The actress spoke about taking a break from acting in her initial years because either the projects didn’t interest her or she was being offered sleazy roles. She also shared how reality show Roadies paved her way in the entertainment industry and a lot more.
Do you feel with the OTT show, you have got recognition has finally come your way?
Yes, absolutely. For the first time, I am getting any kind of appreciation and also eyeballs. It’s not like I didn’t do good work before. But either those times, the film would release and nobody would even know. I did a lot of Indie films with independent makers. Even with this show, I was at a fence. I was waiting to let it release. I didn’t want to get excited. I have been through this process of being hopeful and then things not working out. Sometimes you are also offered crap work, which you don’t want to do. I would rather not act than do mindless work. If you want to be a part of this industry, there are many other job profiles, which I want to explore. This is the first time, I am not only approached by random people but also people from the industry. It’s just the beginning. I would definitely want this to convert into better work.
How did you end up participating in Roadies back then?
Honestly, it happened to me very randomly. I didn’t even know about the show. It was my then-boyfriend, who wanted to participate. He and his friends took a flight from Pune to Delhi for auditions. But something happened and the auditions got cancelled. They all came back. Then they introduced online form fill-up and along with them I also filled out a form by fluke. I was the only one to get a call. Then I went and cleared everything and got selected. I came home and started watching the show for the first and realised what I had gotten myself into. Though I am very adventurous but that looked dangerous. I also got my nose broken. But I am really happy that show happened, it opened me up as a person. The fact that I could leave my home and come to Mumbai to live alone, take care of house, finances and everything, Roadies was a very good platform.
Roadies gave me a platform
It was because of Roadies that I got called for other auditions. Otherwise, people take years to even get through the right casting agent. The show gives an entry to the right places, it works or not that’s different. Not everyone is as smart and confident as Ayushmann Khurrana. He is the boss and knew exactly what he wanted to do. There were so many things offered to him before he did his first film and he knew, which ones to say no to. He knew, ‘mujhe ek hi chance milega, I am a nobody here’. That’s a great lesson to learn from him. I was also quite sure not to over-expose myself by doing random things. It was a good thing that I took a break to wait for the right project.
How was your experience of getting auditioned by Raghu Ram and Rajiv?
My experience was surprisingly very different. They might have shown for 10-12 mins but in reality my interview was one of the longest. It went for one hour 45 mins. I was very sure I wouldn’t be selected. There was never a moment where they raised their voice. We were discussing books, authors, and international cinema. It was like a conversation. Even when I got selected, I felt like an imposter thinking, ‘main inke beech kya kar rahi hu?’ I am not a person who gets into conflicts for petty things. I left midway into the show and I was quite relieved when I got voted out. I was just done with the vibes and energy. I just made one friend – Natasha. Raghu and Rajiv were such gentlemen off screen. They took my bags and put them in the car. On screen, they had this angry persona. During our season, it was not scripted back then. I can vouch for it. I don’t know how it is now.
What happened after Roadies? Was entering showbiz always on your mind?
I think I would say yes. I loved art and its different forms. I have been a dancer. I learnt many dancing forms. It was always there but I never thought of it as a career. I come from a city called Bhilai, which is like the Kota of Chhattisgarh. People only study for IIT, IIM or CA there. There were many limited options and I was a good student. But I was also interested in co-curricular activities. When I got introduced to the Hindi and international sitcoms, I was drawn towards them but didn’t know the route.
Roadies played a very important role in my life
When Roadies came out, I was doing a job, which paid me Rs 30K a month. I got an audition call for a fairness cream brand. I cracked it and it was a 2-day shoot. I was paid Rs 30K per day. I was like, ‘yeh toh bahut sahi hai’. Shoojit Sircar had directed that ad. He was an ad director back then. I thought if I am getting paid like this and getting to do things I love, then why not? So, slowly I transitioned. I did many acting courses in Delhi and did plays in Mumbai. I was always dancing and singing but acting was not my forte. I worked on it. Slowly and steadily I have started understanding the nuances.
Where were you working?
I was working in a bank. I did my graduation from Symbiosis and an MBA in finance. I got placed in a bank in the R&D department. I hated and dreaded the job. There was nothing much to do. I would just sit in front of the computer. I left it in four months. It was such a dull job and I couldn’t think of doing it forever. Roadies helped me give me that push.
Having been born to a Bengali father and Russian mom, how was your childhood like? Where they supportive of your aspirations?
I was very lucky and I have had the best childhood. My father has a very big close-knit Bengali family. I have zillions of cousins. There was never a dull moment. And my mother has been a working woman. She learnt her way out in the city. She designed wedding couture in Europe and then opened three boutiques in Bhilai, learnt the language. She learnt how to design Indian outfits. My mother is half Ukranian and half Russian. But we lived in Ukraine. I would travel there with her and there was such a stark difference. Back then I didn’t want to live in India and now I can’t think of living anywhere else but here. I feel so blessed. I got to experience a lot because of the travel. I would celebrate birthdays for 3 days. One was my school birthday, and then was the full-fledged Bengali birthday with rice, fish and many other dishes and one day was with the Russian community. My parents have been ideal in so many ways and it helped me shape me up the way I am. They have been supportive.
Kaalkoot fame Suzanna Mukherjee on being offered sleazy roles in initial years: Had to leave acting
How’s the bond with your parents now?
Right now, they are kind of pressuring me for marriage. This is one aspect, where we are not seeing eye to eye. I understand where they come from and their concerns. Everyone comes with their own fate. When things happen, I will get married.
In your initial period, have you faced casting couch?
There have been instances when I would be called at a certain time and to a location, which is not official. It happened time to time and I would always avoid it. That was also a reason why I kind of stopped acting for sometime. The kind of work that was coming my way, was not right. It was the rise of all those apps with sleazy content. I was getting offered such kind of roles. I kept thinking what wrong have I done in life that I am getting offered this kind of sh*t. That is when I transitioned to writing. There were stories I wanted to tell. I was trying to find my voice. Also, I have surrounded myself with a lot of actors and friends, who have been through a lot of worse and they would throw a cautionary tale for me. If I would go to meet any person, they would brief me. These things happened initially. It happened before the ‘me too’ movement happened. Now, people are scared. It has become more professional. They would keep the door open during meetings.
On that note, do you have limitations in doing intimate scenes on-screen?
Absolutely not. If for the right thing, as an actor you should be able to bare your soul and body. But it has to have substance and not for the heck of it because you want more people to see. When you have such scenes, do your R&D on who is creating it and how it is being shot. It is a bit harder, when someone new is trying to do it because they nobody wants to sell themselves out easily. We live in a society and certain things are to be kept in mind. I am a modern woman but I wear certain type of clothes and I have certain set of clothes back home. Not because I am ashamed of what I wear but there is a certain mentality, and environment and you need to respect it. You can’t sit on dharnas at the drop of the hat saying ‘my rights’. You can’t do it everywhere. We all have to do our work peacefully. Having said that, I have no hangup as such.