Interview: Bangladeshi actor Jaya Ahsan talks about Robibaar and her upcoming films
One, two, three, four... before you start thinking that we are into a little numbers game, let us tell you that this is the number of times that actor Jaya Ahsan has received the National Award for best actor in Bangladesh, so far. But her exploits are not limited to the boundaries of the neighbouring country, with her acting mesmerising audiences on this side of Bengal equally.
Giving female actors in Tollywood a run for their money, this powerful actor with matching looks has been cast by almost all filmmakers of renown including Kaushik Ganguly, Srijit Mukherjee, Arindam Sil, Atanu Ghosh, Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy, Indranil Roychoudhury, Birsa Dasgupta and Soukarya Ghosal, among others.
This December 27, the actor will be seen in Atanu Ghosh’s Robibaar, opposite Tolly superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee for the first time. And, she is thrilled about it. Ahead of the film’s release, we caught up with the super-busy actor, and she not only fielded our questions with élan, but also agreed to exclusively shoot four winter looks for us, from Ritu Kumar’s latest winter-festive collection. Excerpts from the interview:
You won the National Award in Bangladesh again this year, and your film Konttho is a super success. This year has been extremely good for you...
Yes, but more than success, I enjoy the trip called acting. Getting a pat on the back is always refreshing, but the process of acting, and appreciation from the audience, is more important to me. Nothing is more satisfying when the audience connects with your performance. Konttho has been one such film. Dealing with a subject like cancer, and making it commercially successful without diluting the gravity is a really huge achievement. And, I have not played a speech therapist before.
Leave alone Dhaka, you are giving sleepless nights to heroines here in Tollywood too... (Laughs)
The audience has been very kind to me here, and always appreciated my work. I have only been greedy for good films and I have sacrificed many film offers and remuneration just to be a part of good movies. Instead of being present everywhere, and making public appearances, I always preferred to work harder.
Your rivals in Tollywood have always been quick to point out that your heavy Bangladeshi accent in Bengali is a major drawback...
But I feel that’s my strength, my X-factor, since such brilliant films as Konttho, Bisorjon or Bijoya would have never come my way if I didn’t have that accent. And whether I can control that accent and speak in Kolkata-style Bengali will be evident in my upcoming films. Let the audience and critics decide.
That brings us to Robibaar, the most-anticipated movie, where you will be seen opposite Prosenjit Chatterjee for the first time. Tell us about your role?
Robibaar is a heart-rending tale of two very intelligent individuals, who once were in a relationship and meet after 15 years. I play Sayoni Sen, a lawyer, as the film tracks a day in the lives of Ashimabha, played by Prosenjit, and Sayoni. This is my second film with Atanu Ghosh, and it was great getting Prosenjit as a co-actor.
Prosenjit is just like me, and loves to be involved in the whole process of the film, rather than concentrating only on one’s own role. He helps elevate the co-actor’s performance, and has constantly tried to downplay Ashimabha’s character, so that Sayoni gets prominence, and that sharp edge.
How was it to be working with Atanu Ghosh, for the second time around?
Both films have been completely cathartic, and an almost detoxifying experience, for me. Look, we artistes are even bolder than strippers, in the sense that we lay bare our minds and pour out all our emotions while portraying a role. I have never cried with the help of glycerine on-screen and that’s not possible without total emotional honesty. But then, those roles are also rare, where you can pour your heart out, and Atanu Ghosh has offered me two such stellar roles.
The other one being Bini Sutoy...
Of course. The more I say about my character Sraboni Baruah, the less it is. I never knew that people live their lives like this too, before doing this film. How did you prepare for Sayoni’s role in Robibaar? As an actor, I always try to get inside the mind of the character, and read the script thoroughly, much before the shooting commences. This time, Atanu made my job easier by reading the script over and over again, before we began shooting.
What are your parameters for choosing a film?
It has always been the story first, and then the director. The story has to impress me. Working with established or new directors has never been a concern for me, and in fact, I love working with new directors, since they can be more dynamic at times, as they have nothing at stake.
How was it working in Soukarya Ghosal’s Bhoot Pori?
As I said, being a young and comparatively new filmmaker, Soukarya is very bold in his storytelling, and I kept wondering how is he going to logically conclude Bhoot Pori. I am in the titular role, and it’s a wonderful mix of many things, including fantasy and sci-fi. He is very dynamic and sorted, and knows exactly what he wants. I thoroughly enjoyed doing the film.
Bhoot Pori is being presented by none other than Tolly star, Koel Mallick. How do you feel about that?
I loved it, and I am so grateful that Koel presented it. The way she supported me, I haven’t got that till now from any other female actor here. Koel is a part of Surinder Films, which is producing Bhoot Pori, and to give away such a film to somebody else requires a great heart. In fact, when Bisorjon premiered, the way she came up to me and praised my work came through as so genuine.
You just completed shooting your third film with director Kaushik Ganguly called Ardhangini, where you will be seen with another competent actor, Churni Ganguly. How was that experience?
There were indeed many tough sequences with Churni. Usually, after every difficult shot, I used to look at Kaushik for approval, but during Ardhangini’s shoot, I used to look at Churni instead. The moment she would approve, I would heave a sigh of relief (smiles).
Who are the female actors in Tollywood, whose work you like?
I loved Koel in Hemlock Society and I loved Paoli Dam in Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s films. Swastika Mukherjee, Daminee Benny Basu and Sudiptaa Chakraborty are also good actors.
Is there any filmmaker you really want to work with?
I would love to work with Goutam Ghose, and Anirudhha Roychowdhury. I think they are the ones I haven’t worked with yet. Besides, I would be glad to work with newcomers as well.
FASHION, DIET AND FITNESS
• ‘Fashion, for me, is being classy and sophisticated in whatever you flaunt. When not working, I usually prefer athleisure outfits, jeans and tees. There are several good designers in Dhaka, whose outfits I love including Nighat Imam, who works wonders in Muslin. I love wearing classy attires, but they shouldn’t overpower my personality, and rather, should enhance it.’
• ‘Among fabrics, cotton, muslin, jamdani, linen and pure silks are my favourites. I love Japanese silks and Japanese motifs. But left to myself, I like solid colours rather than prints.’
• ‘For formal evenings, my preferred colours for attires include all-time favourite white, bottle green, blood red, pomegranate maroon and powder blue, but otherwise, I like wearing subtle colours in pastel shades with beige being my favourite.’
• ‘I am not a big accessories person, but I love watches and finger rings. When not working, I don’t wear makeup at all, and my daily skincare regimen includes cleansing and moisturising.’
• ‘I eat a lot of food and love all kinds of cuisines, but I ensure I don’t eat much after 8, at night. I usually have a heavy breakfast and a heavier lunch, which often includes my favourite dishes. In fact, during shoots, I tend to eat a lot more due to anxiety. My comfort food is all kinds of fruits, and I drink lots of water.’
• ‘Though keeping fit is mandatory in our field, I hardly get time to hit the gym, and I don’t exercise at all. My best workout is the time I spend with my pet daughter, Cleopatra (a Golden Retriever), and tending my plants.