Genius of Suhasini Mani Ratnam

Actor-director-dialogue writer-producer promises to score high with her latest work, Ramanujan, in which she playes the ace mathematician’s mother, who is shrewd and has a grey side too.

Published: 16th August 2013 10:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th August 2013 10:58 AM   |  A+A-

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At 52, Suhasini Mani Ratnam is articulate, bright and chirpy as during her early days. “I will be greyer, wiser, more patient but as hard-working and sincere than when I was 20. I will be a leader, not in politics but movements that involve society, conservation, women and arts. I plan to live till I am 90,” says the actress, who has been part of the film industry for 33 years.

On her role in Ramanujan

Suhasini plays Ramanujan’s mother in the film that tracks the journey of the ace mathematician from Kumbakonam to Cambridge and is being simultaneously shot in Tamil and English. “I play Komalathammal, the brilliant and smart mother of the gifted Ramanujan. The story starts when Ramunajan is a 10-year-old boy and ends when he is 32. Komalathammal is in her prime for these years. It’s a change from the usual mothers. She’s shrewd, smart, kind and ambitious; she has a grey side too which is very easy for me to do. But audience will see that different side for the first time. I have finished 40 per cent of my work, can’t wait for the rest of the shooting,” says the versatile actress. “Every  educated family in Tamil Nadu longs for a Ramanujan to be born in their house. That way it’s a

dream come true. I am proud to be part of a film that shows life in the 1900s in south India. The tradition, values and knowledge is amazing to enact and portray today. It feels like magic,” she adds.

“Hotel Chola Sheraton has a very intriguing portrait of the genius Ramanujan in its bar. As a teetotaler, I spent hours staring at the portrait many evenings as my friends sipped wine and champagne. Some years ago, actor Madhavan called saying he’s to portray Ramanujan in a British film and we talked over 20 minutes about Ramanujan. Today, I am part of the project and lucky to be playing a woman who is like my mother, aunt or grandmother,” she adds.

Working with Mani Ratnam

Suhasini, who runs Madras Talkies with her filmmaker husband Mani Ratnam, is one of the first females to graduate as a cinematographer from the Madras Film Institute in 1981. “Mani is an excellent partner, friend and spouse. I can’t imagine life without him; we are equals in every step of the way. We have similar values, tastes, preferences and joys, yet very different in our personalities. We complete 25 years this month, but it seems like yesterday. I see him more as a companion than a genius filmmaker. He’s a kind and dignified man to me. Nothing more,” says the actress, who has written the dialogue for three of Mani’s films.

“I’d like to work with K Balachander—the man behind Sindhu Bhairavi and Ek Duje Ke Liye—K Viswanath and Kranthi Kumar again. The first two is still a possibility. They know my potential. The directors I missed working with are Balu Mahendra and K Bhagyaraj (Tamil), Adoor Gopalakrishnan in Malayalam and I wish to work with all the young talented Telugu and Tamil directors,” she adds.

On her journey in cinema

“I have been hooked to cinema since childhood. Nothing much has changed in these years. My knowledge, curiosity and ability remain the same as it was in 1980. I count myself lucky that I was able to spend the first 27 years of my life with Kamal Haasan (a close relative) and the next 25 years with Mani Ratinam,” says the actor who has won numerous awards, including the National Award and Filmfare for Kannada and Telugu films.

Male domination

“Like our society, films are 100 per cent dominated by men and men only. There are no roles for people like me except a loving mother or a doctor or a college principal. But televison makes up for that in Tamil Nadu. Women like Radhika, Kushbu and myself dominate. There’s hardly any place for men. Nothing to complain,” says the actress.

Favourite works

“Nenjathai Killathe (Tamil) as it was my first, Manchupallaki (Telugu) for the innocence, Adaminte Vaariyellu (Malayalam) as it was my first arthouse cinema,  Bandhana (Kannada) for making Vishnuvardhan and me a hit pair, Sindhu Bhairavi for the national recognition, Vanaprastham for Cannes recognition, Swathi (Telugu) for making me a household name in Tollywood,” signs off the actress.

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