STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART
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- Published 19.11.10
‘MY HAIR’S ALL OUT OF PLACE. I’M NOT LOOKING RIGHT,’ RAIMA SULKS, SINKING INTO THE BIG SOFT SOFA IN THE DRAWING ROOM OF THEIR BALLYGUNGE CIRCULAR ROAD APARTMENT. ‘NO MAMA, YOU CAN NEVER LOOK BAD. ASK ME WHY? BECAUSE YOU LOOK LIKE ME!’ SAYS MOM MOON MOON, IN A POWDER BLUE SHIRT AND SKIRT. RAIMA GLARES AT HER IN MOCK ANGER AND SETS THE BALL ROLLING FOR A LONG, FREE-WHEELING CHAT WITH T2 ON MANY THINGS CLOSE TO THEIR HEARTS. QUIRKY AND SASSY, FUN AND FEISTY, EXCITING AND ENDEARING — THAT’S THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER DUO OF MOON MOON SEN AND HER FIRST-BORN RAIMA. HAPPY READING!
Moon Moon: Park Street to me means a lot of fun, days of Anglo-Indians, crooners and my father (Dibanath Sen) driving down very fast in his Jaguar. It means magazines and books sold on the pavement, lunch with my mother (Suchitra Sen) at Moulin Rouge, breakfast at Flurys (picture left) with boys who you weren’t supposed to be seen with in school uniform and, finally, getting engaged to my husband (Bharat Dev Burman) at Flurys. He took my hand under the table and put the engagement ring on! Flurys is romance for me....
I also love Park Street for its lights and streamers on Christmas. I think of everyone who played and sang at Trinca’s... our sense of music and everything that we learnt are from Park Street. But now it’s only the memories that hold the same charm.
Raima: My school (Loreto House) was right there, so we used to go to Flurys a lot, too. Now there’s Music World. I also remember having a lot of birthday parties at Trinca’s when I was younger because it’s my mother’s favourite place. During our teens, Someplace Else was lovely. It was so tiny that it used to be like a private party as we knew everyone! It’s a very different crowd now. Now, I go a lot to Roxy. I also used to go to a lot of restaurants on Park Street with my parents.
Moon Moon: With parents?! I used to go there at 3 ’clock in the morning looking for them after my jatra shows! They would bend down and hide behind the crowd, so neither Raima nor Riya were to be found even though the doorman had already told me, ‘Haan, memsaab abhi tak hai!’
|Raima and Moon Moon in the t2 chat at their Ballygunge Circular Road residence. Picture by Pabitra Das|
Raima: Yeah, we used to cross our deadlines and even our friends’ parents would be walking around Someplace Else looking for us. It was fun growing up in that area. It was the most buzzing street. It still is.
Moon Moon: Another place that has a lot of potential is Bow Barracks on the 24th of December. Every band in Calcutta performs there for free. The music is loud, there’s dancing on the streets. They could make it into a more common thing if we made it a point to go there more often.
Moon Moon: College (Loreto) was very boring.
Raima: Even for me (Rani Birla Girls’ College). People say college life is better but I prefer school life any day. In college you’re allowed to do everything you want. I could just bunk college any time I wanted to. That’s not fun.
Moon Moon: The only thing we have in common about college is that we walked in through the front gate and walked out through the back! We didn’t go to most classes. My mother was hauled up by the principal for me skipping classes and I was hauled up for her (Raima).
|Moon Moon and Raima Sen. Picture by Pabitra Das; Raima’s make-up by Aniruddha Chakladar|
Raima: But that was in school!
Moon Moon: Yeah, see they started early! The principal would tell me, ‘Where’s your daughter? She hasn’t come to class!’ Come on now, tell us what you were doing...
Raima: (Giggles) Nothing that you think I was... always exaggerating, Mama!
Love and marriage
Moon Moon: I love my two daughters (Raima and Riya) more than anything else in the world. And I’m prepared to love their husbands as much as I love them as long as they don’t bring in trash! I think as a family we’ll have great fun when we have two decent, dignified, educated, good family boys who’ll love my daughters.
Raima: Let’s see. Haven’t found anyone like that yet.
Moon Moon: And I’m so relieved to hear that!
Raima: I do believe in marriage. Everybody has to get married at some point but I’m not ready for it now. It depends on what you’re looking for in life.
Moon Moon: What are you looking for in life?
Raima: I don’t know Ma, but I’m not ready for marriage yet.
Moon Moon: No children? That’s a horrible lie! Just look at the way she just posed and said, ‘I’m not ready for marriage yet’!
Raima: Some of my friends think I should never get married because I’m a very naughty girl.
Moon Moon: You are a naughty girl but you should have children.
Raima: Okay, I’ll get married and have children!
Moon Moon: And I’ll look after the kids. See, I’ve been very happy and I hope they have the same life. I’m very serious about them getting married — into joint families, who have the same kind of background, education and life as them. My husband and I don’t have relatives, so someone has to look after my daughters. They can’t live alone. Every two days, sometimes every two hours, I get these panic calls, ‘Ma ghor porishkar hoyni... my clothes are discoloured... khabar is not on time....’!
Raima: I don’t complain to you every two minutes!
Raima: My mother thinks I lie to her all the time, but I don’t think there’s any generation gap problem. I relate to her.
Moon Moon: You know, I surprise myself because I think I’m very liberal and my daughters are wonderful. Only trouble is when they come home late at night, I’m sitting here looking mad. I want to know who has dropped them home, how they’ve come back and they rush into the bedroom and lock the door.... I think I’m going to have the locks taken out!
Raima: And she sits up, eating cup cakes! Then she’ll slowly come into my room and say, ‘Let’s have a chat’.
Moon Moon: What do you expect me to do at four in the morning? No good girl stays out so late.
Raima: Everyone does Ma. I don’t want my mother to open the door like Halloween in the middle of the night!
Moon Moon: See, I don’t like it if they don’t give us enough time because my husband and I really enjoy their company.
Raima: I think it’s great fun to have a sister. Riya (picture right) and I share things, have the same set of friends and go out together. We can tell each other anything and we support each other. Earlier, we used to fight a lot but now that’s changed. We have our fights but that’s very minor. It’s lovely growing up with a sister who’s almost like a friend now.
Moon Moon: I’m very happy they have each other. My husband and I both had a very lonely childhood, so they’re very, very lucky. Sometimes they let me down when they fight. Two filthy little words they’ve been using since they were two years old — ‘you shut up’ and ‘you shut down’. Ei duto kotha ekhono choley. I don’t know where they learnt it from!
What’s more important for an actress — Glamour and beauty or acting skills?
Raima: It depends, but nowadays I don’t know what works.
Moon Moon: Let me be truthful. I think it’s very important to be beautiful or pleasant. People don’t want to spend a lot of money and two-and-a-half hours looking at an ugly girl. It doesn’t add anything to the film. I remember my mother also used to say, ‘I don’t want to see a film which doesn’t have a beautiful actress’. So, it is, to a certain point, very important to have a lovely-looking girl and a good-looking man also. They don’t have to be picture perfect in every scene but you don’t want distortions on screen either. It’s all make-believe.
Raima: Katrina’s (Kaif) doing so well and she’s beautiful.
Moon Moon: Raima does very natural roles and she hates being made to look glamorous. She doesn’t like to do her hair, she’s hardly bothered about her make-up, she doesn’t mind what she’s wearing. She’s just so into what she’s doing. We clash there because I think you have a duty to do your hair. It’s a frame for your face. You have to worry about your clothes and have a trial before the film. She’s too casual. I don’t think she even looks at the mirror.
Raima: I’m looking glamorous in Noukodubi. I look glamorous when it’s required.
Moon Moon: That’s because everybody else is making you look that way, but you aren’t too concerned. See, it’s not enough if you have talent. You have to make the best of yourself. This is true of most of our actresses who are talented.
The most beautiful woman
Raima: My grandmother (Suchitra Sen) and the late Maharani Gayatri Devi.
Moon Moon: When I sit with Aparna (Sen), we laugh and chat and I look at her and wonder, ‘God, she’s so beautiful and charming’. The other day I bumped into Waheeda Rehman... she’s got grey hair and her walk is so stately. I’m such a fan of hers. But beauty’s there in my little ones’ faces. Every woman has a beauty of her own.
A FEW good-looking men
Moon Moon: Gosh, there are so many! I just saw one the other day at Manish Malhotra’s fashion show. I like Kalyan (Roy) because of his mane; my husband (Bharat) will always be good-looking in my eyes, despite his tummy or bad nose! There are lots of good-looking men but there are few of them in Calcutta and there are some who are married.
Raima: I can only think of Hollywood stars.
Moon Moon: Keno India-te keu nei?
Raima: Okay... Varun Thapar, a friend of ours from the Thapar family of industrialists in Calcutta. He is beautiful.
Moon Moon: I find Karan Paul beautiful because of the way he’s dressed, the gleam in his eyes and his sense of humour. He’s so articulate. That’s because he has that family background and past. (Late) Basanta Chowdhury, too, was so beautiful.
Moon Moon: Mithun (Chakraborty), Paresh Rawal, Farooq Sheikh, Pankaj Kapur.... Generally, character artistes.
Raima: Ranbir (Kapoor) at the moment.
Moon Moon: Not Abhishek Bachchan?
Raima: No, Ranbir is a great actor.
Moon Moon: Yes, I like him too. He’s like his father. Rishi was such a lovely actor too.
Raima: I’ve seen Rajneeti to Wake Up Sid; he’s been different in every film.
Moon Moon: I don’t like Aishwarya (Rai Bachchan) as an actress but I love her as a dancer. She’s an exquisite dancer.
Raima: I like Kareena (Kapoor). Be it a commercial or serious film, she’s very good. Never thought so before but Omkara onwards, she’s been brilliant.
Moon Moon: I like her too. She’s brave and wonderful. The two sisters (Karisma and Kareena) were always so competent.
a special song
Moon Moon: Apres Moi by this very sexy hoarse voice Eartha Kitt. I remember one night in Bombay when both the girls used to sleep on either side of my arms. Ekhon toh boro hoye gechhe, amar kachhei ashbe na... I said, ‘Sing me a song to sleep’ and the little ones sang Apres Moi, which means ‘you can have him after me’! I couldn’t believe this was the song they sang to me as a lullaby (laughs). I was quite shocked that they learnt these songs when they were so young.
Raima: I also used to like Eartha Kitt’s My Heart Belongs To Daddy and Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots Are Made For Walking. I used to love all this music. It brings back memories of the days when my parents would have a party, and the next day we’d go looking for those CDs, put them on, write down the lyrics and memorise them.
Moon Moon: My mother used to love Never On A Sunday and we play that often to each other.
Moon Moon: Sheddho-bhaat with ghee. It has a lot of connotations. If I’m missing home and missing mummy, it’s sheddho-bhaat. If I’ve had too much food in restaurants, it’s sheddho-bhaat. If I’m depressed, it’s sheddho-bhaat.... Lovely memories of Raima and me in Bombay having sheddho-bhaat and rushing off to work. They used to say Sandhya Ray ate a lot of sheddho-bhaat everyday before leaving for work and then again after coming back home late at night. That’s why she always looked so young!
Raima: There’s so much of ghee and butter in that! I like it in Amma’s house the most because of the way she mixes it.... I love Chinese food. I’d like to have it everyday if I could help it, but I only like it at one or two places. A place called Royal China in Bombay and Tangra in Calcutta.
Calcutta or mumbai?
Raima: In terms of work, Bombay. There’s opportunity to do much more there. A lot of my friends are here but if I’m not working in Cal, I get bored very fast. In Bombay, there are many more places to go to, you see new faces all the time.
Moon Moon: For me it’s Calcutta. I love my Academy of Fine Arts, I love going to the fairs in winter, there’s Park Street, I can go to CIMA. Aar jabo kothay? But it’s sad that Calcutta has nothing new to offer. Look at Sri Lanka where every old house has been maintained so beautifully and they’re standing side by side with new houses built by young architects trained from around the world. Why can’t we do the same? We just want to pull them down and make matchbox flats with no aesthetic value.
Tollywood or Bollywood?
Raima: I’ve done some of my best films here with Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen.... I’ve known most of them as a kid when I used to hang around with my mother on the sets. Over there, it’s more professional but both seem the same to me.
Moon Moon: I see (the film industry in) Calcutta the way it was. No changes. The bathrooms are filthy, the food is disgusting. They’re always trying to rip you off as far as your remuneration goes, except for a handful of make-up men and hairdressers getting paid more than others. There’s very little professionalism here. Whereas Bombay is making films that Hollywood is interested in. They’re doing well in getting noticed. Calcutta is a very rich city with a lot of money being put into films but I don’t know where it goes.
Moon Moon: I used to read about her in the papers and found her very brittle, causing a lot of problems, not letting the state go ahead and develop.... Today there is a balance. I saw her the other day and she was so charming, a bit self-possessed but being a perfect hostess without showing off. She was playing with a child, wasn’t surrounded by sycophants and quite approachable. I thought it’s good if we have a leader like her but she just has to make sure that the people around her are not corrupt.
But I’m a staunch fan of Buddhadebbabu. I think he’s a doll. In my eyes he’s really attractive. I was once in need of help and he was very busy, yet he helped me out so well and so quickly. He never let me down as a hero figure.
Raima: I used to read about Mamata Banerjee and see her on TV. I met her last year when we went looking for a puja pandal and people mistakenly took us into her house. She was so nice to me. We chatted and she gave me a perfume. I think she was very sweet and lovely.
Moon Moon: She gave the girls her number and said, ‘Tomra dujoney ekla thako Bombay-tey? If there’s anything you need or there’s a problem, you ring me and I’ll sort it out’. That was wonderful. You do like people who make promises to help you out. I wish Mr (Prakash) Karat had done that for Buddhadebbabu!
Moon Moon: I have no idea about computers.
Raima: She’s just learnt the BlackBerry Baby.
Moon Moon: Riya gave it to me recently but I don’t know what to do with it.
Raima: Everyone’s on Twitter so I’m on it too. I upload pictures once in a while and say something only when I have to. I’m not on it every second or as active as I should be.
Moon Moon: I think it’s a very horrible public thing to do but they have a different point of view. I can’t figure out why one has to wake up in the morning and announce, ‘I had fried eggs today and not sausages’! Who really wants to read that?
Raima: A lot of people. It’s the best way to directly promote something or have so many followers.
Moon Moon: I don’t get it.
Moon Moon: I love t2 because they’ve always carried lovely photographs of me!
Raima: It’s the first thing I look forward to every morning. Also, we know all the people who are being featured in it. t2’s great fun!