Padmapriya is a South-based actress. But she has recently pushed the borders of her screen visibility by taking on the female lead in Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s just-released film Aparajita Tumi which has been acquired by Databazaar Media for exhibition, distribution and screening across North America and USA. This is special for Aparajita Tumi shot entirely in the USA. A Southern actress does a Bengali film shot in the US and produced by a Mumbai-based producer is an ideal illustration of the global reach of Bengali cinema. It would be interesting to hear the ‘voice’ of this beautiful face.
How and when did you meet Aniruddha for him to choose you for his new film?
I had won the National Award – the Critics Jury Award for two roles in two different ones. One of them was for essaying the character of Revamma in the film Kutty Shrank while the other was for portraying Nili in Kutty Srank and Nili in Pazzachi Raja. His film had won several awards that year. At the afternoon tea party post national awards, he came running and said I want you in my film. I was taken aback, passed him my email id and rest fell in place naturally.
What decided you to accept the film and the role?
It was the team that decided me. I wanted to be part of a team in which the technical and artistic crew was the best an actress could expect. It is not everyday that an actress gets this ideal mix and I would not let go of it for anything. A film is finally about the people who make it and Aparajita Tumi is an experience that has been a valuable add-on to my resume.
Let us hear something about your background in films.
It’s been 45 films in five years. Add to this a bag full of various genres of films, filmmakers of all kinds, visits to Venice, Toronto and Berlin to 200 days at the box office. I am glad the mixed bag is still strumming hard and I continue to be the chooser.
How did you detail your character in the film?
I did not, my director did. Cinema is a director’s medium and is best left at that. I merely unfold the written and unwritten details a director has sketched for the character. The way one does it is by expending a lot of energy in understanding one’s director and using observational skills to add touches to a character that otherwise one could easily miss out on. Having said that, I must over time, Kuhu got very close to me. Rather, I got close to Kuhu the character I played in Aparajita Tumi. I lived, slept and dreamt Kuhu even during the two-day break when I went to meet friends at San Francisco.
But it is a Bengali film and you did not know the language at all.
It is not that I was not familiar with Bengali. Bengali is not Greek. It is an Indian language basically. My first speech tutor was Uttam Kumar! I watched Uttam Kumar films over and over to understand the sequence, the tone and the pitch of his voice as he enunciated his lines. It was a mesmerizing experience. I noted down words and repeated them. I was charmed by his voice. My second teacher was noted theatre personality Sohag Sen who is famous for her workshops before and during the shoot. She was extremely patient with me during the dubbing. There was Indrani, Aniruddha’s wife and a co-producer of the film who was extremely helpful.
Your first Bengali film and your hero was none other than Bengali cinema’s numero uno over three decades. How was the experience?
He gave me a free hand to use his body and his emotions the way I wanted to while playing his wife. He is a thorough professional and gentleman. As a co actor the difference in age and experience never came between us. I had the freedom to work with him the way I had with say Indraneil Sengupta or Kamalini. The fact that he treats his co actors at par with no air of his experience speaks volumes of his ability to open up as an actor and a human being.
What does the term ‘acting’ mean to you?
Experiencing life in its totality.