We had to unlearn urban ways, say Uronchondi debutants Amartya Ray and Rajnandini Paul
With just a couple of days away from release, a lot of razzmatazz is building up around the film Uronchondi and its actors. Going by the music, look and feel of the film, it has already raised expectations of the audience. Besides stalwart actors, such as National award winning Sudiptaa Chakraborty and veteran thespian Chitra Sen, the film has two newcomers in pivotal roles – Rajnandini Paul and Amartya Ray. The young actors Paul and Ray, who are children of actors Indrani Dutta and Chaiti Ghoshal, respectively, are already in the limelight after the release of the trailer and songs of the film.
Paul, who is studying English in Heritage College, is the talkative and vivacious one, while Ray, who is a student of direction and screenplay at FTII Pune, is the quieter one with an impish smile hovering on his face. Instead of taking the easy way out by debuting in mainstream commercial movies, these bright actors bucked the trend and chose to act in an offbeat road movie directed by a newcomer. A few days ahead of the film’s release, Paul and Ray chatted with Indulge about their debut film, acting and future plans.
Was becoming an actor a natural choice for you?
Rajnandini Paul: Acting was not my first choice. Music is my first love and my aunt was my first music teacher. Also, even before I could walk, I learnt to dance, mom being my dance teacher. Acting requires a lot of hard work and discipline and a lot of emotional and mental preparation. It wasn’t before a couple of years that I gave acting a serious thought.
Amartya Ray: It was an organic choice. The first person to encourage me to be an actor was my aunt, Mitali Ghoshal in whose Hindi film, 22 Yards, I acted for the first time. But that film is yet to release. Acting makes me feel liberated. Besides, I have grown up in an atmosphere which is conducive to becoming an actor – my grandfather, Shyamal Ghoshal was an actor, my father Ranajit Ray is a national award winning documentary filmmaker, mom Chaiti Ghoshal is an actor as well.
How much did you have to make or break yourself for this rural character, Minu in Uronchondi?
RP: It was a lengthy and arduous process to becoming Minu since I am city-bred. We don’t come across a character like Minu often in the city, so, becoming Minu, experiencing her travails and reacting to them, relating to her thought process – that was quite an experience in itself.
How difficult was it for you to play Chotu?
AR: To enact Chotu convincingly, I had to think and feel like Chotu, for whom the truck was like his home, his life. I also had to pick up a Bhojpuri dialect, which took almost a month to internalise. But the toughest part was to learn driving a truck. It was a rusty old truck and before the shooting commenced, our film’s producer, Prosenjit Chatterjee, let me drive his huge makeup van to familiarise me with driving a heavy vehicle.
You first acted in a Hindi film, Mitali Ghoshal’s 22 Yards, but Uronchondi is releasing before that. Please tell us about your role in 22 Yards?
AR: In this film, Shome is a cricket player, almost a prodigy, but after an incident he withdrew into a shell. It is a story of how he makes a comeback after a chance encounter with a sports agent.
After passing out from FTII do you plan to become a filmmaker?
AR: I want to learn the craft first and be a storyteller later.
How much are you like Minu?
RP: My lifestyle and upbringing is very different from that of Minu. The urban lifestyle gives us exposure but we don’t have a wide gamut of expression. The way we think, speak, laugh, cry or sit, is very restrained and formal. Whereas, rural people talk, laugh and cry in a far more expressive manner than us. But I relate to Minu’s fearlessness when it comes to getting what she wants and living life on her own terms.
Was it difficult to play a rural poor immediately after completing shooting for Ek Je Chhilo Raja, where you play a queen?
RP: Yes it was tough to switch over to a rural character, such as Minu, within four-five days after completing Ek Je Chhilo Raja, where I play a queen. But it was fun, too, to play a polar opposite character and makes an actor’s life worth its while.
How much of an Uronchondi are you?
RP: The monotonous, routine life is strangely very comforting for me. I am not an Uronchondi at all. My days are planned -- I get up, go to gym and head for college, come back and rehearse a little before going to sleep. This routine life is therapeutic for me.
AR: I love simple pleasures of life and have grown up loving Rock n’ Roll music, and relate a lot to the boundlessness and free spirit of the genre, which is also the essence of Chotu’s character.
Who are your favourite male and female actors?
RP: My favourite actor is Anirban Bhattacharya. I really admire him and I am a big fan girl of his. I like Jisshu Sengupta, Prosenjit Chatterjee and Anjan Dutt, too. Among the female actors, Sudiptaa Chakraborty, heads my list of favourites.
AR: My favourites are Johnny Depp and Julia Roberts.
Which are your favourite Bengali, Hindi and English movies?
RP: Belaseshe and all the films made by Rituparno Ghosh. I also like Dor and English movies such as, Call Me By Your Name, Blue Is The Warmest Colour and The Devil Wears Prada.
AR: My favourites are Ritwik Ghatak’s Subarnarekha, and Satyajit Ray’s Charulata and the fact that my grandfather Shyamal Ghosal acted in both, make them even special. Guru Dutt’s movies are also very powerful, especially, Pyaasa. Among today’s filmmakers I love Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. I also like the movies Lunchbox and Manchester by the Sea.
Did your mom, Chaiti Ghoshal, teach you the nuances of acting?
AR: I have picked up a lot watching her. She recites very well. Her reprisal of Nandini in the play Raktakarabi still gives me the goose bumps.
Which movie of your mom's is your favourite?
AR: My favourite is Aparna Sen’s Parama, my mom’s first film. She looks very sweet and young.
Have you ever thought of acting in plays?
AR: Yes, I have a desire to do more theatre. My mom is reviving our grandfather’s theatre group, Off Beat and planning interesting productions.
Do you think looks are still more important than acting?
RP: I haven’t chosen acting as a profession to look pretty on screen, but to look the character I play, on screen.
AR: Things are changing now. Whether in Mumbai or here, the importance of actors over stars is steadily increasing, which is a good sign.