We will miss you, Sujatha


Arguing vociferously in court for the cause of women in general and her client in particular, the lawyer concludes her summary with, “I have now played the final trump card I had! I seek justice, your honour!” And even as she pleads she slides to the floor, clutching her chest. None who has followed Sujatha's career closely can forget this scene in Vidhi. She played the courageous lawyer Sakunthala, who takes on the powerful, and her enactment made viewers forget that Vidhi was a remake. Rekha had played the part in the Hindi original, Mujhe Insaaf Chahiye.

In the 1970s and 80s, Sujatha was the producers' natural choice when it came to performance-backed roles. A poignant remake of Koshish may not have been possible without actors of the calibre of Kamal Haasan and Sujatha, who replicated the roles of Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri, in Uyarndhavargal.

When Sujatha, a K. Balachander find, entered the scene, going by the norm that heroines have to be in their teens even when they are paired with our 50 plus heroes, she was pretty mature. Yet it worked to her advantage because frivolous roles never came her way. The guilt-ridden wife who succumbs to blackmail in Mayangugiraal Oru Maadhu is a case in point. And even when she ‘graduated' to playing mother to the very heroes she had been paired with, matters hardly changed. This screen mom always had a solid part in the scheme of things.

A cult film

The courageous but thoroughly disillusioned wife and the sadistic husband of Avargal are a couple of the most remarkable characters among KB's creations. And together with the impactful performances of Sujatha and Rajnikanth, who played the parts, Avargal acquired a cult status! It's incredible that later the same pair was accepted as mother and son in a slew of films, including Maaveeran and Kodi Parakudhu. It worked in similar fashion with Sujatha and Kamal Haasan too when the ardent lovers of Kadal Meengal went on to establish a strong mother-son bonding in Mangamma Sabadham!

Endowed with a charming face and slim figure, Sujatha's dress sense spelt elegance. The perfectly tailored blouses, the simple, neat hairstyling and the stiff cotton saris, all aptly accessorised, made her a connoisseur's delight.

Sujatha could steal the scene from right under the hero's nose! And be it Sivaji Ganesan in Andaman Kaadhali or Satyaraj in Amaidhi Padai, she ensured that she made her presence felt. In a hero-dominated industry, box office success of her movies that had her in heroine-centric parts was a given. She achieved it with ease, probably because strong storylines have been an underlying feature of all her films. Her career surged ahead after Annakili, in which she was teamed with Sivakumar. And if the innocent village belle was striking, so was the responsible foster mother of Unnai Naan Sandhithaen, who came in later.

At a time when theatrics ruled the roost in Tamil cinema, Sujatha scored with subtlety and underplay. She wasn't a trained dancer, but her large, bewitching eyes could portray emotions with ease. All the same, behind the façade, I always thought I sensed a tinge of sadness. Intriguing, I told myself, because she had climbed several notches in her career and was proving her mettle in every film! Anxiety could have no place in her life, or so I felt.

About four years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see her seated in the first row, at a Y. Gee. Mahendra function. On stage when she spoke about her love for theatre, the cheer in her voice sounded genuine. The blues seemed to have vanished!

Sadly that was the last time I saw Sujatha!

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 3:22:57 AM |

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