the-south-asian.com February 2003
FEBRUARY 2003 Contents
Page 2 of 2
- '.... just begun'
Isidore Domnick Mendis
Suhasini was born in Patna where she spent the early part of her childhood. She lost her father when she was only three and was brought up by mother, Vijaya Mulay who worked in the ministry of education. Later she became the founding member of the Film Society of India. Her mother is still actively involved in films.
" I got fascinated to the medium due to my motherís interest in films. But I had no formal training," says Suhasini. But she's had experience in many fields.
In 1965 she was chosen by Pears Soap to be its model. Lintas, then under Alyque Padamsee was handling the soap campaign which won the ad agency its first international award.
" I honestly did not know that I was good looking. But when I saw my pictures splashed in different publications of the campaign it struck me that I must be pretty," says Suhasini.
It was this very campaign that got her the role in Bhuwan Shome. Mrinal Sen was looking for the 'right face' to play Gauri in the film. Says Suhasini, "When he saw the Pears campaign he knew he had found the girl he was looking for."
Curiously, inspite of Bhuvan Shome proving to be a milestone in Indian cinema, Suhasini did not opt for acting as a career. Being a brilliant student she enrolled for a course in agricultural technology with specialization in soil chemistry and microbiology at the prestigious McGill University in Montreal, Canada
But once studies began she realized that she had made a mistake. " What they were teaching us applied only to Canada, as farmers there had huge farms covering areas of over 2500 acres. In India most farmers have small fields where such technology is redundant. I had made a wrong choice but still, I completed my two year diploma."
After completing the course Suhasini did a turn around and signed up for a degree in mass communication. She majored in film, radio, TV, journalism and print from the same university.
Says she, " I had the privilege to study under John Grierson, the person who had coined the term documentary and who ran the allied campaign against the Germans during World War ll. He paid special attention to me because he had been to India several times and kept urging me to go back and make meaningful films."
Suhasini returned to India in 1975 and was picked up as assistant to Satyajit Ray in the Bengali film Jana Aranya. Later she went back to Mrinal Sen as assistant director in Mrigaya . However, John Grierson had left a lasting impact on her and there was only one thing she craved to do and that was to make documentaries.
"A film must portray reality. It may be a lyrical representation or a personal interpretation of an event or even a total figment of imagination but it should be rooted in reality," says Suhasini who has made over 60 documentaries four of which have won national awards.
The first of the four award winning documentaries, An Indian Story was based on the 1978 Bhagalpur blindings when a set of under trials lost their vision when acid was forcibly poured into their eyes. The other three included Beyond Genocide on the Bhopal gas tragedy, Citthi and the fourth one was on the National Art Gallery of India.
But she complains, despite such national award-winning films she has never managed to get any work from Doordarshan. " The national channel has not paid attention to my creativity," says Suhasini, who recently did a documentary for Film Division on Motor Neuron Disease.
Besides, Suhasini has started
accepting roles on the small screen and is doing Puja Ka Ghar on Zee
TV and Virasaat on Sahara . But more significantly, with Hu Tu Tu,
Lagaan, Dil Chahata Hai and Humraaz she has made a comeback to
films. However, she's mostly got motherly roles in all these films.
But she definitely resents the cage Bollywood is putting her in. " It's sad, storywriters can't conceptualise interesting characterisations for older people. I certainly don't want to end up as another Nirupa Roy!"
But, by the look of things she's headed exactly that way. And unless gifted writers like Gulzar, Javed Akhtar or Ashutosh Gowalikar come up with some bright ideas, she has no choice but to accept the mother of all roles!
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