‘I take one day at a time’: Palomi Ghosh on her journey so far and playing Jenny in Typewriter
Palomi Ghosh retraces her journey from studying Applied Mathematics in New York to becoming an actor and singer and talks in details about her character Jenny in Typewriter
One performance that stood out in Netflix’s latest web-series Typewriter was by Palomi Ghosh. The Bengali actress who grew up in Gujarat before moving to New York, where she spent her teens and early years of adulthood, came back to India about seven years ago to do theatre but ended up staying back for good. Over the years, she did films like Nachom-ia Kumpasar, a Konkani film that won her National Award for Best Performance (Jury) and Mukti Bhawan, theatrical productions like Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (musical) alongside playback singing for Nachom-ia Kumpasar and Helicopter Eela. In an interview with Indulge, the actress retraces her journey from studying Applied Mathematics in New York to working with Sujoy Ghosh, her mantra of living one day at a time and her upcoming projects. Excerpts:
Q: You were studying Applied Mathematics in New York and had a job offer in hand. What made you come to India and pursue acting?
Palomi Ghosh: In my final year of university, I had taken theatre as an elective and enjoyed it. Once I finished graduation, the business analytical company where I was working as a student, offered me a full-time job but I told them that I am taking a break and they were fine with it. I had thought that I will go to India, do some theatre courses and will come back. There wasn’t any fixed plan, I didn’t think about “working” as an actor at all, the idea was just to have some fun and I was pretty sure of going back at some point. It has been around seven-eight years now.
Q: How did it all begin and what was your first big project?
PG: I did an acting course and afterwards started auditioning for ads, did a lot of them (Tanishq, Muthoot Finance, Stayfree, Idea, SBI Life Insurance) and then I did an Indo-American feature film, Gandhi of the Month. It was directed by Kranti Kanade.
The first big project that happened to me was Nachom-ia Kumpasar (Let’s dance to the Rhythm). It is a Konkani film, a sort of biopic, based on the lives of two jazz musicians. I was playing the young girl whose musically journey is captured from the time when she was 16 years old to the next decade and a half. So, the scope it had was fantastic. The whole film has 22 jazz songs, I learned them and even sang a few songs in it and that’s how my career in music also started.
Q: And, how did Mukti Bhawan happen?
PG: I was at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa for my film Nachom-ia Kumpasar. There was a talk with AR Rahman and at the end of it, the floor opened to the audience to ask questions. When I got the chance, I told him that I really want to sing and asked him how can I work with him. He said, ‘surprise me’ and then everybody suggested me to sing a song. So, I sang a song and he gave me a thumbs up saying you are on, we will work together. Afterwards, Mukti Bhawan’s director Shubhashish Bhutiani came to me and said that he is making a film and he wants to cast me.
Q: And, what happened with your wish to sing with AR Rahman? Has it fulfilled yet?
PG: Not yet but a lot of people told me that if he has said that he will work with you, he will. Apparently, he takes his time but my fingers are crossed.
Q: Coming to Typewriter, did you audition for this role?
PG: Yes, I got a call for an audition. There was two round, first involved me reading some scenes and then the second round was to test my chemistry with the kids. It was fun.
Q: After the audition, were you certain of getting this part?
PG: Normally, I am that person who forgets about the audition the moment I walk out of it… there is no point. It is a game of numbers, you do many many and some strike.
Q: It is a challenging role, especially since you were playing a role that swings on extremes. Was it difficult to switch off, switch on? And, how challenging was it to keep the mystery alive?
PG: Of course, it is a challenging part! It is not black and white but some sort of trickery where people don’t know who is which. So, even with the saner one, there have to be traces of could this be the other and vice-versa. It was difficult. You are playing a range, so sometimes you have to up the endpoints. You have to play innocent so that the contrast can show. And, then gradually, maybe, keep coming closer to the centre, depending on how close you are to the revealing point. So, that’s how we worked. The intention was to not reveal it until the very end.
Q: And, what brought you onboard?
PG: So many things. When someone calls you to tell you that you are working on a Sujoy Ghosh series. It’s a big check. It is for Netflix! Another big check. It is a story where this is the graph of your character and these are the things that you will be able to explore, there is no thinking twice but get on board.
Q: And, how was your experience of working with Sujoy?
PG: Sujoy is absolutely the dream director. Before working with him, I had seen him at two occasions and it was a public space and I didn’t want to intrude in his personal space but in my heart, I thought that someday I am sure we will work and it actually happened. So, I am utmost grateful.
Q: How did Monsoon Wedding (musical) happen?
PG: I was at the New York Film Festival where my Konkani film was playing. I knew Mira was going to be there and all I was praying was that she stays for my film. She stayed until the end and then there was a gala party where we met and then she told me about the musical and asked me to work in it and next I know, I am in Berkeley for four months doing close to a hundred shows.
Q: Tell us about your web-series M.O.M – Mission Over Mars.
PG: I am very excited because of the show that it is and what it talks about. I feel very strongly about women in STEM and I feel like there should be more women coding. The fact that I get this opportunity to push it out there with this project, which is so prestigious and is representing women of ISRO, is really exciting and this is one of the reasons that I am so kicked in!
Q: And, what’s more in the pipeline?
PG: Besides the web-series, there are three films. Irfan Kamal’s Satellite Shankar is releasing in September. Drishyam Films will take Tryst with Destiny to film festivals. And, for Kadakh, Rajat Kapoor is in talks with people as we speak. A music project is also there in the pipeline. I can’t tell much but I have collaborated with Anurag Shankar on something that is rooted in the present but will give you a sense of nostalgia. We want to put a song out there and presently, we are figuring out how to do that.
Q: Lastly, how has the response been to Typewriter?
PG: Honestly speaking, the sheer number of people messaging me is so overwhelming. Jenny’s character has been really appreciated and I can’t be more grateful that Sujoy thought of me to play Jenny because it is such a good part, there is so much to do and the fact that he helped me become Jenny and now the way people are reacting has been overwhelming. The smaller independent films have a limited audience but the reach of Typewriter is such that people from France, Pakistan and America have been messaging me. It is strange and I hope it continues to stay and grows from here.
Q: Do you think things will change now?
PG: One day at a time! I don’t think or analyse because honestly, I don’t think there is any point of making the plans. But, yes, upwards is the only way forward. You have to put your best and if everything goes well, things will add up.
Some Trivia: Most of the work that Palomi has done takes her to Goa! Reacting to the same, the actress says, "clearly, there is a past life connection or something because everything takes me back there, literally everything! Even the musicals that I do would have one performance that will happen in Goa, Nachom-ia Kumpasar was shot in Goa, I got Mukti Bhawan at an event in Goa. It is bizarre. Long ago, when I used to go to Goa as a tourist, I used to say this that I have a feeling of sort of knowing this place. There is some kind of feeling which I unable to point but there is some connection."