Imagine putting out a Facebook message and getting help with costumes. Well, Suhasini Maniratnam did just that for her role in the upcoming biopic on Ramanujan. Lakshmi Krupa talks to the actor
Director Gnana Rajasekaran, who has earlier made films like Bharathi and Periyar, met Suhasini Maniratnam a year ago and narrated ‘his version’ of the mathematical genius Ramanujan’s life. “I was immediately attracted to the project,” the actor says. “I was looking for Ramanujan look-alikes and spoke to a few actors such as Allu Arjun, Madhavan and Siddharth. But I feel Abhinay (Vaddi) is the right choice. More than my own role the fact that I was intrigued by Ramanujan from childhood made me want to be part of this project.”
The actor, who debuted back in 1980 as the protagonist of Mahendran’s Nenjathai Killadey, plays Ramanujan’s mother, Komalathammal, in this period film set in the 1900s.
While the director of the film has had a dream run at the National film awards so far, Suhasini says that the last thing on his mind is an award. “I am sure he is making this film because he is passionate about Ramanujan and feels bad he was not given the respect due to him. But awards are a great boost for the commercial run of a film. And I can see this film doing the rounds in festival circuit around the world,” she adds.
“The director’s wife Shakunthala and I collected old photographs for my look in the film,” she explains, “And I spoke to many traditional Brahmin family friends and took all their inputs. We collected nine yard saris from these families and also made special jewellery, from diamond addigai to a golusu,” Suhasini even posted a message on a Facebook page called Moore Market where people can buy and sell used products, looking for saris and jewels that represent the 1900s. “Moore Market page was one of the attempts (to look for period costumes) and I borrowed a sari from a lady from T. Nagar (through the page). I wear her sari in the very first scene of the film,” she says, “I sport a curly hairstyle, like M.S. Subbulakshmi’s as Komalathammal was also a Carnatic singer. There was an Iyengar maami called Vasantha who literally brought me up in my childhood. She taught me how to wear the sari in thengalai Iyengar style and even naama kattis were bought at the shop outside the Parthasarathy Koil for my pottu (bindi). I recalled the way my great grandmother and my grandmother spoke. For the role, all the research was done by the filmmaker.”
At this stage, Suhasini feels that roles are offered to her because of her experience and credibility. “It’s more a responsibility than a chore, so I assess what they offer and take them on.” She names Kappalottia Thamizhan, Aayirathil Oruvan, Veerapandia Kattabomman and Iruvar as her favourite period films in Tamil. Iruvar makes it to the list because, she says, “I had the fortune of writing the dialogues for the film!”
With an interest in world cinema, the actor recommends films for film festivals in Dubai, Berlin, Busan, Hong Kong and Taipei.
“There are about 250 curators in the world who keep their eyes open to choose films from around the globe for festivals. I am one of them.”
She feels that CIFF (Chennai International Film Festival) has great potential and could become an important Indian festival as it is the only one that is organised by artistes and film makers. Among her latest favourite films is Before Midnight, the third one in the ‘Before’ series (Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. “It has only two characters and they have written their own dialogues,” she says.
On the new wave of small films making it big in Kollywood, she says, “Unless we get out of these mindless comedies and a good-for-nothing fellow trying to win over the heroine kind of films, Tamil cinema will not be taken seriously. The dark comedies (of recent times) have brought down Tamil films by many notches.”
Commenting on the industry she is so intimately a part of, Suhasini says, “The Indian film industry has a condescending attitude towards its fans without actually intending to. They want to explain everything, leaving very little to the filmgoers’ imagination. Those who respect the intelligence of the common man have always been masters. I am glad that I worked more with those path-breakers than being part of just popular films.”