ANNIV SPL COVER: Daminee Benny Basu is in a monogamous relationship with acting

The intelligent actress has devised her life in such a clever way, she is never actually away from her art
Daminee Benny Basu
Daminee Benny Basu

There are very few artists across the world who can reprise life on screen as naturally as it happens in reality. Daminee Benny Basu is one of them. Raised on stage by two revered theatre practitioners -- Asit and Bhadra Basu -- Daminee has devised her life in such a clever way, she is never actually away from her art. “I am always within a few centimetres from acting. I either teach students or perform. It’s with acting that I have the most monogamous relationship in my entire life,” says the brilliant product from the erstwhile Presidency College.

<em>Daminee Benny Basu</em>
Daminee Benny Basu

Her latest act as Sabitri Mondal in Indranil Roychowdhury’s debut web show Chotolok, has taken the world by storm. Since it’s release this November, the social media is flooded with appreciation from audiences across all spectrums of viewership. Though each artiste has enriched the series with their impressive acts, Benny’s Sabitri hits you with its natural demeanour and simple charm, representing the faceless, nameless, and tireless working class, who toil every day for survival and perhaps, for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove their merit and worth. The actress takes us through her acting journey and process.

You are seen so less on screen, but whenever you appear you set it on fire.

Every good thing takes time to happen. An instant noodle takes two minutes to prepare but a good biryani takes long hours. I have chosen to be an actor and I am very well aware of what that implies in terms of being employed. I did selective work for which I had to make some sacrifices and I completely stand by my choices. I have seen more or less everything in the spectrum of our profession -- from scarcity to protests, to walking in rallies -- because I was raised by thespian parents and that shaped my approach toward work. If Chototlok would have happened a few years earlier, I might not have done full justice to the character. I usually don’t look at the monitor after filming scenes, because I always feel I could do better.

<em>Daminee Benny Basu</em>
Daminee Benny Basu

 Was that the case with Sabitri’s role too?

I have put in so many working hours into creating it that I don’t think I would have done Sabitri in any other way. Also, credit goes to Kobi (Indranil) for doing the base work with the script itself. I don’t think I would do it otherwise because Sabitri is out of my hands -- people have accepted and embraced her as one of their own. She is full of imperfections and people can identify the hero in themselves through Sabitri. In this generation of extremely pushed, differently filtered, polished versions of Instagram, everyone feels a void and if they catch a glimpse of a celebrated underdog, they identify with him or her. I won’t take anything away from Sabitri, if there are mistakes, let there be.

How do you develop yourself as an actor?

An actor is always in a state of surrender -- you have to surrender to the vision of the director. I’m not an intuitive actor. I am a trained actor. Just like any well-made dish needs right marination and time to prepare, acting too, needs preparation. But in front of the camera, you have to surrender yourself. That’s the moment of truth, when you are nobody’s nothing, and nothing comes between you and the camera, or you and the audience. There’s no bigger spiritual moment than that for me. You can become anyone in that moment and not everyone gets that opportunity. All you have to find out is that courage to be brave in that moment and do whatever you want to. I live for those moments.

 How did you prepare for Sabitri?

It was after great difficulty that I could start visualising Sabitri. I was struggling to see who was the centre of all this. I understood her thought process, emotional and psychological obligations, but not the physical ones -- how she looks and who she is. My grandmother was a big inspiration.

I used to board metros during office time frequently when office goers return. The smell of tired and poor people is the same everywhere, be it in buses of California or New York subways or local trains here. Sabitri is ordinary, mundane and regular, someone whom you would never turn back for relook. No one has ever told Sabitri that she’s intelligent, nothing has happened in her life ever probably to make her realise that there is intelligence in her.

I juxtaposed two stereotypes of extreme intelligence and the mundane and the outcome is beautiful.


What inspires you?

Life inspires me. Acting is the only profession whose plinth work stands on rejection. Every audition leads to rejection since it’s not about us but a befitting characterisation.

My students, too, inspire me. I believe you can master anything by only practising incessantly and relentlessly in the face of ridicule, fear and challenges. How you handle your swords when there is no war will decide what kind of a Samurai you are.

Any character you desire to play?

I want to play a Marvel-level super villain.

CREDITS: Picture: Debarshi Sarkar / Hair and Makeup: Surojit Sarkar / Outfits: Verb by Pallavi Singhee and Bhomra Design Co. / Styling: Poulami Gupta / Jewellery: Rohita Jewellery / Location courtesy: Olterra

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