Mississippi Masala actress Sarita Choudhury is in India promoting her a new film For Real where she plays the mother of a 7-year old girl.
Coincidentally, Sarita has a daughter of the same age in real life. Says Sarita, “She has been uprooted so many times. But every time I make it seem like a fun adventure. Everything we do together is in that spirit of discovery. Every day when I’m not working I pick her up from school at 3 pm and then we do whatever she wants. Then My daughter has given me an odd sense of mooring.”
“This woman I play in For Real has left her family for a career. She was quite unlikeable from the outside. But I realized long ago that these unlikeable characters don’t find themselves unlikeable. So that gives you the licence to play the character without judging her. In my head, I portrayed this woman as suffering from a deep loss because she had given up her career for a workaholic husband. Playing the mother was easy since I am one. So I focused on projecting the character’s longing for what she didn’t have. The director Sona Jain and I talked and decided not to worry about my character being unlikeable.”
Sarita hit it off instantly with the child actor who played her daughter (Zoya S Hassan). Surmises Sarita, “It’s interesting to co-star with child actors. Off-screen, they’re just naughty little brats. Once the camera is on they look at you as though they know exactly what’s going on. At times I was jealous of Zoya. I didn’t realize what she had done until I saw the film. In my next film, (which is with Keanu Reeves) I’m going to do what she did. I’ll have fun on the sets and then I’ll concentrate when I am on the camera. A lot of the credit for the way those scenes with Zoya turned out goes to my director. And Zoya really trusted me. I’d often have my daughter on the sets.”
Being a single mother in New York is not as tough a role as one would presume. “There’s a whole pool of mothers and we all look after one another’s kids. It’s very normal in NY to be a mother and a full-time career woman,” says Sarita who is half-Bengali and is now learning her “father tongue”.
Says the actress, “When we went to Italy I had to learn Italian. Now I’m regretful about not learning Bengali. I found myself a teacher in Bengali. I’m learning the language from scratch.”
Sarita who visited her father’s family in Kolkata last week has had quite a cosmopolitan upbringing. “I was only 11 when we left Jamaica. Then we lived in Rome. After graduation I went to Canada.”
Choosing a career in acting was not easy. “My father who’s a Bengali said I could study acting as long as I got another more mainstream degree. That’s what I did. I got one in film and the other in economics.”