She is trained in Odissi and Manipuri dance, but movies are her passion and profession. Over the past 30 years Rituparna Sengupta has acted in 185 Bengali movies, as well as Odia, English, Malayalam and Kannada films. It is her Mumbai stint — with 33 Hindi films between 1994 and 2015 — that disappoints her. However, the fighter in her kept going, and now she has half-a-dozen plus Hindi films on hand. She is positive about breaking her Bollywood jinx.
Her enthusiasm for working with Tollygunge directors has not waned as she excitedly awaits her new Bengali releases, which include Datta and Amar Lobongolota based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novels respectively, as well as Mayakumari a musical love story. However, it is the Kabir Lal-directed Antardrishti, in Marathi, Tamil and Telugu, besides Bengali (in which she plays a double role) that is making her anxious. “I am playing a blind woman and an actor can never be sure if he or she can pull off a challenging role. Or when they’d get a chance at one again,” she says.
Excerpts from an interview during Rituparna’s recent visit to the Capital for the promotion of her new film.
Q / Tell us little about your post-Diwali release Mahisasur Mardini?
A / The director, Ranjan Ghosh, was inspired by the Nirbhaya incident and has sought to present the movie as an apology to all women, who continue to be abused every day. The film makes you wonder about the conflicting powers and perils of women; how people worship forms of Shakti and yet subject women to heinous crimes. Ma Durga and her children are used as a metaphor in the film, in which I play a real-world Durga dealing with challenges in today’s society.
Q / A ny particular reason for promoting the film at theatre festivals in Delhi?
A / The story of Mahisasur Mardini happens over one night in a house getting ready for Durga puja and the film is inspired by theatre in terms of lighting, props, the single entry and exit set of characters. Also, it is great to get a nod from an intellectual crowd in theatre circuits, such as India Habitat Centre. . The interaction with theatre association members at Jamia Millia Islamia University was invigorating as students spoke their minds on how we can make a difference with our films and promote communal harmony.
Q / You say your Bollywood stint is jinxed; yet you have a slew of Hindi films either nearing completion or ready for release...
A / Yes, I am focusing on Mumbai now as there is tremendous scope for actors like me in content-rich films. The kind of roles I have played in Tollywood and the appreciation I have received — I want to showcase my talent pan India. The Bollywood buzz will always remain and I feel people in other parts of the country should know more about me. I am eagerly awaiting Bansuri with Anurag Kashyap in the lead, Good Morning Sunshine with Revathy, Jihad with Rohit Roy, Kal Tighori with Arbaz Khan and Mahesh Manjrekar, Ittar with Deepak Tijori, Tere Aane Se by Purab Kohli and Salt with Chandan Roy Sanyal. All these films got delayed due to the pandemic.
Q / D o you see a strong shift in film content now, particularly in Bollywood?
A / Yes, people are drawn to stories drawn from their lives rather than the feel-good magical moments. Look at the successes on OTT platforms. Concepts and ideas have changed and merged into a different level and audiences are accepting it.
Q / How do you react to the public boycott of films in recent times?
A / What is happening is unfortunate. Actors are performers, who are given a script and do what is wanted of them. We love and respect our audiences and create entertainment for them. When every small thing gets judged on social media, there will be frustration. We put in so muchhard work, effort and sacrifice in every project; you can’t let it go to waste.
Q / H ow have you have kept yourself relevant for 30 years in Tollywood?
A / It is a process in continuum, of constantly reinventing and emoting. I walked into acting from a middle class family without any training. My simplicity and integrity are my strength. I was lucky to make my debut with the National Award-winning Shwet Patharer Thala, in 1992. I have worked hard ever since. People have loved my films and everyday when I wake up I want to do something new for them because I have the confidence that nothing I do will ever go waste. I have built my audience with both commercial and serious films. Every movie I do, is and will be seen before it is judged; rejection will not come blindly because my association with a film does not end with my acting in it. I engage myself with every department of film making as money rides on my name.
Q / H ow do you choose your scripts and strike a balance between art films and commercial entertainers?
A / I choose scripts carefully and see what difference I am going to make with the role. I dislike repetition because it kills innovation. Each movie I act in is like a fresh lease of life for me because it chisels me as an actor. I want to be remembered by the characters I have played, say for instance, Romita in Dahan that won me the National Award in 1997, Paromita in Aparna Sen’s Paromitar Ek Din, Mili in Bela Seshe as Soumitra Chatterjee’s daughter, Begum Jaan in Rajkahini. I identify with each of these strong women who helped me grow as an actor.