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Churni Ganguly on improvising on the set of Ardhangini and Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani

Kaushik Ganguly’s Ardhangini also stars Jaya Ahsan, Koushik Sen, Ambarish Bhattacharya and Lily Chakraborty

Soujannya Das Calcutta Published 14.06.23, 02:12 PM
Churni Ganguly in Ardhangini, running at cinemas

Churni Ganguly in Ardhangini, running at cinemas

Playing an ex-wife in her husband Kaushik Ganguly’s Ardhangini took Churni Ganguly to a place of exploring a mixed bag of emotions. The veteran actress shares with us her criteria for choosing films, how Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani fell into her lap and her experience of working with Karan Johar.

What drew you to the character you play in Ardhangini that made you say yes to the film?


Churni Ganguly: My role in Ardhangini is of an ex-wife who kind of helps out the present wife in a crisis. This itself is a new thing about the story. There can be various equations between the ex and the present. My character is in a situation where the present wife comes and asks for her help and support. Standing in that place, it means expressing a complex variety of emotions — one is that I can reach out and help this lady; and two, why should I?

There’s so much we share in common and also have mixed feelings about the sharing. It is a mix of emotions that I could portray through the character, so naturally it was a yes.

Is it always a yes to every film that Kaushik Ganguly offers to you or have there been times when you have turned him down?

Churni Ganguly: Sometimes out of compulsion, I had to reject. Maybe because of my son’s board examinations or for my film Nirbashito’s edit. Once I had to say no because of my pet dog. I had no help and so had to stay back and take care of him. But if a role is not meant to be done by me, Kaushik never offered it to me. At times, if I haven’t liked a role or felt that someone else would suit it better, I have requested him to not cast me.

The trailer shows Jaya Ahsan’s and your character dealing with the crisis with a lot of dignity despite going through an emotional turmoil. How did you both go about preparing for these scenes?

Churni Ganguly: It was basically about executing it with the emotions intact and going by the script. The script was written in a way that we didn’t have to discuss much. Jaya had her own way of doing it. She has done great justice to the role. In my case, the dialogues were very sharp. I thought rather than throwing the dialogue directly, it would be better if I said it casually. That seemed more powerful.

Ardhangini is an intense tale of relationships. How did you get into the mental space of the ex-wife?

Churni Ganguly: The process was to actually read between the lines of the script. There was so much written into the dialogues and so much not written also. I analysed what the emotions, the mental space and the thought process could be reading between the lines. Most of the time, I felt quite hurt and left out. That’s the way my character was supposed to feel. That told me that I was on the right track.

You mentioned Kaushik Ganguly gave no brief to you for the character…

Churni Ganguly: Yes, for this film it is true. Whenever we are playing a new character in any film, it takes a scene or two to get into the skin of the character and to set the right pulse. I think in this film we have been able to do that from the beginning. That is why he hardly came up to us from the monitor to tell us anything. He mostly gave compositional direction and didn’t say much on how to emote a line. Jaya and I were very confused at first, wondering if we were on the right track. I guess we were, from his point of view, which is why he let us be. The script was everything. We improvised the rest.

It was Shunyo E Buke, one of your earliest films, where you first worked with Koushik Sen. How was it to reunite with him?

Churni Ganguly: With Koushik, it has been a very long journey. We were friends even before we did films. It is always a pleasure to work with him. He’s such a superb actor that he gives you the space to perform. After a scene we discuss and exchange notes like it is usually between a friend. The comfort level is more with him.

Your Bollywood release Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani has got a release date. How has it been working in the film?

Churni Ganguly: Karan Johar’s team approached me when I was shifting houses. They were insisting that I record a scene and send it to them. I was getting so many calls from Dharma Productions. I was stalling them as I was in a crazy situation and was not in the right mental space. One day they called me many times and requested to send them a recording in whatever way possible. They had sent me a look-reference; it was a picture of me. After I sent them a recording that very evening, I got a call from them saying, ‘Please lock your dates and come to Bombay to talk to Karan.’ I realised they were waiting for me!

It has been so good working with stalwarts like Dharamji (Dharmendra), Jayaji (Bachchan) and Shabanaji (Azmi). It has been a great experience.

The other talents, Alia (Bhatt) and Ranveer (Singh), having them on set is a great deal of fun. Karan is not a laid-back director at all. He would suggest so many things and make us improvise. It was great fun working on each scene. I knew that for myself there would be a lot of improvisation to be done on the spot to make the scene work. That worked for me very well because I like improvising.

How selective are you when it comes to giving the nod to a script? Any must-have as an artist?

Churni Ganguly: Sincerity of the director. Good script. Good remuneration that will not make me feel exploited or used. After so many years, I have reached a certain level and I feel the remuneration should be according to that. And the role has to have newness.

What’s next in the pipeline?

Churni Ganguly: It has been two hands full. It is overwhelming. We’ve been shooting Rocky Aur Rani for sometime now and it has come to a finished place. Ardhangini is running in the theatres successfully. I have been thinking about directing soon. Let’s see. Right now, I am into some content writing with my son Ujaan (Ganguly) and Kaushik (Ganguly). We are doing that as a team.

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