She's got the power

She's got the power

She's got the power
I met Suhasini Maniratnam at the most unlikely place — in Bergamo, Italy. Daughter of actor Charuhasan, niece of Kamal Haasan, and wife of filmmaker Maniratnam, Suhasini is a confident artiste in her own right.

As our conversation starts with her early days, I ask her if the visual medium was something she was interested in while growing up. “I am from a small town and we learn about the landscape by drawing mountains, a sun peeping through it, green meadows, coconut trees and a train. My father had this Super 8 camera and I was probably six or seven years old when I had asked him to take a picture of mine at the river bed where the sky would be blue and the river would be white as there was no water, and I knew I had to wear a magenta dress. So I think I had some kind of visual sense even then.”

Love for the camera
A student of cinematography from the Madras Film Institute, she studied cinematography instead of going to an engineering college. “My uncle said he wanted me to learn about filmmaking since I had an interest. In my second year itself, I went to work with a cinematographer as his assistant and they needed a young 19-year-old to work in the film and since they did not find anyone, they decided to cast me. It took me by surprise, but my father gave me a go-ahead. I just wanted to do one movie and go back to finish my course. But offers started pouring in since my first film was an instant hit.”

Southern sensation
Suhasini has acted in Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada films, and is well-versed in all languages. Ask her about her favourite language and she says, “Tamil is my favourite and least favourite as I have a lot of expectations from Tamil films. No Tamil film is good enough for me as I have seen the best.” And adds, “However, ironically, I have had the least amount of success in Kollywood and I have acted in the least number of Tamil films.”

According to the actress, Telugu cinema is close to her heart. “In the 80s, there was no way someone like me could be a mainstream actress. When I came in, the time was right to break the mould as there were glamorous actresses like Sridevi, Radha, Jayasudha and Jayaprada and yet there was place for me. I took it up as a challenge since I could not really compete with their extraordinary beauty.”

She has a special mention for Sandalwood too. “In Kannada, again, my rate of success is the highest and I now have three Kannada films ready for release.” As far as Malayalam films are concerned, Suhasini says that she likes them because of their intellectual sensibilities and because the filmmakers are thinkers, poets and philosophers. “However, this is not the case today. There was a phase in the 90s and 2000s when they were copying others but now again meaningful films are gradually making a comeback.”

The actress ventured into direction with the 1995 film Indira and says that she was never intimidated by comparisons to her husband. “I am used to it as despite having the greatest actor in my family, I was never afraid to act. Even my dance teacher used to tell me that I could not dance as well as Kamal, but I would laugh it off saying I could cry better than him and wear a saree better than him. I am proud of his talent and I am an actress because of him today. Likewise, when I took up direction, I never thought of being compared to Mani, as my films have more influence of K Balachander than Mani.”

Her plate is currently full. “There are two Kananda films — Male Baruva Munna and Naani. I have done Love 24x7, a Malayalam film by a debutant woman director Sreebala K Menon,” she concludes.