Poulami Bose on growing up with Soumitra Chattopadhyay, journey as actress, dancer (Interview)

Actress, Dancer Poulami Bose
Poulami Bose

Nov 16, 2010 (CalcuttaTube): She can be easily recognized as acting legend Soumitro Chattopadhyay’s daughter but she has defined her own limits and made an identity of her own to be proudly known as Poulami Bose. In a chit-chat with our CalcuttaTube journalist Shrabanti Basu she opens some secrets of her passion for theatre, dance and more. Read the exclusive interview at CalcuttaTube.

CalcuttaTube: Being the daughter of Soumitra Chattopadhyay, your growing up must have been in association with books, poetry, theatre, etc. Please share something on that.

Poulami Bose: I had a rich cultural ambience at home when I was growing up. We had music sessions at home every evening. We practiced theatre, poetry, and discussions on those. I got to watch good films and plays.

CalcuttaTube: How is it being the daughter of someone of the stature of Soumitra Chattopadhyay? Has it been challenging?

Poulami Bose
Poulami Bose in green room before 'LamboKarno Pala' play

Poulami Bose: Yes, it was very challenging and very bad, apart from the fact that my father is a very sweet and learned person. Growing up with him, around was something very special. He is my best friend, even today. There is nothing that we do not share. We exchange many artistic things which is an enriching experience for me. Apart from that, everything else is downhill. Though these days it is a bit better than what it used to be. I think working the play ‘Noshto Ashim’ (Director: Biplab Banerjee) has earned me this position.

However, I do not pay much heed to all these anymore. I act only out of my sheer passion for the art.

CalcuttaTube: Out of different art forms you came across, how did you choose dance and theatre?

Poulami Bose: My mother identified my talent in dancing when I was a kid. I am very grateful to her. It has been the greatest gift of all. It is my passion, my identity. I have a dance school. The relation I share with my students, their love for me, their dedication is another blessing in my life. I am happy to pass on to them all that I have learnt from my guruji. I have danced Bharatnatyam all my life and now I am learning Mohiniatyam too.

My love for acting was identified in school by my teacher.

CalcuttaTube: Most of the time, actresses are dancers too. Is it just because you may need dance when you are acting in a film? Or there is something more to it?

Poulami Bose: Dance is a part of every art form. Dance also involves lot of acting. When you enact something in dance, it is actually more difficult, because you do not have any sets. You are just in your costume. In that case, you have to enact more, be more expressive. So if you know how to dance, you will naturally excel in acting. That is how I feel. But there are many actors who do not know how to dance, and yet they are brilliant.  Dance helped me. But there is no hard and fast rule.

Dance gives more command over your body. It improves your sense of balance, your movements. It gives you more confidence.

CalcuttaTube: Please share something about your schooling in dance.

Poulami Bose: I first went to RajLakshmi Pillai, though I was too young to enjoy it. Then mom took to me to Uday Shankar Cultural Group where Amala Shankar was my teacher. I loved it. When I was about ten years old, mom thought I should specialize in something. So she took me to Thankamani Kutti. I started as a professional dancer when I was only twelve. That is how my journey started as a dancer. For some time I took a break, as I had to raise my kids. Now I am back.

I have done workshops on ‘acting in dance’ under the guidance of Kalanidhi Narayanan. For the last eight years, I am doing Mohiniattam, Kathakali with Kalamandalam Venkit. I cannot live without dance.

I have a dance school ‘Anorto’ where I teach Bharatnatyam. These days I am working with contemporary dance too. I have contemporized a lot of movements. I do choreography on particular themes, musical pieces, etc.

CalcuttaTube: Why do you act only in theatre and not in television or films?

Poulami Bose: It just never happened. Theatre, the stage – is my passion. I love to be on stage.

CalcuttaTube: So, do you think acting on stage is more challenging? Why?

Poulami Bose: Definitely. When you are acting on stage, you won’t get a second chance. You can get retakes on films or television. There are definitely good roles in those mediums, as well.

Another thing is that I have never been offered roles in films, etc. May be that is why I never ventured out. I have always stuck to the stage and felt comfortable that way. The feedback you get from audiences when you are acting on stage is amazing. You do not need anything else.

When I was in school, I acted in a lot of English plays, we did Shakespeare. I also took part in the British Council Interschool Drama Competition.

CalcuttaTube: Please share something on your acting. What was the influence of your father? Was it difficult to grow your own style?

Poulami Bose: I have been definitely been influenced by my father. But it was actually very easy for me. Most of my experience in theatre is with him, though I have previously also worked with Utpal Dutta in the plays ‘Ekla Cholo Re’, ‘Aajker Shah Jahan’, ‘Baniker Mandondo’.

My father has always advised me to understand before acting. His style of acting is very normal. But you have to magnify your acting to a certain extent so that it looks normal on stage. I learnt all these from him. I also follow his guidelines in pronunciation, voice, etc.

But I do not think that I copy him as an actor because, for me, that has not been his only identity. I have got him as a father, friend, seen him as a poet, etc.  Nothing has been ever imposed on me. But there may be some influences of him that I unknowingly carry as an actor. Just like, as a dancer, I unconsciously carry some signatures of my guruji.

My father maintains a few norms in acting: you have to pronounce your words properly, throw your voice correctly, etc. All these have been a part of training. But when I am on the stage it is my performance and I am the performer. Over there, it does not matter anymore who says what. In fact, my father always gives that freedom.

CalcuttaTube: You are also the editor of different theatre magazines.

Poulami Bose: I am the editor of the magazine ‘Prachyo’. That is the only one magazine I edit. It is a collaborative effort, though it is Biplab Banerjee’s concept. So far we have just published one issue. Finance is as always a problem, but hopefully we can find out a solution.

CalcuttaTube: Most of the plays you act in are with Soumitra Chattopadhyay. Why don’t we see you anywhere else that much?

Poulami Bose: I don’t get a whole lot of offers from others. If I do, I will definitely work.

CalcuttaTube: Your important plays so far?

Poulami Bose: ‘Noshto Ashikm’, under the direction of Biplab Bandopahyay. It had only 16 shows, if I remember correctly. It was brilliant as a play and I was extremely satisfied to be part of it.

I also love the play ‘Homa Pakhi’. I also liked ‘Atma Katha’, though initially I did not want to do the play.

CalcuttaTube: How do select roles?

Poulami Bose: I do not have any hard and fast rule. I simply love acting. It sounds really odd, but I simply love to act and most of the times, I work in any plays. Even when I am asked to act in a play as a substitute actor, I still do that. I love the stage, my audiences, the lights, the smell of make-ups – they make me so excited.

CalcuttaTube: So did you always want to be an actor?

Poulami Bose: No. I just wanted to be a dancer. Sudarshana Bagchi, my teacher in school she actually brought me into acting. When I was in sixth grade, I was much taller than other kids of my age. She asked me to act with the students of classes nine, ten and I was offered the role of Bassanio in ‘Merchant of Venice’. That is how it started.

Under Mrs. Bagchhi’s direction, I acted in Romeo-Juliet. Being the tallest girl in school this time, I played Romeo this time. In the play ‘Shah Jahan’ I did Aurangzeb. In school I never portrayed any woman except in Bernard Shaw’s ‘Arms and the Man’. I got to play a female character in the play for which I won the best actress award in the interschool drama competition. Shekhar Chattopadhyay was the judge. But I always enjoyed the acting, irrespective of what roles I was offered.

CalcuttaTube: Compared to other performing arts, what is the relative position of theater in our society? What is the concern about it?

Poulami Bose: The concern is not really up to the mark. There is such a huge number of theater workers but not enough finance. This is not treated as an industry and we are not self-sufficient. There are many potential groups, but they do not have grants.

Economic structure is the problem. Otherwise, artists are very much respected in the society. And we have abundant talent here.

CalcuttaTube: Why do we not see enough promotions of theatre?

Poulami Bose: It is financially not possible.

CalcuttaTube: Why do we not see dvd releases of  plays?

Poulami Bose: We have never developed this business attitude. We probably never thought of it. We do shoot plays at times, for archival reasons, etc, but somehow they are never sold or rented. But it would be a good idea. And it will help theatre if we can promote, advertise them properly.

I have seen plays on DVDs in England. I do not know how we can do something like that here.

CalcuttaTube: Any directorial venture so far?

Poulami Bose: Not yet. I have plans to do dance theatre. I am working with musician Dishari Chakrabarty about it.

CalcuttaTube: Please tell us something about yourself as a person?

Poulami Bose: My family and my dance – these are what I live for.

CalcuttaTube: Hobbies?

Poulami Bose: Music. I constantly listen to music, even when I am working around the house or doing chores. I listen to everything – Western Classical, Hindustani Classical, Karnatik Music….

CalcuttaTube: … So you are a classical music person?

Poulami Bose: No. I listen to Blues. I love old Hindi songs- Sachin Dev Barman, R. D. Burman, Kishore Kumar are my favorites.

CalcuttaTube: Do you like contemporary band music?

Poulami Bose: Yes, I do. I listen to rock and opera, too. There is hardly any genre that I don’t listen to.

CalcuttaTube: So are you a musician, too?

Poulami Bose: Not, I am not. But I have learnt singing.

CalcuttaTube: Anything you would like to share with the audience?

Poulami Bose: Everyone please come to see theatre.

-Shrabanti Basu

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *