker happened to watch it. Impressed by her acting skills, he invited Yamuna to play the lead role in the short film Punarjani directed by him.
“My real name is Aruna. I was born and brought up until the age of 12 in Arunachal Pradesh. My father named his eldest daughter Aruna because I was born in Arunachal Pradesh. Yamuna is in fact my screen name. There is an interesting story behind how I got this name. It was quite unexpectedly that I got the name Yamuna. I was excitedly waiting to see my name on the title card of Punarjani. However, when it actually came, I was greatly disappointed. When I called Kaavalam sir he asked ‘didn’t your name appear as Yamuna’? I told him that my name was Aruna and not Yamuna. It was only then that he too had realized the mistake. A person had called from the studio to ask my name for the title card. However, when I said Aruna he heard it as Yamuna. That is how I became Yamuna,” reveals Yamuna.
There is an amazing reason why she didn’t change her screen name back to Aruna. Her maternal grandfather had wished to name his granddaughter Yamuna. However, by the time he conveyed his wish through telegram, her father had already named her Aruna.
Became an actress to help family
Yamuna originally hails from Pattathanam in Kollam. Her father Venugopalan Nair worked as a PWD engineer in Arunachal Pradesh. Her father had taken a medical leave of 5 years to work abroad in Saudi Arabia. However, when he came back, he didn’t rejoin his old job. Instead, he returned to his hometown to start a business. Unfortunately that business didn’t take off as he had expected and those who who had supported him earlier had turned their backs on him. It was during that time that Yamuna entered the entertainment industry to financially support her father.
“While I was still studying, I used work as a data entry operator at my father’s friend’s DTP center. I had passed the lower and higher courses in type writing. I was earning a monthly salary of Rs 500. I had always wished to become an engineer. However, I became busy in acting when I was studying for second year degree. I then took over the debts of my father. My sister is 5 years younger to me. I had to take care of my family and my sister’s education as well. My father passed away 9 years ago. My mother Shantamma lives with my sister Suguna at Kollam,” says Yamuna.
“Actor Tom Jacob’s sister was our neighbor in Kollam and he was a regular visitor there. It was she who recommended me and Tom introduced me to Madhu Mohan sir. I played the lead roles in 4 stories in the tele film series titled ‘Basheer Kathakal’ produced by Madhu Mohan. PN Menon was the director of that series. I associated with his team for three years. I essayed the character called Padmavati in the serial Manasi which is touted as one of the first mega serials in Malayalam. I played the role of legendary actress Sukumari’s daughter. I deem her as my role model in life. I gradually became busy in the serials. During those days, I was paid a remuneration of Rs 500 per day. That was more than enough for me to support my father,” notes the actress.
It was the character called Lisy in Jwalayay that earned her wide spread recognition. Even today, Yamuna is recognized and appreciated for that character. She feels extremely fortunate to have got the opportunity to play countless roles that still remain in the audience’s hearts. Her character Madhumathy in the serial Chanadanamazha too was loved by the mini screen audience. Yamuna is now a senior artist in the television industry who has acted in more than 50 super hit serials. It was during the prime of her career that she took a sabbatical between 2006 and 2012 due to various reasons.
In 1999, Yamuna made her silver screen debut through the movie Stalin Sivadas. She then went on to do some amazing roles in more than 45 movies including Ustad, Pallabur Devanarayanan, Valyettan, Meerayude Dukkavum Muthuvinte Swapnavum, Pattanathil Sundaran and Meesamadhavan. Mohanlal starrer Ittymani Made in China is her latest release. She had taken a break from acting when she got married in 2002. However, now, Yamuna is back with the determination to play more interesting roles. “I missed out on many good roles when I stayed away. I am not doing any serials right now. I am focused on doing more amazing roles in films. I would, however, do serials if a good role comes my way,” notes Yamuna.
Marriage and divorce
“I was married to director SP Mahesh. We got legally separated in 2019. We were living apart from 2016 onwards. I have two daughters Ami and Ashmi. The elder one is in class 9 and my younger daughter is a standard 5 student. I am currently living alone with my two daughters. There were lots of criticisms when I decided for a divorce. I and my husband had taken this decision together. We discussed about it with our kids and then decided to separate. We were sure that we were incompatible as partners. It was actually my elder daughter’s decision that her parents shouldn’t stay together. She understood that if we stay together then no one is going to be happy,” reveals Yamuna.
However, things were not easy for Yamuna when she decided to get separated from her husband. Many false stories were circulated that she has another relationship and that she wanted to get married to that person. Yamuna swears that she has no such intentions and refutes such allegations. “If I am in a relationship or decides to get married again, I would say it openly. I will never keep it under the wraps. Now, my kids are my life and I have only them in my world,” concludes Yamuna.