Observing her house help helped her reprise Bindi in Uronchondi, says Sudiptaa Chakraborty
That an actor doesn’t need a meaty role to prove her prowess has been proved time and again by Sudiptaa Chakraborty. The petite, outspoken and vivacious thespian and actor, who got the National Award for her performance in Rituparno Ghosh’s Bariwali way back in 2000, was offered similar roles of a housemaid by directors including Ghosh, which she refused to accept, to avoid being typecast. Chakraborty, who can leave a lasting impression in a viewer’s mind with her expressions alone, has no regrets that the Bengali film industry is yet to tap her acting skills fully. She actually prefers to work with newcomers, over perceived industry biggies.
Looking resplendent in a cream and beige kurta, the actor, who is a mother of a two-and-a-half-year old daughter, talks about Bindi, a much-mistreated Bihari wife on the run in her husband’s debut film, Uronchondi.
How did you end up acting in your husband Abhishek Saha’s debut film, Uronchondi?
I have always loved working with debutants. I worked in Aditi Ray’s debut film, Abasheshey, Kamaleshwar Mukehrjee’s first venture, Uro Chithi, Utsav Mukherjee’s Half Serious, Anindya Chatterjee’s Open Tee Bisocope and now, Saha’s Uronchondi.
It’s very satisfactory to work with newcomers, since they have that urge to prove themselves and, therefore, give their best. The zeal to do something is much more, since there is a lot of emotion and honest effort involved. The efforts often get diluted in their later careers, since a lot of other calculations creep in, but the very first film is always special, since they put their heart into it.
In Abhishek’s case, initially, I wasn’t keen on doing Uronchondi. I was in two minds, whether I should do it, since I feared that everybody might take it for granted - that since it’s my husband’s film, I shall be a natural choice. So, I consciously stayed out of it at the onset. And Abhishek was not in a position to insist on me acting in his film, since he is a newcomer. It was Prosenjit Chatterjee (producer of the film) who coaxed me into doing the role of Bindi. Chatterjee said that it fitted me to the core. Hence, I relented.
And how did he turn out as a director?
I have witnessed his birth and growth as a filmmaker from the very inception of Uronchondi, and seen the kind of labour he has put in for days on end to make this film happen. From three-four sentences of dialogue to an entire audio script, the journey had been cathartic for him and since he worked from home, I saw this continuous process of writing, discussing, rewriting, and reworking till the movie took its final shape.
By virtue of being in this industry for nearly two decades, I had the privilege of working with many a good filmmaker, and each one of them is distinct in his or her way of operation. But no matter, how cool or level headed some of them are, there are certain inevitable situations during shooting when they lose their nerves. They either start shouting, or crying, or become hyper.
But I was really surprised to discover Abhishek as a filmmaker. He has been cool as a cucumber throughout, despite the constraints involved in a road film. He handled crises intelligently and sensitively without losing his cool. He was not overwhelmed by the fact that there were two more debutants in this film with meaty roles. I would give him full marks for not losing his nerve even for a second.
Why do we see so less of you on screen?
It’s because I am extremely choosy while signing up for a role. More than a meaty role, what matters to me is substance.
Also, I am extremely shy when it comes to ask for work. I never go out of my way to ask for roles and wait for others to approach me.
I know I should change a bit and be more proactive in matters of career. And off late, I have also made an effort to do that a bit, though I am not sure whether it has had the desired results (laughs). It’s important to stay in other people’s thought process to keep getting good work.
Are you active on social media?
Yes, only when it comes to promoting my film. I not only talk about my role, but also ensure that the film, on the whole, gets noticed and makes the right noise before release. But beyond that, in my personal life, social media has no role play. I zealously guard my privacy and do not believe in letting the world know whether my dog has cold, or cat is sneezing (giggles).
How much did you work toward becoming Bindi, a rural, poor, much battered, Bihari housewife who escapes from the torments of her life in Uronchondi?
First, Amartya (who plays truck driver Chotu in the film) and I had non-Bengali roles. We are escaping somewhere from the Bengal-Jharkhand border, and hence we had to have a Bhojpuri accent. Yet, it should be easy enough for our Bengali audience to follow our dialogues. This was really difficult and we had to practise a lot. I was careful during the shoot not to deviate from the original dialogue and while dubbing also, we were alert that the dialogues were delivered the way they were written.
To play Bindi, I had to see Bindi first, if I cannot see her, I cannot relate to her, I cannot play her. Fortunately, my house help Rekha hails for Bihar, which helped me a lot to imbibe the mannerisms before commencing shoot. We observed her a lot and our costume designer Henna clicked her picture with all her tattoos, the kind of saris she wore, the way she draped them, the jewelleries she wore and all that.
Rekha has a very innocent smile and with Bindi, too, her smile is the most special thing about her. It is the only bright spot in her otherwise tormented existence. When our trailer got ready, Rekha was thrilled to see Bindi, it was almost like watching herself on screen (grins).
How is Saha as a husband?
So far so good. We are friends first, then husband and wife. I think it’s very difficult to know a person even after 50 years. We are only four years into the marriage. I strongly believe that there should be some mystery left, otherwise the charm goes away.
And how are you as a mother?
My daughter is scared of me. I am the one who disciplines both her and her father. The difference is that she listens while her father doesn’t (laughs).
How different are you and Abhishek from each other?
O sajuni ami guchuni (He loves to do up the house, but I keep it prim and proper). He is the quiet type, while I am the talkative one. I cannot hold back my emotions and express anger. He perhaps has better control over his emotions. I am always on my toes and he is the lazy one around (laughs).
How were the debutants Rajnandini Paul and Amartya Ray?
These debutants are just amazing. Watching them perform it was difficult to believe that it was their first movie.
You are off late also dabbling with theatre, how are you managing so many things together?
I always used to. Acting in plays is something that I have always liked but I am not comfortable working with everyone. I have always had a good term with Debesh Chattopadhyay and did a play called Bikele Bhorer Shorshe Phool in 2014 with him. Now I am doing Soudagarer Nouka with his group again. We did a show in June and there will be another show in August. I play a 60-year-old woman in this play.
What are your other forthcoming films?
Pupa will release this week, Uronchondi is releasing next week. I am also doing Atanu Ghosh’s 72 Ghonta and completed shooting for Debarati Gupta’s Onek Diner Porey. From end of August I will start shooting for a film by another newcomer. As I said, I just love working with debutants (grins).