How grandma got her groove

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Shveata Chandel Singh meets Santosh Verma, a civil engineer from India, who turned actor when she moved to Australia.

Santosh Verma was a civil engineer in India, but Australia opened up a whole new scene for her – literally.

In the last couple of years, after enrolling in an acting workshop, Verma, has carved a niche for herself in Australian cinema. The veteran artist has played the role of grandmother in ‘My Cornerstone’, ‘Love You Krishna’ and ‘Felony’ and has received rave reviews from viewers.

She may have worked in just three Australian movies, but Verma has won the hearts of thousands of viewers for her role as lovable granny, which she plays brilliantly. Perhaps, she says, it has to do with the fact that she plays the role in real life too.

“Since my two sons moved to Australia, I decided to live with them and help my daughters-in-law take care of the kids. Once I came here in 1995, it was after a gap of nine years that I went back to India. My family was here, so I got involved with them. I could hardly find the time to go back to India,” says Verma, who adds that she enrolled in an acting workshop after trying her hand at several other vocations such as nursing.

“I did courses in computers and nursing and worked for some time in a nursing home. Later, my sons told me to stop working. It was then that I got an opportunity to act in films,” adds Verma.

Verma says she does not have a background in acting, except in school dramas, so getting a break was really a privilege. “It was in 2012 that I got an opportunity to perform on stage in Australia. It was a play titled “Kitty has gone missing”, by Hindi School Thornleigh. It was my first stage performance and I played the role of a mother (Beiji). It was appreciated by the audience and that encouraged me to keep acting. Then I worked for ‘Felony’, an Australian film in which I played the character of a grandmother,” she says.

Verma says it was professional actor Aishveryaa, who runs the Abhinay School of Performing Arts, who introduced her to a few directors and encouraged her to work. “She introduced me to director Stenley Joseph and that was how I landed the roles of grandmother in ‘Love You Krishna’ and ‘My Cornerstone’,” says Verma.

Her latest release is Joseph’s ‘My Cornerstone’ in which she plays Lydia Pinto, an elderly woman debilitated by a stroke. Lydia’s family – the Pintos — hires a nurse from India, Adina, to take care of her. Lydia’s daughter-in-laws treat Adina like a slave and here begins the East-west clash. As Lydia’s rehabilitation progresses, Adina discovers she has much in common with her patient. Lydia shares tales of her own experiences as an Indian migrant in Australia, which ends up reflecting the same alienation Adina feels.

“The movie showcases the various facets of living abroad and also portrays the diverse realities and possibilities, which include the hardships of living as a nuclear family in an alien country,” she says.
Verma’s daughter-in-law Yashodhara also has a guest appearance in the movie. “We are proud of her. She is our inspiration,” says Yashodhara about her mother in law.

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