Roping in professionalism

Roping in professionalism

Down south

Roping in professionalism

In transition:  Suhasini Maniratnam

She does not mince words when she speaks her heart. There is no scope for ‘pretentious political correctness’. But, what actor-activist Suhasini Maniratnam believes in is a fair and just society. Her acting career spans over three decades and yet, she believes in preparing before each shot. She prefers ‘reacting’ over silence, and reading over anything else. Revealing that she had just finished reading Captain Gopinath’s biography Simply Fly, Suhasini confesses to carrying soft copies of various books in her laptop so that she can read whenever she finds the time.

At the location for a film shoot in central Mysore, Suhasini sits draped in a cotton saree drenched in fake blood running all the way down till her feet. Even as the humdrum of crackers being burst outside as part of the shooting for Kannada film Deadly - 2 threatens to drown out her voice, she is at complete ease, except for the short breaks she takes to glance at her Apple laptop or attend phone calls on her Blackberry. “I love technology,” she says, flashing her trademark smile.

Suhasini considers it very important that women participate in the process of making cinema. Why does she feel so strongly about it? Is there a lot of stigma attached to women working in the film industry? Dismissing the ‘stigma’ part of it, the actor says that surely things are changing and this needs to be acknowledged. “Many assistant directors today are women. There are a handful of cinematographers too, such as Fouzia, Preetha, Vijayalakshmi, Praveena and Anjali, off the top of my head. But there are many more of them if you look around,” she says.

“There is stigma about women being in many professions. Aren’t the jobs of airhostesses, nurses or even the IT industry ridden with such misconceptions? Doesn’t the society talk about women being exploited over there too? Most ‘people-facing’ jobs are not usually attributed to women. And the only ones who can change this notion are women alone, by increasing their participation,” she adds.

Does she really think women have supported this popular notion by remaining at a distance? “Yes, I suppose so. You don’t see too many women in decision-making positions involving finance, share markets or mutual funds. These are just instances that I am giving. They try to avoid interaction with people and fear being judged by them. The more they hide, the more they are pushed down the rung,” she feels.

Relating this to the film industry, Suhasini says that most men, be it a hero or otherwise, show interest in being part of script-related discussions. “But most girls avoid this. They are happy listening to one-liners, looking pretty, earning money and going home till the next script comes their way. The most they do is ask for improvisation,” she shares.
Describing the potential of women in multitasking, Suhasini feels they can bring in professionalism into the industry. “There are so many areas where they can add value. They can be production controllers, producers, editors, music directors, set designers, decorators, PROs, be in charge of housekeeping in production units and much more. I would  love to see women drivers on the sets and in lighting units too!” she says, her fingers calculating the number of professions women could be in.

Admonishing rumours around the rough patch Kannada film industry is going through, Suhasini says that it is just a phase. “All industries, be it Malayalam, Tamil or Telugu, have been through this. There was a time when only Kannada films made offbeat films in a particular genre. There could be a slump now but this is only temporary,” she asserts.
Is there more of Suhasini the director coming our way? “No way!” she exclaims. “This field can do without me. But there is something else that calls me. I want to involve myself in community-based work.”

Referring to contemporary women as women in transition, Suhasini feels that there is so much more left to do. “We are not controlled by society anymore. And we are yet to be liberated. Two generations down the line, girls will truly be liberated. But we are lucky since we are on the threshold of the process and hence, in the position to control how far we want to go. Tomorrow is what we create,” she reveals.

Changing trends have taken women to positions they have never been in before. Doesn’t this mark a brilliant shift in the society? “Yes it does. But once women assume power positions, they start behaving like men. A doctor told me recently that women who behave like their male counterparts undergo hormonal changes too. Aren’t we all threading a bit more than we used to?” she giggles, crinkling her eyes.

Suhasini is now writing short stories and plans to bring out a collection of them soon. Seven stories have already been written, even amidst her social work, shoots and series of film reviews that she has been doing for Jaya TV.

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