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Paoli Dam on life after Kalbela
Picture: Pabitra Das

A lot has changed for Paoli Dam since last year, from endorsing big brands to turning down offers and bagging lead roles in cerebral films by foreign directors. The dusky dame is all set to star in celebrated Sri Lankan filmmaker Vimukthi Jayasundara’s debut Bengali film Mushroom.

A t2 chat...

You were doing TV serials from 2004 till Goutam Ghose’s film Kalbela happened two years back. How has life changed for you since?

Yes, Kalbela was the turning point in my career. My debut film Teen Yari Katha (directed by Sudeshna Roy-Abhijit Guha) made in 2004 hasn’t released yet. That apart, I had played Bumbada’s (Prosenjit) love interest in Agnipariksha (2005) and Dev’s sister in I Love You (2006). I did commercial films like Jamai Raja (2007) and Amar Pratigya (2007). I am 20 films old now but of all those films people have liked me the most in Kalbela. After Kalbela, I got a variety of roles… films like Shob Charitra Kalponik, Thana Theke Aschhi and Teen Murti…. Now, I get a lot of offers to endorse products, attend events, do inaugurations, and they offer me good money too (laughs)! All this makes you understand how much you are wanted by the people. That gives me a good feeling. I am the new face of Anjali Jewellers and I read at least two scripts a day. I also reject so many. I have hiked my remuneration a bit and people are sometimes ready to offer more than what I ask for!

How much do you ask for?

I get enough to pay my bills. I am happy!

But does it bother you that you are not seen as a popular film heroine like Rituparna Sengupta or Koel Mullick?

Don’t confuse me with the others. I started my film career a year-and-a-half back and I am way too junior to Ritudi or Koel. I was a late starter. I finished my studies and then got into films. I have a long way to go. Just because I do mature roles doesn’t mean I can compete with them at this point. I do believe in commercial films. I believe the films that I do are also commercial, maybe the way they are presented is different. I have worked in commercial films at the beginning of my career and I do have a mass appeal. I have a very strong fan following.

But don’t you think a commercially successful film on your CV would have strengthened your place in the industry?

I don’t think that’s a problem. People have liked me in all the films I have done and that’s what is important for me. When people see me, they start screaming ‘Madhabilata, Madhabilata…!’ [her character in Kalbela] and also tell me how much they have liked me in Thana Theke Aschhi and Teen Murti. I often get compliments for Thana Theke Aschhi on my Facebook profile. People have also liked my performance and my look in Tara. That’s what I am actually trying to say… that I am not restricted to Madhabilata. Madhabilata is a part of my life but people have liked me in my later films too. And I am sure that my next releases — Banshiwala, Moner Manush, Takhan Teish, Bangla Banchao and Kagojer Bou — will be liked by the audience because my character in each is very different.

The industry buzz is that you’re lucky to have Goutam Ghose as your mentor…

What do people mean by mentor? A mentor is someone who guides you at every step of your life. I have done just two films with GoutamdaKalbela and Moner Manush. I have learnt a lot while working in these films and Goutamda has guided me. But I don’t discuss my other projects with him. I don’t interact with him at that level. I interact more with Bappada (Bappaditya Bandopadhyay, who has directed her in the Kagojer Bou). I am a person who can’t open up to everyone easily and I take my decisions myself.

What makes you a favourite with arty filmmakers from Calcutta and beyond?

Maybe because of the way I look at cinema, because I am ready to play different kinds of characters, because I want to experiment. I have already done a variety of roles and directors feel that I am interested in exploring. I consider myself lucky because I have worked with the best directors of Calcutta, from Buddhadeb Dasgupta in the TV series Gangaur to Rituparno Ghosh in Shob Charitra Kalponik to Goutam Ghose in Kalbela and Moner Manush. That too is a factor. In my case, often the directors I have worked with have recommended my name to other directors. I was offered Italo Spinelli’s Choli Ke Peechhe in that way; unfortunately it didn’t work out. But I am going to play the lead in Vimukthi Jayasundara’s Mushroom which goes on floors next week. He is a renowned director from Sri Lanka and it’s an honour to be a part of his film. The other reason why directors want me in their movies could be the fact that I have no inhibitions in playing bold roles.

How far would you go in playing a bold role?

I can go to any extent for a role. I have no inhibitions at all because on screen I am not Paoli… there I am just a character and if shedding my inhibitions makes the character believable then why should I shy away? Having no inhibitions doesn’t make me a bad girl. A lot of my friends from the industry know that I am basically a normal girl who is very emotional, sensitive and who is sometimes made a fool of.

Picture by Pabitra Das; Make-up: Aniruddha Chakladar; Hair: Noor Alam; Styling: Sandy

Are Tolly directors capable of handling bold scenes?

I think most Tollywood directors can... But then we have our limitations, in terms of budget and infrastructure. Also, our socio-cultural life is different from the non-Bengalis. Bengalis aren’t really ready to accept bold scenes in Bengali films yet. They are however okay with bold scenes in a Bollywood or a Hollywood film. Sometimes our directors are not so sure about how to handle bold scenes because if their film gets an A certificate from the censors, it becomes very difficult for them to sell the film’s satellite rights. All these factors can make a bold scene look unreal and tacky.

What does an actress need to reach the top in Tolly?

See, I don’t believe in this reaching-the-top game, neither do I believe in numbers. I had never thought of becoming an actress. After graduating in chemistry with honours, I could have become a research student. Who knows maybe I would have been more successful there! I want to put my heart and soul into my films. I am very, very focused, I have groomed myself since I started out and I maintain a disciplined lifestyle. I am very clear about where I want to go and where I want to reach.

Where do you want to reach?

I don’t want to restrict myself to Tollywood alone. I want to explore Bollywood too. I am getting some offers. I want to be a part of good films. That’s it.

DoB: October 4

Studied in: Loreto Bowbazar and Rajabazar Science College (chemistry honours)

First acting assignment: Jibon Niye Khela (2004), directed by Bharat Kaul for ETV Bangla. She played Chandreyee Ghosh’s younger sister in the family drama.

Filmstars she admires: Benudi (Supriya Chowdhury) because she was ahead of her times. Sonam Kapoor, she is very sweet and makes a fashion statement in whatever she wears. Juliette Binoche, Gong Lee and Gael Garcia Bernard because they are amazing actors.

Favourite films: Guru Dutt’s Kaagaz Ke Phool; Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara and Subarnarekha; Satyajit Ray’s Charulata and Mahanagar; Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours: Blue and Kim Ki-Duk’s The Bow

Filmography:

Released: Agnipariksha (2005); I Love You (2006); Tulkalam (2007); Jamai Raja (2007); Hochheta Ki (2008); Ranga Mati (2008) Kalbela (2009); Shob Charitra Kalponik (2009); Box No 1313 (2009); Mullick Bari (2009); Teen Murti (2009); Thana Theke Aschhi (2010); Tara (2010)

Yet to release: Banshiwala, Kagojer Bou, Moner Manush, Takhan Teish, Bangla Banchao

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