Suzanne Bernert is a German-born Indian actress who has worked in a broad spectrum of movies and television serials of various languages. Apart from acting in films like Ramdhanu and shows like Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat, she is also a part of the social service organisation Sulabh International. She became a part of Narmada Seva Yatra, along with Govinda. She has also acted in the acclaimed movie Accidental Prime Minister.
Learn what this fabulous actor has to say about her life in an interview with Storiyaan. Read to know more.
Questions and answers
What is the cultural aspect of your life that you had to change when you came to India?
I am not sure if it is the cultural aspect I had to change in me, but there was one definite change. I was an impatient person, and India teaches you to be more patient and go with the flow. That doesn’t mean that things are not getting done here or that people are less hard-working; it just means that everything moves at a different speed than it does in Germany.
How was it to be on the cover of Paddle magazine's edition of 'The Period Saga'?
When I was approached, my first reaction was: “Why do you want me on the cover?” I felt like I was the wrong kind of person to be on the cover. I felt like it should be someone from India, among the actors or somebody else, but they were so enthusiastic and so convinced that they got me to do it, and it was lovely working with the young and enthusiastic team. It was an excellent experience. And I am always for helping the cause anyway.
Can you narrate to us the most memorable incident while shooting for the iconic role of Sonia Gandhi?
There was a shoot in England, Delhi, and Mumbai, and every one of those incidences was very different because of the surroundings. One incident that took place in England is memorable for me. I used to come in the morning looking like me and then head upstairs, get ready, come down to shoot as Sonia Gandhi. Then after pack up, I would come down as myself again. I was having a chat with the people of the unit about the lighting and sound and the different areas on the doorstep, and one guy asked me what I was doing on the set. I said that I was acting in the movie, and he replied, “Yeah, but I see you in the morning, and then you disappear, and then you come back in the evening; I don’t see you acting.” I said that I was in front of the camera the whole day. Then I understood that he could not recognize me as the blonde, blue-eyed woman when I was in Sonia Gandhi’s getup. I will always cherish this moment because that meant we were doing something right.
What is one of the toughest roles you have had to play, and how did you manage to succeed in it?
One of the toughest roles that I had to play was Queen Helena, mainly because the language used in the show was not colloquial Hindi. It was a very stylish and beautiful Sanskritised Hindi. Instead of “uske baad,” it became “uske pashchat,” and I was not used to that language. Additionally, there’s no time to actually sit down and work on the script as much as you would love to. I had several pages of monologues and dialogues, and we were shooting on three different sets, and I was required in all of them. Manoj, who played Chanakya, I and Ashok, who was played by Siddharth Nigam – were all rotating from one set to another. Besides this, the physical aspect is that it is a very tiring shoot if we’re shooting 70-75 km outside of Mumbai, there are different amenities there – food, climate, and dust. On top of that, you have a heavy costume, heavy lines, and this character that I have never done before – a negative character.
Can you talk to us about your time with CID, a nation-wide favorite?
That’s a fun story because they approached me and said that they want to have me in one of their shows and they would make a character for me because I needed to be in CID in one of the episodes. So, they created this character for me when they came up with the story, to fit me. It was not like they had a script or were in search of an actor. It was the other way around, and it was a really special and a fun shoot.
How do you manage to maintain a balance between playing a role and being yourself?
The ability to get out of the character is an art of maintaining a balance between playing a role and being yourself. The danger of slipping over between your character and yourself is only there when you do it tirelessly all day long. But usually, I’m able to distinguish between what I am and what the character is. My teacher taught me this in Berlin. She was always very clear that one must slip into the character on set, but by the end of the day, one must slip out of it.
Do you incorporate aspects of your personality in the characters you play? If so, how?
Every actor does. As an actor, you’re your instrument. So, the way I am, the way I talk -all these are the things that you can change. But you cannot completely change who you are! So, automatically, you’ll incorporate some of the traits and characteristics that come with you in your character. There’s something you can’t detach from your physicality. So you’d always bring something of your own into a character. About the personality, that depends on certain things. If I play somebody who is bubbly, funny, and likes to laugh – that comes out automatically as it is more of my personality.
What gravitated you to teach acting online?
Because of Covid-19, I don’t want people to travel and meet us. It’s better to stay at home and be safe. It is merely transferring from what we have been doing into an online space. Challenge is that it can’t be physical. I can only teach some exercises that you can do on your own at home. But I cannot sit next to you and see how you’re doing it. At the workshop, you do more physical things, which are interactions between two or three actors. That can’t happen in the digital world, but it will be the same as “Acting Coaching.”
What has been your all-time favorite location to shoot in, and why?
I’ve been fortunate to travel all over India, from one corner to the other, where other tourists don’t go. I shot for Swami Samarth in the middle of Akkalkot. I also got to shoot on a beach in Orissa, where there was nobody else in those amazing waves. And then, in England for Accidental Prime Minister, I fell in love with the fantastic place and the lush greenery. If you’re an actor, you get to do really fun things. I shot extensively in Rajasthan for different purposes, and I just loved that beautiful place! But I haven’t been to India’s southern part, and I want to go and do something there.
In today's age of social media trolling, how do you deal with demeaning comments and ridicule?
Trollers are sad people who want you to be sad too; let’s not give them such power to dictate our life. I don’t react to trollers. I just let it be and forget about it. If something is going into the sphere of hurting others or defaming any country, then I usually mute, block, report, or all, and I move on.