Bengali film actor Rituparna Sengupta in Delhi. | Photo credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA
She is trained in Odissi and Manipuri dance, but cinema is her passion and profession. Over the past 30 years, Rituparna Sengupta has acted in 185 Bengali films, as well as Odia, English, Malayalam and Kannada films. It was her time in Mumbai – with 33 films in Hindi between 1994 and 2015 – that disappointed her. However, the fighter in her kept going, and now she has half a dozen Hindi movies to hand. She is certain to break her Bollywood spell.
Her enthusiasm for working with the directors of Tollygunge has not waned as she eagerly awaits her new Bengali releases, which include Data and Amar Lobongolota based on the novels by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay respectively, as well as mayakumari a musical love story. However, it is the Kabir Lal-headed Antardrishti, in Marathi, Tamil and Telugu, besides Bengali (in which she plays a dual role) it makes her anxious. “I play a blind woman and an actor can never be sure they can play a difficult role. Or when they will be lucky enough to have one again,” she says.
Excerpts from an interview during Rituparna’s recent visit to the capital to promote his new film.
Bengali film actor Rituparna Sengupta seen during an interview, in Delhi on Wednesday. | Photo credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA
Q / Tell us a bit about your post-Diwali outing Mahisasur Mardini?
The director, Ranjan Ghosh, was inspired by Nirbhaya Incident and sought to portray the film as an apology to all women, who continue to be abused every day. The film makes you wonder about the conflicting powers and perils of women; how people worship forms of Shakti and yet subject women to heinous crimes. My Durga and her children are used as a metaphor in the film, in which I play a real-world Durga facing the challenges of today’s society.
A Is there any particular reason for promoting the film in theater festivals in Delhi?
The story of Mahisasur Mardini takes place one night in a house preparing for Durga puja and the film draws inspiration from the theater in terms of lighting, props, and the characters’ unique entrance and exit. Plus, it’s great to be hailed by a crowd of intellectuals on theatrical circuits, like the India Habitat Centre. . The interaction with members of the Jamia Millia Islamia University Theater Association was invigorating as the students voiced their opinions on how we can make a difference with our films and promote community harmony.
Q / You say your time in Bollywood is jinxed; yet you have a slew of Hindi movies nearing completion or ready for release…
Yes, I’m focusing on Mumbai now because there’s huge potential for actors like me in content-rich films. The kind of roles I’ve played in Tollywood and the appreciation I’ve received – I want to show my talent in India. The Bollywood buzz will always stay and I think people in other parts of the country should know more about me. I look forward Bansouri with Anurag Kashyap in the lead, Hello Sunshine with Revathy, Jihad with Rohit Roy, Kal Tighori with Arbaz Khan and Mahesh Manjrekar, Ittar with Deepak Tijori, Tere Aane Se by Purab Kohli and Salt with Chandan Roy Sanyal. All of these films have been delayed due to the pandemic.
D o you are currently seeing a strong evolution of film content, especially in Bollywood?
Yes, people are drawn to stories from their lives rather than magical feel-good moments. Watch successes on OTT platforms. Concepts and ideas have changed and merged on a different level and the audience accepts that.
Q / How do you react to the public boycott of films lately?
What is happening is unfortunate. The actors are interpreters, to whom we give a scenario and who do what we want with them. We love and respect our audiences and create entertainment for them. When every little thing is judged on social media, there will be frustration. We put so much hard work, effort and sacrifice into every project; you can’t let it go to waste.
H ow did you stay relevant for 30 years in Tollywood?
It’s an ongoing process, of constant reinvention and emotion. I entered the acting profession in a middle-class family without any training. My simplicity and integrity are my strength. I was lucky enough to debut with the National Award-winning Shwet Patharer Thala, in 1992. I have worked hard ever since. People have loved my films and every day when I wake up I want to do something new for them because I know that nothing I do will ever be wasted. I built my audience with commercial and serious films. Every film I make is and will be seen before being judged; rejection will not come blindly because my association with a film does not end the moment I play it. I engage in all departments of filmmaking because the money rolls over my name.
H ow do you choose your screenplays and find a balance between art films and commercial artists?
I choose the scripts carefully and see what difference I will make with the role. I don’t like repetition because it kills innovation. Every movie I star in is like a new life for me because it hones me as an actor. I want to be remembered by the characters I played, say for example, Romita in Dahan which earned me the National Award in 1997, Paromita in Aparna Sen’s Paromitar Ek Din, thousand in Bela Seshe as Soumitra Chatterjee’s daughter, Begum Jaan in Rajkahini. I identify with each of these strong women who have helped me grow as an actor.