After Cannes, it&’s Toronto for Rituparna Sengupta. In conversation with shoma a chatterji, she gives her take on contemporary Bengal cinema
RITUPARNA Sengupta, the numero uno among actresses and stars in contemporary Bengali cinema, has pushed the envelope and walked the red carpet at Cannes earlier this year. As this goes into print, she will be in Toronto for the opening of her film, Mukti, directed by Reshmi Mitra and slated to release in India in August. Rituparna is currently doing mainstream films with out-of-the-box themes and storylines with veteran directors, contemporary directors and new directors. But let us hear this from the star herself. Excerpts:
– What was your first Cannes experience like?
Mind-blowing. One of my films I am looking forward to, Alikh Sukh, had a market screening in Riviera 1, a respectable venue inside the Palais de Festivals. Cannes is soaked in cinema, screens the most outstanding films in the world and is attended by some of the greatest international names gracing cinema today. Alongside Vidya Balan, the Indian member, the International Jury comprised names like Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, Nicole Kidman and Christopher Waltz. The Bombay Talkies team invited me to their dinner party.
– Let us have a few details about Alik Sukh.
The screening drew a very positive response from the audience. Alikh Sukh is based on a Suchitra Bhattacharya novel and has been jointly directed by Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy. It is a socially and morally uplifting story that questions the ethics of a doctor who is torn between the responsibility of his profession on the one hand and the lure of money on the other. I play his wife, who is a strongly principled woman. Alikh Sukh is the first Bengali film in years to get a market screening.
– You are doing out-of-the-box roles in every film you appear in. Let us hear about some of them.
At this stage of my career, I do not wish to do run-of-the-mill films with boy-meets-girl storylines. So I am all for very different roles in every single film. Thankfully, my directors are giving me just what I want. In A Political Murder, directed by Agnidev Chatterjee, I play a college lecturer who suddenly finds herself trapped in a scam expose that becomes a life-threatening thing. In Raja Sen&’s Khacha, I portray a high-flying corporate woman who lives alone in a posh flat in Kolkata. The script is inspired by what is happening to women in our country. In Kaushik Ganguly&’s Apur Panchali, I play the saviour of a village girl who falls prey to trafficking. I have also done Sudeshna Roy and Abhijit Guha&’s BA Not Out that is a wonderful take on modern marriages. Ready for release is Gautam Sen&’s Jangal Mahal. Reshmi Mitra&’s Mukti will have been screened in Toronto by the time you read this.
– What is your take on contemporary Bengali cinema?
Things are brighter than they ever were for the past three decades, one can say. Bengali cinema is not exclusive to Bengali sentiments and culture but is getting international recognition despite being rooted in its Bengali identity. Bengali cinema today carries appeal also for those who are not Bengali. The market is widening and expanding and there is a rising demand from the international market for Bengali films. Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak&’s films once brought honour to Cannes. Today, it can make a big breakthrough in the global market while also guaranteeing that the producers get their money back.
– Which actresses do you admire in Western cinema?
Who will I name first? There are so many that one tends to lose count. My choicest pick are names like Meryl Streep, Anne Bancroft, Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet. But Indian cinema, especially regional cinema, does not provide the space and time to prepare for a single role because we are paid peanuts compared to what they get and cannot afford to take time off from current work just to prepare for a single role in one film. But I see to it that I do not work in more than three films at a time. It crowds my style.