March 3, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): Bengali actress Nandana Sen lives life on her own terms. In fact, this gutsy woman can easily provide the script for a contemporary, modern and upbeat, woman-centric film. She talks about Srijit Mukherjee’s movie Autograph in which she plays the female lead.
You are said to be very choosy about your acting projects. What made you say ‘yes’ to Autograph?
Srijit and I have been friends since we met in Bangalore two years ago. I had to say ‘no’ to a play he was doing because it clashed with a film. The seed for Autograph was sown over coffee and bloomed into a full-blown script in following year in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, and Shantiniketan! Srijit wrote an extraordinary script – full of fun, imaginative, soulful, and uncompromisingly real and at the same time, romantic in a lyrical way. He created wonderful characters – any actor would say yes to any of the parts. I decided to co-produce the film with Shri Venkatesh!
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You have been paired with Prosenjit for the first time and in the film. What was your reaction to this casting?
Srijit and I decided from the beginning that the only actor who had the talent and the stature to play the superstar in our film was Prosenjit. The film is a celluloid tribute to Satyajit Ray’s Nayak and so many decades later, who would identify the closest to the Arun Chatterjee’s character than Prosenjit? I gathered courage and called him up from Mumbai. I had admired him for years! Prosenjit was so warm and encouraging that any nervousness I may have had vanished into thin air. We could not have done this film without his support. Once he came on board, everything fell into place.
As a member of the Jury at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, you recommended the screening of Autograph as the opening film. How did this happen?
When ADFF requested me to be a part of their Jury, they asked me which film of mine I twould like them to screen in the Showcase section which is out of competition. The festival opening was a perfect match with the release date of Autograph. I asked them if we could have our International Premiere at ADFF, with an invitation for the Director and entire lead cast to attend. They agreed! Festival Director Peter Scarlet and I ran outside and shamelessly lured shoppers from the mall to come see our film. They all simply loved it. It turned out to be a wonderful screening. The highpoint was when on my request, Abbas Kiarostami came to see Autograph, waited through the endless Q & A session to congratulate me. He then said, he could not wait to see Nayak again!
We would like to hear more about Srinandita, the character you played in Autograph.
In a way, I play two characters in Autograph, both equally intriguing. The two characters are very different from each other…. Srinandita is a just-graduated theatre actor who is feisty, girlish, pure at heart but at the same time, very confident. She is extremely spontaneous, carefree and natural, in look as well as behavior. Jahnabi, the character I play in Aajker Nayak, the film-within-the-film is all woman, sharp-witted and quick-tongued, much more sophisticated. Unlike Srinandita, who is unaware of her own appeal, Jahnabi knows the power she has as a woman. She uses it too. But the core Srinandita and Jahnabi share is that both are deeply idealistic and forthright, both would stand by their beliefs at any cost.
Which five, among your films, do you tick off as your favorites?
Rang Rasiya, Autograph, The War Within, The Forest and Black. Be it the ethereal Devdasi in Ketan Mehta’s Rang Rasiya, the tough city girl in Ashwin Kumar’s The Forest, or the idealistic journalist in Anubhav Sinha’s Zindabad, all the characters I have done so far are of women who are pure at heart, idealistic to the core, and are also ready to symbolise the character of an adventuress with a defining streak of ruthlessness.