the-south-asian.com February 2003
FEBRUARY 2003 Contents
Page 1 of 2
- '.... just begun'
Isidore Domnick Mendis
It has been a long journey from Mrinal Sen's Bhuvan Shome to playing Bhuvan's [Aamir Khan's] mai in Lagaan, yet Suhasini Mulay says she's just begun. This agriculture technology graduate from Montreal's McGill University and maker of over 60 documentaries is now looking for meaningful roles….
" It's surprising that an actress of her talent is getting recognition so late in her career," says Mrinal Sen, the doyen of Bengali cinema, who first cast Suhasini Mulay, in 1969, in Bhuvan Shome, a path-breaking film of its time.
The then 16-year-old Mulay went on to win a National award for her powerful performance. But then, she had to wait for an unbelievable 30 years before she could display her immense acting talent in Gulzar's Hu Tu Tu, which too, fetched her the National Award for the best supporting role of an ordinary school teacher rising to the post of a chief minister.
Since then, Suhasini Mulay has become a much in-demand actress and has been seen as Aamir Khan's mother in Lagaan and Akshay Khanna's mother in Dil Chahata Hai and Bobby Deol's grandmother in Humraaz.
However, very few film goers know that this graduate of agriculture technology from Montreal's McGill University is a tireless filmmaker and has made over 60 documentaries. However, despite all the success, Suhasini still does not consider herself a good actress. " I am still on the learning curve of acting ," says she modestly.
She still maintains that the fulsome praise she received for her performance in Bhuvan Shome was exaggerated " When I went to the Venice Film Festival where the film made an entry, I could only see the mistakes I had made," reminisces Suhasini.
The film dwelt on an honest and upright Bengali railway officer Bhuvan Shome played brilliantly by the late Utpal Dutt. Suhasini on the other hand was a complete greenhorn in acting and people were surprised when Mrinal Sen signed her on.
Even Suhasini herself is surprised. " I couldn't believe my luck. I had been selected by none other than the great Mrinal Sen and was to act with one of the most gifted actors of Bengali theatre and cinema---Utpal Dutt. Natuarally I was very nervous and always forgot my dialogues. But they both supported me to the hilt."
She recalls that whenever she made a mistake Mrinal Sen would say, " Excellent shot, let's have one more retake." And then she breaks into a laugh. " At that time I kept wondering if the shot was so excellent why should there be a re-take?"
Similarly when she experienced difficulty delivering dialogues, Utpal Dutt would patiently teach her the art of verbal delivery. Lessons, she says, she still employs. Which explains why she considers the two her professional gurus. The late Utpal Dutt introduced her to the works of great playwrights like Bertold Brecht, Henrik Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw.
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