Monday, July 31, 2006

Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson!

To reproduce this article, permission has to be obtained from Hindustan Times

Suhasini Mulay, who plays an older seductress, sets pulses racing in Yun Hota To Kya Hota

Shevlin Sebastian

“You have come early,” Suhasini Mulay, 55, tells me near the entrance of her building at Andheri. Yes indeed, I am ten minutes early for the 3 pm interview. She has just returned after lunch with friends at the Legacy of China restaurant. At first glance, without make-up, you can see the age: the tufts of grey hair hovering over the side of her temples, the tiny wrinkles and the crow’s feet, but her brown eyes are clear and honest: ageless. She is dressed casually in jeans and a white top and a large brown bag hangs from one shoulder.
The unmarried Mulay lives alone in her fifth floor apartment, which has little furniture and lots of space. Against one wall, there are rows of cassettes and CDs: Miles Davis, Chris Rea, Tracey Chapman, R.D. Burman and Kishore Kumar, among others. High up against another wall is a row of paperbacks, with the usual suspects: Barbara Taylor Bradford, Len Deighton and Jilly Cooper.
As we start to talk, she gets a call comes on her mobile. It’s actress Pratima Kazmi, who has just seen the movie and is calling up to offer compliments. Mullay laughs loudly as she says, “Thank you.”
Mulay is in the news for the erotic, love-making scenes she has done with Irrfan Khan in director Naseeruddin Shah’s debut film Yun Hota To Kya Hota. She plays the older women, Namrata, a dance instructor on whom Khan, (Salim Rajabal), a stockbroker, is passionately in love with. The movie has created a buzz among the multiplex crowd and is running to fairly large houses at present.
Sizzling scenes
So why did she take this role? “Because Naseerudin Shah was making this film,” she says. “Regardless of what the film was going to be, it would be something interesting and worthwhile.” She is frank enough to say the producers were looking for a bigger name but those who were offered it rejected it for various reasons.
“For me it was a role I don’t think I will ever get again,” she says. “Because, there are not many roles for a middle-aged woman. So far, I have always been typecast as a rich grandmother or mother. So, I was very happy but a little apprehensive.”
Shah was very clear when the role was offered to Mulay that there would be love scenes that would suggest love-making and they would probably be erotic in nature. “I told him you would still have to go past the Indian censor,” says Mulay. “He said, ‘I want them to be erotic, I don’t necessarily want to expose’. He is right: You can be very erotic without showing anything because, basically, people have a dirty mind.”
I raise my right hand and say, “I plead guilty here.”
“So do I,” she says sportingly, and bursts out laughing.
I ask Irrfan Khan, who is shooting in Kodaikanal, whether there was any awkwardness in shooting the love-making scenes. “Not at all,” he says. “No moment can be uncomfortable if we trust each other as an actor.”
Shah, who is away in Chandigarh, also says it was not difficult to shoot the love-making scenes. “Suhasini is a great sport,” he says. Actually, he says, he wanted the scenes to be titillating and funny at the same time. “The best sex scene is one in which there is a lot of laughter,” he says. “The power of suggestion is also much better than showing a nude scene, which tends to be distracting.”
Asked about her qualities as an actress, he says, “She has a great presence on screen and does not take herself too seriously as an actress.” Khan says she was very hard working and did the role “with a lot of enthusiasm.”
Mulay says the reactions to her role have been mostly positive. “Younger colleagues in TV serials appreciated my role,” she says.
One of them is Priya Badlani, who acts with Mulay in Jabb Love Hua, which airs on Zee TV. “I really appreciate the fact that Suhasini had the courage to do that role,” she says. “After all, what’s wrong with a 50 year-old single woman being in love?”
Mulay says colleagues of her age had a different reaction: they asked her why was it so necessary to do this role. “They felt sorry because they thought I needed to do this kind of role to give a fillip to my career,” she says.
Hot-shot activist
She’s had an unusual career. She began at age 16 when she acted in Mrinal Sen’s Bhuvan Shome and won a national award. But then, after acting in a few films after that, there was a 30-year lull before she returned with a bang in Gulzar’s Hu Tu Tu and again won a national award. Later, she acted in Lagaan, Dil Chahata Hai and Humraaz.
So what was she doing in the interim? “I was making documentary films,” she says. “It is a kind of film-making that fascinates me because you are talking about real things. It is not fiction. Fiction will reflect reality but it is a manufactured reality.”
She has directed 60 documentaries, out of which four have won national awards, including one on the Bhagalpur blindings. Incredibly, almost all of them were funded by her. “I have gone broke at times,” she says. “Because no twit in India is going to pay for them. One of the reasons why I switched to acting was because I was broke. If you have some talent, the fastest way to make money is to act. It is the most over paid profession in the world.”
Early life
And she came into this over-paid profession thanks to her mother, Vijaya, who was a founding member of the Federation of Film Societies in India.
Mulay was born in Patna and spent her formative years in Delhi. Her father passed away when she was three and her mother, Vijaya, brought her up. “We are three sisters, so we were a household of women,” she says. “My mother was a government servant and got transferred from place to place.” Later, Mullay took degrees in agriculture technology and mass communications from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
Today, she keeps herself busy acting in television serials and doing the odd film, which comes her way. Asked why she has not married, she says, “The primary responsibility of running the house and bringing up children falls on the women. To do this, she has to sacrifice her career. I looked at the options and opted out.”
And she does not look a whit unhappy at her decision. On the other hand, she revels in her freedom and at the end of the conversation when I ask her, which five actors she would like to do a love scene with, her reaction, unlike most Indian woman, is far from demure. “Only five,” she yells. “My list is much more than that. Give me some time to think, so that I can pick ONLY five.”

Five Hot Actors
(Suhasini Mullay would love to do a love scene with them)
1. Shashi Kapoor
2. John Abraham
3. Mahadevan
4. Saif Ali Khan
5. Kunal Kapoor

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