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Southern Sirens

Payal Ghosh

Age: 24

Grew up in: Shyambazar. Studied at St Paul’s Mission School and graduated from Scottish Church College.

Telugu debut: The blockbuster Prayanam, opposite Telugu hero Manchu Manoj, in 2009.

In her kitty: Payal is working in an untitled Telugu film co-starring Ravindra Prachuri and also a Tamil film. Her recent Kannada release Varshadhare was a huge hit.

How she landed in Telugu films: “I was holidaying in Mumbai with my cousins in 2008 and also shooting a couple of ads with Tata Indicom and Docomo when Telugu director Chandra Sekhar Yeleti spotted me. He cast me in Prayanam, which became a huge hit, and I shifted base to Hyderabad. Life here is great! It is nice to be recognised,” says Payal, who now juggles Telugu films with a bit of Tamil.

South Indian languages known: None. “I am bad at picking up languages but I do understand bits and pieces of Telugu.”

Her Cal connection: “I try to visit Calcutta once in three-four months, depending on my schedule. I am trying to take a break and come down during the Pujas. When I am in town, I love to eat out at Mainland China and Chinoiserie at Taj Bengal.”

Bengali films: “I have never tried the Bengali film industry for work but if I ever get an offer from Rituparno Ghosh or Aparna Sen, I will grab it!”

Madhhurima Banerjee

Age: 23

Grew up in: Mumbai, mostly. “My father was in the Indian Navy, which meant we had to move around a lot,” says the law graduate from SVKM College of Law, Mumbai.

Telugu debut: Aa Okkadu, a hit thriller, in June 2009.

In her kitty: “I am very choosy about my films and I will do one at a time. Right now I am reading scripts and waiting for the release of my film Sardaza Kasepu opposite Allari Naresh.”

How she landed in Telugu films: A flop Bollywood film, Toss, opened the doors to the Telugu film world for her. “After my Hindi film Toss was out, my pictures were all over the Internet and I got a call from director N.S. Murthy who gave me a character-oriented role in Aa Okkadu. This role was a far cry from the halka-phulka roles a fresher gets in Bollywood and I am happy,” she says.

South Indian languages known: None.

Her Cal connection: Madhhurima’s “extended family” lives here, which explains why she loves to hang out at Flurys. “My mom used to take me there when I was a kid and I still am addicted to it!” she says.

Bengali films: “Yes, I want to. I am a Bengali and if I can work in other film industries, why can’t I work in my own?” asks Madhhurima.

Shraddha Das

Age: 23

Grew up in: Mumbai. Studied Mass Media at SIES, Mumbai.

Telugu debut: Sidhu From Srikakulam, directed by Eeshwar, in 2008. The two other Telugu biggies under her belt are Arya 2 in 2009 and Maro Charitra this year.

In her kitty: She is working in the multi-starrer Chandramukhi 2 with Telugu star Venkatesh. “In Kannada, I am doing Osa Prema Puran and in Bollywood, Madhur Bhandarkar’s Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji,” says Shraddha.

How she landed in Telugu films: After her Hindi film Lahore, Shraddha auditioned for the Telugu film Target but before it could roll on the floors, she was picked for Sidhu From Srikakulam.

South Indian languages known: She is fluent in Telugu and also knows a bit of Kannada.

Her Cal connection: “My dad is from Purulia and I have some relatives in and around Calcutta. Besides, I am a die-hard fan of Sourav Ganguly!” says she.

Bengali films: “I have watched a lot of Satyajit Ray films but one of the primary reasons I have not approached the Bengali film fraternity yet is because of my Bengali diction. But I don’t see it as a problem as I have tried all the film industries down south. The movies made in Bengal have a lot of depth and I would love to be a part of such cerebral cinema,” says Shraddha.

Richa Gangopadhyay

Age: 24

Grew up in: Detroit, Michigan. Studied public health and nutrition at Michigan State University. Won the Miss India USA title in 2007.

Telugu debut: Leader, opposite Rana, one of the most promising actors in Telugu cinema (and a nephew of both Nagarjuna and Venkatesh), in 2009.

In her kitty: She is shooting for Chandramukhi 2 and Mirapakaya with leading man Ravi Teja.

How she landed in Telugu films: “It happened quite by chance and very fast while I was doing an ad shoot in Bangalore. It has been an eventful year!” says Richa, who was in town this week to catch up with her extended family.

South Indian languages known: Tamil and a smattering of Telugu.

Her Cal connection: “My family is scattered all over Calcutta. An uncle and aunt live in Bali,” says Richa, who’s “crazy” about Kookie Jar cookies. “I also love the food at Bar-B-Q and Bedwin because I never get that back home in the US!”

Bengali films: “I have always wanted to do a Bengali film but, of course, I have to like the script. I think doing a Bengali film would be effortless for me due to my comfort with the language and the culture. I was deeply impacted by Aparna Sen’s Paromitar Ekdin and I also loved Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Antaheen recently.

Kamalinee Mukherjee

This Lansdowne girl is the best known Bong beauty down south and a leading lady in Telugu cinema with 14 films on her CV.

Though she got a footing in Bollywood as Shilpa Shetty’s spunky little sister in Phir Milenge, Kamalinee headed for Hyderabad when the National Award-winning director Sekhar Kammula offered her Anand. The film went on to become one of the top grossers of 2004.

In the past six years, Kamalinee has shared screen space with most leading men of Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam cinema — from Kamal Haasan (Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu) to Mammootty (Kutty Shranku) and Prabhu Deva (Style). Currently, she is shooting for the Telugu multistarrer Chandramukhi 2, along with the other Bong babes Richa and Shraddha.

While her 2008 Telugu hit Gamyam is being adapted in Bengali by Raj Chakraborty as Dui Prithibi starring Dev, Jeet and Koel Mullick, Kamalinee rues not having bagged a Tollywood film yet.

“I have always wanted to work in Bengali films but since most people in Calcutta are unaware of the film industry down South, though they do remake a lot of my Telugu films here, no one has ever approached me. But I hope to get a good start at home finally,” says the English graduate from Loreto College.

Madhurima Chatterjee
Which of these Bong girls do you want to see in Bengali films?
Tell t2@abpmail.com

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