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‘Yes, I was completely nude’

Paoli Dam has done it — gone nude on screen. The film in question is Sri Lankan director Vimukthi Jayasundara’s controversial Chhatrak (Mushroom in English), which had a red carpet screening at the 64th Cannes International Film Festival.

The ‘inhibition-free’ actress spoke to t2 over phone from Mumbai where she is now busy with Vikram Bhatt’s erotic drama Hate Story...

Congrats! You’ve raised the bar for Indian actresses with nudity and oral sex in Chhatrak...

(Laughs out loud.) It’s nothing new. I mean it may be a new thing in Bengal but then I have always been a trendsetter! I was the first one to declare that I am completely inhibition-free. Later, of course, many other actresses repeated that line! But I have actually done it. Inhibition-free, to me, doesn’t only mean talking about it or sporting a bikini. I have actually dared to do it.

Can you take us through the sequence?

See, it’s a full nude scene and I have done it because I was convinced that the scene is required to take the story forward. It isn’t there just to titillate. Incidentally my character’s name too is Paoli in the film! Now Paoli’s boyfriend (Sudip Mukherjee) lives far away and to fill the vacuum she gets physically involved with a young guy (Anubrata)... and indulges in oral sex!

Were you nude?

Yes, I was completely nude. So was my co-star and in the scene the girl is getting all the pleasure! The scene involves love, sex and pleasure. But I must admit that it was difficult for me.

In what way?

Well, the fact that nobody from Tollywood or Bollywood has ever done something like this and I had no reference point. I didn’t know how to prepare for the scene.

So how did you prepare for it?

I wasn’t confused for too long because I had complete faith in my director. I spent a lot of time with him and we discussed a lot of things, not just the scene but the film as a whole. See, the film is much more than the oral sex scene. It has a political, romantic and social angle. And honestly, I’ve done it only for Vimukthi. If you watch his The Forsaken Land, you will see how well he has blended the bold scenes into the film. That’s the reason why I opted out of Italo Spinelli’s Choli Ke Peechhe because the sex scene there was forced and I was not convinced.

So you are totally comfortable with your body in front of the camera?

Not body, everything is in the mind, you know. Mentally I am very comfortable, because cinema isn’t just a profession for me. It’s a passion. I live cinema. Over the years I have educated myself by watching films of Gong Li, Juliette Binoche, Michael Winterbottom, and I’ve seen how comfortable they (the actresses) are in sex scenes. We don’t wear clothes and make love, do we? Then why should we do that in cinema? Ei nyakamogulo aar koto din (How long will we carry on like this)? Besides, I have always done something distinctive. Being a very traditional girl who grew up in a joint family and had a very good academic record, I could have pursued academics. But it was my mother who encouraged me to take up acting.

Have your parents seen the four-minute video on YouTube?

No, the video was banned on Thursday evening. But I know they wouldn’t mind because they are far more liberal than I am! We live together but each of us in the family— Ma, Baba and Bhai— are very independent. They know my struggles. Being a dusky actress I had to struggle hard because Tollywood still prefers fair-skinned actresses.

And I think it’s high time that the Bengali cinegoers mature and learn to behave normally about such scenes because when the same people watch foreign films they are cool with it. If they can accept Kate Winslet nude in the bathtub scene in The Reader then why can’t they accept Paoli Dam nude? I am different and I will always do things differently.

But your core Tolly audience won’t get to see the scene...

That’s because the censor board will not allow it. This particular scene will be available only on DVD. The scene wasn’t there in the Cannes screening either. But like people have seen it on YouTube, I am sure people will see it on DVD. The point is not just watching the scene. It’s not porn, it’s a classic. Down the line, Chhatrak will be considered a cult film.

Will you go nude again for a film?

Depends on who the director is, why the scene is important and whether I am convinced but like I have always said, anything for cinema.

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