You played a strong-willed woman in your last film Uro Chithi. In Katakuti (directed by Premangshu Roy, releasing on Friday), you play a woman of substance. Are you game only for woman-centric roles?
Yes. I guess by now everybody knows that if a role isnt strong enough, I wont do the film. But if I have to compare, perhaps my role in Katakuti isnt as strong as it was in Uro Chithi (she had played an independent-minded housewife).
Tell us about Katakuti...
I play Pritha, a girl from a modest family who aspired to be an actress. But she falls into a producers trap and gives up her dream. Later, she becomes a playwright and bonds with a stage director (Shilajit), who is married to Rupanjana (Mitra).... Katakuti is also about female bonding. Jaya (Seal Ghosh) plays Prithas boudi with whom she shares a deep bond. Rahul has the most important role. The entire film is seen through his eyes.
Would you say the casting couch exists in our film industry?
Well, its not shown very clearly in the film but at several points its mentioned that a producer may have tried to exploit Pritha. I have heard that such things (casting couch) exist. Its not entirely a myth, neither is it entirely true. Otherwise we wouldnt have survived for so long in this industry. Personally, I feel its a two-way traffic. Casting couch is a matter of mutual consent. You can always opt out if such gestures or offers are made. Look, in each and every industry there are people in power, now whether you want to succumb and rise to the top fast or you want to keep your dignity and rise on the basis of your talent is upto you. Typical fat, lecherous producers who we see in the 80s masala films, who try to rape heroines, do not exist anymore (laughs)! Now there are corporates producing films. I, too, have turned producer.
We dont see you in too many films. Why are you so choosy?
Choosy may not be the right word. I dont get too many offers, you see. I keep reading interviews in the papers about stars who are being flooded with offers, which is good, but such things dont happen to me! I get a few offers, from which I try and choose the role that suits me best. Yes, I admit that I am a bit selective, jeta ektu barabari level-e! But I have also been a part of bad films and I did those because of the money. You cant always satisfy your creative instinct, sometimes you also work for money and I need money. I dont have a huge bank balance yet. But I am hungry for good roles. I feel my best is yet to come.
Why do you think the offers dont come your way?
I dont have the PR skills! I dont call people for work, I dont go to parties and plead with directors to give me a role. Call it my arrogance or my confidence, but thats what I am. I call myself an artiste and, yes, I am haughty. I feel that if I am good and if people think that only Sreelekha will suit the role, then they will call me. I know the industry doesnt work according to my rules. So many times directors have told me, tumi phone-i koro na, tai tomar katha mathaay aashe na (you never call, so your name doesnt occur to us while casting).
You are also not ambitious...
I am not overambitious. But I am also a little complacent because work isnt my world. Its a part of my world which has a daughter, a husband, a loving family. I cant work 24x7. I need my me-time. I need to have adda with my friends. I love to relax and read books in the afternoons. I love to switch off my phone in the evenings and sit on my balcony and listen to soft music. I cant change all these and get accustomed to the ways of the world. But yes, sometimes when I watch a film I do think that had I been given this role, I might have done it better.... I admit, its my fault!
Are you happy with the way your career has shaped up?
Yes, I am happy when I think that this too may not have happened. The fact that I am an actress, people know Sreelekha.... But I dont feel very happy when I think that I could have done much more. Like I had to let go of a Hindi film because my wedding was just three days away. Then, I got the offer to do a national ad for Kurkure when I conceived. I could have said yes as it was in the early stages of pregnancy, but I chose not to as I felt being a mother was more important.
What are your plans as producer?
We are producing a non-fiction show (Sasur Bajaay Dhol). We plan to produce films, too. I will do TV but not long schedules. And there are a couple of film offers. I am currently shooting for Ashokes (Viswanathan) Shanti Niketan.
What kind of roles do you want to do now?
Very complex, intricate characters with inner turmoil.
And your dream role would be...
A role that even the future generation of actors would consider to be their dream role. Something like Benu auntys (Supriya Chowdhury) character (Neeta) in Meghe Dhaka Tara. Or Meryl Streeps in The Bridges of Madison County. Or Sridevis in Sadma.