Feb 8, 2012 (Calcutta Tube): Kamalinee Mukherjee and Padmapriya, the two talented actresses from Southern cinema who are making their presence felt in their first Bengali film Aparajita Tumi, directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury share their experience. Read the interview at CalcuttaTube.
Let’s hear about your affair with cinema.
Kamalinee: I finished my graduation from Loreto College in English. I studied for a year at the Oberoi School and then came to Bombay for a theatre workshop. I ended up staying back because of the ad work I got. Then films happened. It started with theatre, a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Acting just comes naturally to me but it is cinema as a medium I fell in love with.
Padmapriya: I have worked in 45 films within a brief span of five years. It has been a breathtaking experience. I have worked with the best of directors in different genres in six different industries including this Bengali debut. I have also won the Critic’s Jury Award for my role in two films, namely, the character “Revamma” in the film Kutty Srank and “Nili” for the film Pazzachi Raja. I have travelled across Venice, Toronto and Berlin. Add to this the 200-day run to the box office. I have had the best one could have.
Kamalinee: First of all, the character I played, that of Ushoshi, was not an author-backed one which Aniruddha had made quite clear right at the outset. Secondly, it was sketched out in an ambiguous way that did not have a definite fleshing out. I was overjoyed when Tony (Aniruddha) asked me to flesh it out the way I felt would fit into the script. I lived her the way I felt her rather than saw her. She is a girl from Kolkata in a foreign environment, in a lonely marriage, lost, vulnerable and very much someone you know. I loved Ushoshi.
Padmapriya: Bengali does not sound like Greek to me. I have a knack for languages. I memorised my lines for the scenes one day before they were to be shot the next day. For look detailing and character workouts it was a group effort. We spent a lot of time on this as Aparajita Tumi is a film that is very introspective though it is structured retrospectively through a flashback. So never mind how much went into homework and research, it was instinct that became the driving force for all of us. The rest developed along lines that were sometimes quite distanced from what we had prepared.
What about the language, Bengali, a first for both of you as actresses?
Kamalinee: What about it? I have worked in films in all the South Indian languages and even won the Golden Nandi, the Andhra Pradesh State Award for Anand, my debut film in the South directed by National Award-winning Sekhar Kammula. I left Kolkata just seven years ago, so the language is no issue. In fact, I was very happy when Aniruddha approached me with the offer. Aparajita Tumi is my 21st film. It really took awhile for my first Bengali film to find its way to me. I realize now that it was for the best. This is the perfect film to begin with and has been a mind-blowing experience.
Padmapriya: I played a character who was Bengali but had lived in the US for long. So, I had to speak English with a typical American twang that came easy. Bengali did not seem as difficult as Greek would have been. Besides, the dubbing took 20 days if the shoot took 22. Indrani, Aniruddha’s wife and theatre person Sohag Sen helped me a lot during dubbing. Bengali proved more difficult specially because for my scenes with Prosenjit who is my husband in the film, I spoke both in Bengali and in that Americanised English with a twang. The two languages have different intonations, inflexions and expression. But I look back happily for having dubbed my lines myself in languages that are not my own.
Shooting entirely in the US. What was the experience like?
Kamalinee:The entire shoot was a blast. Being in San Francisco, Carmel, Half Moon Bay was beautiful. The unit was a family and we worked super hard and partied even harder. It was an atmosphere charged with enthusiastic energy. Everyone believed in this film and was focused on making it perfect. We shot in picturesque and quaint locations. Ranjanda (Palit, the cinematographer) has made magic. He was the calm centre of our unit, always smiling and positive, ready with his guitar in our addas. It’s just one of those parts of our lives I think we will always look back on with happiness. Aparajita Tumi is Tony’s dream and I’m glad he let us all share it.
Padmapriya: The west coast is sunny except Carmel where Kamaliniee and Chandan and Prosenjit shot. I did not have much trouble with the weather. The lack of rest and pressure to complete the film was there but with Ranjan (Palit), Anirudhha and Indrani those things get automatically resolved.
Mention some landmark films in your career and state why you call them landmarks.
Kamalinee: Anand started it all, was a perfect film and taught me to follow my guts and trust it. Godavari was my first true blue performance. I loved my character Sita, knew her closely and had a better understanding of cinema by then so was able to really give it my all. I did Gamyam in three languages. I took to the character Krish like a fish takes to water. The original director had said that it had been written for me so I gave it my all. Kutty Srank is especially significant because I worked with two legends, Shaji Karun and Mammooty as my co-star and I am really proud of it. Aparajita Tumi is a favourite because it is not only a superlative film but is blatantly honest and is lyrical like a poem. The character kept haunting me for a long time leaving me with the thirst for more. It helped me step out of my comfort zone and above everything else, it was in my own language, Bengali.
Padmapriya: I can never answer this question. I have been too lucky to work with bests and each film has added to the learning, fame, money and success you expect from your profession.
– Shoma A. Chatterji / Trans World Features (TWF)