The first time we saw Sreenath Bhasi, he was hosting shows on Malayalam television channels. Soon he was making his presence felt on the big screen, giving a touch of magic to otherwise passable roles. The actor sure seems to be on a song these days, bagging roles tailor-made for him in Malayalam movies. Vying with the impressive list of his movie roles so far is the list of destinations he has travelled to. Talking in the signature Kochi style that he popularized among the younger audience, Sreenath recounts to Onmanorama some of his most memorable journeys.
Travelling for fun took a back-seat once he got busy in movies, says Sreenath. Much of the travelling he does these days are to shooting locations, which often includes some exotic and exciting ones, he adds.
“If you ask me to talk about one journey that will always be a cherished memory, I would think of the Himalayan trip from school. I now realise that a journey to the Himalayas could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was plain lucky that I got the chance when I was in class 9,” he says, the Kochi slang ringing through in his intonations.
A student of Kendriya Vidyala in Kochi, Sreenath was selected to join a 101-strong team of school students going on an 11-day camping tour to the Himalayas. “I was jumping for joy, but only until I got home from school. Those were days when my family was a little hard-pressed for money. I almost gave up my hope when my grandmother surprised me by producing from her savings the 500 rupees that I had to pay as tour fee.”
The train journey on Nizamuddin Express was so much fun, says Sreenath. The endless chatter and pranks on the train, the changing landscapes, the happy as well as heart-wrenching sights that tugged at the young hearts of the ninth graders - the journey was truly as beautiful as the destination, he remembers.
“The excitement about the sights awaiting us at the Himalayas was making us all a little jumpy. And what a sight it was! The snow-clad Himalayas was the most wondrous sight that I had ever seen. I guess it was sheer good luck that it happened at that age, the sense of wonder and joy was so pure and heightened,” he muses.
The camp had a lot of amusements in stock. Apart from trekking along the Himalayas, the team got to do some adventure sports too. They trekked from one camp to the next, hardly registering the tiredness in their limbs. “One of our most favourite games was to hit each other with snow balls, we just couldn’t get enough of it.”
Just being in the presence of the mighty mountains that they had only seen in pictures and movies was a surreal experience, he says. “Even after all these years, I would say there never has been a journey as memorable as that Himalayan trip. It’s perhaps the fondest memory I have of school days. If I am ever asked to pick the most unforgettable days of my life, it will definitely include the days in the Himalayas,” he says.
All good memories are laced with a tinge of heartache. This one is no different, remembers Sreenath. “On the last day of our stay, we were taken to a shopping centre in Manali. Everything in the shops looked extra pretty in that heavenly setting, especially in the eyes of a 14-year-old. But all I could do was to look at everything longingly, I had run out of the meagre pocket money that I was given. In fact, till then I was just glad that my family had managed to eke out the fees for the trip. I was so overcome with emotion that I used the 10 rupees left with me to make an STD call home from a phone booth. I carried on over the phone to Amma and Pappa about how miserable I was and how it was only happening to me. Thinking back, I see it all differently and realise that my parents would have been so pained by my words. The next time I went to Manali, I was shooting for the movie ‘Rani Padmini’. Walking on the streets that still sold all those things that I had longed for as a teenager, I smiled to myself. It’s a smile that I hope to carry with me, so that I will never forget the past that shaped me into who I am.”
There is a smashing tailpiece to the Himalayan diaries, says Sreenath. “On our way back, we came via Delhi. We were lazing around on the Delhi railway station platform when we spotted cricketer Harbhajan Singh walk in. His security personnel were shielding him on all sides, but that’s hardly a deterrent for a bunch of impetuous teenagers. We were all over the place till he stopped and chatted and even gave us his autograph. When we got back home, this story was tailored to suit our imagination and it did give us the satisfaction of wide-eyes and eager faces all around us,” he laughs in that quiet way we have seen him laugh on screen.
It was also at the Delhi railway station that he first listened to an FM Radio. “I had only listened to our good ol’ Aakashvani up until then. This FM version of the radio that played so many beautiful Hindi songs caught my attention. I fell in love right there with the idea of having an FM Radio playing in the background as I went about with my life. But then, Harbhajan Singh came along and things moved on. But FM Radio came back to me years later when I started my career as an RJ with a private FM station launched in Kerala. It's marvelous how God remembers these small wishes that go out, even when we forget all about it!”
First foreign tour
“The first time I ever went abroad was when my friend Eby and I decided to do the low cost Malaysian tour offered by Air Asia. We boarded the flight and were excited to be flying out of the country for the first time. But we suspected that we had ended up like the ‘Dasan and Vijayan’ duo who were tricked into getting down at Madras instead of the Gulf. The flight had landed at the low cost terminal which didn’t fit our idea of the Malaysian airport. But soon, the air was cleared and we headed off to what became a jolly good trip.
Eat, travel, enjoy
Sreenath is a self-confessed foodie. He is the happiest if the shooting locations are anywhere near Kannur and Kozhikode. “Call me an addict of the biriyani flavours of Thalassery and Kozhikode, I can never have enough of it.”
If biriyani can make him pack his bags any time, mountains and adventure trekking call out to him all the time. Vagamon is one of his favourite destinations because it offers both in ample measure. “I love travelling with friends. These days, my best travel buddy is my wife Reethu. She loves Vagamon too - the weather, the pine forests and the rolling hills. It's such a pleasure to have a companion who shares your interests. We look forward to every journey together, even the short day trips. Don’t they all make up the lovely moments of life?”