'The characterisations have mellowed me'

Candid conversation

'The characterisations have mellowed me'

There’s nothing pretentious about actor, director, dialogue-writer and television anchor Suhasini Mani Ratnam. She ensures that whatever she does looks effortless. What instantly strikes you about her are her warm ways and simplicity.     

She has starred in over 350 films and is no stranger to Sandalwood. From ‘Benkiyali Aralida Hoovu’ and ‘Bandhana’ in the 1980s to ‘School Master’, almost all her films in Kannada have topped the box-office. Most of her Kannada blockbusters are opposite late actor Vishnuvardhan. The actor, who is in the city for BIFFES, talks to Nina C George about her future projects and journey so far.  

What is your criteria for signing a film?
It is based on the director and his ability to narrate a story. I have acted in more than 300 films but it is not like I agree to every story. It is the trust that one puts in the filmmaker and since the stories are from every corner of the world, the director should be able to narrate it in a way that one has not heard before. So, in that sense, the director is important. The co-stars and my characterisation are also equally important.

What projects are you working on?
I am working on three Tamil films this year. One is with Radhika Sharath, Urvashi and Khushboo. We are playing characters from our own films that were shot 25 years ago. I am also playing a role in Arjun Sarja’s ‘Prema Baraha’ which is being made in Tamil and Kannada. There’s another Tamil film called ‘Kee’ where I play the wife of Telugu actor Rajendra Prasad. I play an uneducated housewife who calls her husband all sorts of names but she still has an identity of her own. 

Over the years, what changes have you seen in yourself?
The characters that I’ve played over the years have made me more humane. The philosophy of life and the characterisations have mellowed me down. I also think actors are more humane than normal human beings because somewhere normal human beings are always curbing their emotions and may not want to be so transparent with them. However, actors are always open with their emotions.

How has your uncle Kamal Haasan influenced you?  
I grew up with Kamal Haasan and  I’ve known him all my life. We used to live in a joint family and I have spent almost 27 years with Kamal. It is an inspiration to be with somebody like him. He always believed that women should not take risks with characters. He would always tell me that he could take all the risks but that I should be selective. He is very protective about me.

On being married to Mani Ratnam...  
Mani has also been an equally protective person. Mani always wanted me to venture into spaces that I’ve not explored before. I used to think that being obedient was a great virtue but he would not agree. He would tell me that I must fight for my rights and not always agree with the director on everything. I think it is only after I got married that I became an argumentative actor.

What is the one thing that you like about Mani Ratnam?  
Mani is somebody who respects women and this is the best quality that I like about him. He always puts women two notches above men. When women disappoint, he gets very upset but when men disappoint, he’s alright saying that men are made that way. He has great expectations  from women.

Do you travel to Bengaluru often?  
I think for those who live in Chennai, Bengaluru is like a sister city. I always look forward to coming here. The first thing that strikes me is the greenery, second is the food and then the people. Bengaluru has changed a little bit; though Vidhana Soudha and Cubbon Park are the same. Whenever, I am here for shooting, I go to Commercial Street to buy wool for my NGO where we teach women to make carpets. I don’t knit but I do carpet hooking.

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