By Subhash K Jha
BOLLYWOOD: Two days after the death of the unconditionally legendary Suchitra Sen, her grand-daughter Raima is confused about her feelings of grief and guilt.
“Why am I feeling so empty and guilty? I think I should’ve spent more time with my Grandmom. My mother my sister and I are the only family she had, the only people she wanted to connect with .We felt responsible towards her.It’s a terrible loss,” says Raima.
Recalling the super-iconic Suchitra Sen’s last days, Raima says, “She was conscious of her condition in hospital. But none of us thought she would go away.Her health didn’t seem so bad..She was chatting asking about how her home was doing in her absence…We would bring her ghar ka khana in the hospital. She would eat it cautiously.She also at the hospital food.”
Raima’s mother the rebellious Moon Moon Sen is shattered.
“I really don’t know what my mother will do without my grandmother now. They were one another’s universe. To my mother, her mother mattered the most. They have always been together. My mom’s bonding with my grandmother can’t be compared with what my sister and I shared with our grandmother. Riya and I have our lives. But for our mom her mother her universe.”
Raima admits Suchitra Sen and Moon Moon Sen were very different from one another. “It’s very surprising how different they were and yet they understood one another completely. My grandmother and mother were best friends. It was a very difficult situation for my grandmother when my mother got married , moved out of her home and had her own family.”
Raima has been stationed in Kolkata attending to the ailing Suchitra Sen for more than a month. “And now, her going…It was so unexpected… Then we immediately had to deal with the cremation . Since then there is an incessant flow of guests in the house. It’s only that I realize what my grandmother meant for the people of Bengal. Instead of dealing with grief we are coping with the flow of visitors. The enormity of the loss hasn’t really begun to sunk in. It will happen when we are alone.”
Raima remembers during her childhood she knew nothing about the legendary aura surrounding her grandmother. “When my sister Riya and I were kids grandma had already given up films and public life. So we only knew her as our grandmother and not as this iconic star until the time we became actresses ourselves. It was only then that we realized what a huge reputation our grandmother was.”
Raima is all praise for her grandmother’s determined disregard for the limelight. “She took a decision to stay out of public view and she stuck to it. It’s easy to withdraw from the limelight. But difficult to resist coming back to it. After some time the retired celebrity begins to miss the attention, the work and trappings of stardom. Not my Grandmother. Once she made up her mind she stayed away. She left everything and everyone behind. My mom sister and I,were all she had.”
About Suchitra Sen’s mythic seclusion Raima reminisces, “When Riya and I were kids she took us shopping and boating .She would come home as we would go to hers. But no, she never cooked for me. Neither does my mother. But we’d have lunch together. I’d miss my lunches with my grandmother.”
People including filmmakers have noted Raima’s resemblance to her incandescent grandmother. “Initially when I came into the industry everyone would look at me in that funny way as if they were not seeing me but someone else. When I was doing my first film Godmother I’d be told to look into the camera in a certain way. It took me a while to realize they were seeing my grandmother in me.Everything to do with me was about my grandmother.They just loved me because I looked like her. It took me a long time to get out of her shadows. After Rituda’s Chokher Bali the comparisons stopped.”
Suchitra Sen hardly watched films, not even Raima’s. “But she did watch me in Annirudh Roy Chowdhary’s Anuranan. She had never watched any film of mine before that. After Anuranan she wanted to see more of my films. I gave her Rituda’s Nauka Dubi. She liked that too. As for me I think she was awesome in all her films specially Saat Pake Bandha, Uttar Phalguni, Mamta, Aandhi and Dweep Jwale Jaye…Her screen presence is unmatchable, at least in Bengali cinema.”
Says Raima, “Rituda(Rituparno Ghosh) wanted to make a film on my grandmother’s life with me in the lead. The only director I would have trusted to make a film on my grandmother is Rituda. Now, no chance!Two people who were very close to my heart are gone within a year.”
Raima was amazed by the turn-out at Suchitra Sen’s cremation. “Not even the biggest stars would get the kind of send-off that my grandmom got from her fans. And this, mind you, in spite of the fact that hadn’t been seen on screen for 40 years.When she was being taken I could see people coming out on the road with their hands folded saying goodbye to someone they will never stop loving.They threw wreaths and said prayers for her. This was not a normal farewell.The fans are fanatical about her.They loved her madly even when they hadn’t seen her for decades.Apart from her immediate family the only ones who saw her were the doctors and the nurses who attended to her in her last days. ”
Suchitra Sen remained private even in death.
Says Raima, “The family made sure she remained undisclosed to public view even after her death. We had to respect her privacy.”
Says Raima, “I am looking at her black-and-white pictures. That young beautiful woman resembles my grandmother. But I can’t connect that lovely star with my lovely grandmother. Those eyes and the smile remained the same till the end.”
This is the first time Raima has lost someone so close to her. “And I am stricken with guilt and regret.It’s going to take a long to heal. Should I have spent more time with my grandmother? I guess the time you get with those you love is never enough. Thank God I wasn’t somewhere else when she went. Her last wish was to see me get married. I want her wish for me to come true.”