Bollywood Nostalgia

Suchitra Sen: The woman behind closed doors

By Amrita Mukherjee

When I was working as a film journalist in Kolkata, a TV channel, while interviewing me, asked if tracking the ever elusive Suchitra Sen was my ultimate ambition.
My answer in the negative may have disappointed her. You may wonder why. In fact, you may wonder why ask a question like that in the first place.
Most Bengali film journalists largely believe that getting a story (and the latest photograph) on the elusive legend would be like hitting the jackpot in Bengali film journalism. Not me! I always believed that if someone wants privacy, then respect it. Knocking on her door when she didn’t want to be in the spotlight was not journalism for me.
I have actually had the opportunity to knock on her door on numerous occasions, but never did it. I have been to Moon Moon Sen’s apartment a couple of times, to attend Raima Sen’s birthday party or to interview her. Her apartment is exactly opposite Suchitra Sen’s. To be honest, I hoped many-a-times that the door to the Garboesque apartment would be ajar and I would catch a glimpse of her walking around.
That never happened.
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A freelance photographer, who had gone to shoot the Sen sisters – Riya and Raima, once told me that he met Suchitra Sen in their lift. He claimed that she looked nothing like what we remember her as; it took him a long time to actually recognize her. I don’t know if this Suchitra Sen was for real or a figment of his imagination, but I too hoped that she would walk into the lift when I was in it. That never happened too.
But while talkingtoRaima with whom I interacted often when I wasinKolkata, I had created my own impression of the legend. I remember once a producer had taken us all out for coffeeatTaj BengalandRaima soon joined in. However, she was in a tearing hurry to get home quickly as she was supposed to have dinner with her grandma. “She is a stickler for time and doesn’t like us getting late,”Raima told me.

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I imagined a grey-haired lady sitting at the dining table waiting for her granddaughters. A regular domestic scenario, away from the fleeting image of the mysterious woman we had all grown up with.
On another occasion  Raima told me that her grandmom hand-picked blouses and sarees from her wardrobe and gave them to her so that she could wear them in her film Chokher Bali (the Rituparno Ghosh film that also starred Aishwarya Rai).
I imagined a doting granny, who wanted her granddaughter to excel as an actor and look her best too.
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