Sohini Sengupta on theatre, Nandikar and more-Interview

Sohini Sengupta-Theater Actor
Sohini Sengupta-Theater Actor

September 7, Kolkata (Calcutta Tube): National Award winning actress and theater personality Sohini Sengupta shares her thoughts on acting, theater and talks about Nandikar to Calcutta Tube representative Shrabanti Basu. Enjoy the exclusive interview with Sohini.

CalcuttaTube: Growing up and being around so many acting stalwarts, how difficult or easy was it for you to develop an acting style of your own?

Sohini Sengupta: I spent quite some time acting under Gautam Halder’s direction. He has his own mannerism of acting which influenced me a lot at that time and I showed similar mannerisms. I was trying to come out of it, because I did not think it was quite right to have that thing deep rooted inside me.

Now I have more freedom of work. Actually when I worked in the movie ‘Paromitar Ekdin’ I developed a style of my own. It was the first time; I did not have anyone actively telling me what to do. This style has been reflected in my later works. I think now I can do better cerebral acting. I am also very much inspired by my mother’s acting, especially by her cerebral style. I think Swatilekha Sengupta is a genius actor.

But any other actor’s acting style is not a barrier for me anymore. I have come out of any mannerisms that were once an obstacle for me.

CalcuttaTube: You come from a family where everyone is a theatre person. How does this help in family bonding?

Sohini Sengupta: Theatre is the only thing we live for. All our relations, emotions, feelings are theatre centric. My father Rudraprasad Sengupta is completely dedicated to Nandikar. He spends hours for the group and its betterment. This is the same way with my mother. Theatre is the only thing through which we are connected.  We really do not do anything outside theatre. We do not go for family vacations and things like that. And we do not have any regrets for either.

These days mom and I sometimes go out to eat. My father hardly joins us.

CalcuttaTube: You have worked under the direction of Rudraprasad Sengupta, Gautam Halder. Have you felt like doing anything independently?

Sohini Sengupta: I have thought of doing independent projects. But I can hardly think of doing anything outside Nandikar at all. I have worked outside Nandikar, like when Bratya Basu approached me. But in Nandikar there are so many members who are senior to me like Swatilekha Sengupta, Debshankar Halder, Sumanto Gangopadhyay, Parthapratim Deb. I would want them to do things independently before me. I am in no rush. I still have a lot of time as far as direction is concerned.

And one thing I would like to say here. Whenever we start working on a new play in Nandikar, I am the person who intervene the most. But that is lovingly accepted by others.

CalcuttaTube: You are also a school teacher. Have you ever involved the kids in any play? What are the responses and obstacles?

Sohini Sengupta: There are no obstacles. I am extremely lucky that my school is very cooperative about my theatre. They appreciate me being an actor. And my kids at school love me a lot. That is the reason that I have been able to continue with my job. It is not for the money, but for the love I get from my students. Even today if I say I would leave school, the kids would come to me and ask me to stay till they pass their final grades.

My ex-students call me regularly to check on me. All this is so precious to me. The school is my extended family. I have done plays like Chitrangada, etc with the students at annual school functions, at the ‘BanoMahotsab’, etc. But I do not believe in imposing anything on them.

CalcuttaTube: In theatre, how important is it to have schooling?

Sohini Sengupta: It is absolutely important. You need to have some training to know about the processes involved in this art. But I personally think that you cannot teach acting as such to anyone. You get to see innumerable actors these days in different mediums. Not all of them are good. Some of them are so bad that you cannot even call them an actor.

Good acting evolves within an individual. It comes from your imagination, intelligence, knowledge and skill.

CalcuttaTube: You are an exceptionally good actor. Why don’t we see you that much in films?

Sohini Sengupta: Actually, I do not get good scripts that do justice to my acting capabilities. I do not except to get glamorous roles. But the roles that I am offered most of time do not attract me. They don’t sufficiently use my potentials. So I stay away from projects like that.

However, I have worked in a film titled ‘Ichchhe’ by Shibprasad Mukhopadhyay, Nandita Roy. It has a brilliant script and direction. For some reasons, the film has not released yet. But it should release shortly.  If I get to offers like that, I would definitely work in films.

CalcuttaTube: Which theatre groups inspire you?

Sohini Sengupta: The name that pops up in my mind at once is Manipuri actress Sabitri Heisnam. There are good theatre groups from Mumbai. I also like Arundhati Nag’s works. In Kokata, I am inspired by Debshankar Halder. I particularly love the passion he puts into his acting. Another thing is that he does not have that mannerism thing within him, so far. I like Sohag Sen’s works, too.

The other day I watched Theatre Platform’s ‘Parashuram’ which I thoroughly enjoyed.

If a script reflects intelligence, and a play reflects honesty I love that.  I cannot stand gimmicks. I am also not much for preaching my audience through plays. I have issues with political plays too.

CalcuttaTube: So, what is your favorite genre?

Sohini Sengupta: My favorite genre is art. According to my views, theatre’s sole objective is not always reforming the society. If any reformations are going to stream in, they eventually will. I do not like political jargoning. These are completely my personal views.

Even though Debshankar Halder is brilliant in Bratya Basu’s ‘RuddhaSangeet’, I personally think that ‘Babli’ is Bratya’s best. It was art. I acted in the play. It felt like a lyric. But all this is my personal opinion.

CalcuttaTube: How different is the scenario of theatre in other states of India?

Sohini Sengupta: We have a very rich heritage. This can be even better if we do theatre only for its own sake. We need to come out stardom, and things like that. Once an actor gets into stardom, the acting becomes more of a self-projection.  If we can trim this self-projection factor, we will be able to come up with better theatre. We should practice art for what it is, for the pleasure it gives you.

From my experience of attending different theatre festivals, I like Sabitri Heisnam, Kanailal Heisnam’s works. I liked some Marathi theatre. And there is also the National School of Drama. NSD comes up with new actors all the time. Some of them are really good, some are not. But their plays are very enjoyable.

I think Nandikar is the best. Even if I see this picture from outside of Nandikar, like I do not belong here, I would say it is the best. And this is because of the few people and their ideologies. We have to be concerned about any hierarchies. This is also like a family to all of us.

Of course, there are situations where I have my own views or feel discontented about things. But Rudraprasad Sengupta, our leader at Nandikar, is very giving. Sometimes it takes a masochistic form. But then again this is an ideal situation.

CalcuttaTube: Please say something for your fans.

Sohini Sengupta: I would suggest them to see theatre. It will give you all something that television cannot give. It will give you an experience. That is why we exploring this form of art so many years!

Shrabanti Basu

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