She has been garnering praise for two of her 2022 films and Gargee Roy Chowdhury is on a high. The Haami 2 actress shares with us her experience of working with the film’s director duo Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee, and becoming Mahasweta Devi for the Arindam Sil-directed Mahananda.
Do you remember the time when Haami was offered to you?
Gargee: Before Haami, Ramdhanu happened in 2014. It was well accepted by the audience. (Director) Nandita Roy had called me for the role. Mitali is her creation. When Ramdhanu happened, I never thought this character would become so famous. Audiences have given a lot of love to the couple, Laltu and Mitali. After the success of Ramdhanu, we made Haami. It was also a huge success.
What are your best memories from Haami?
Gargee: There are so many memories. A lot of people ask Shiboprosad and me what the formula of our chemistry is. As an actor, I don’t think there is a formula as such. The bonding of the characters is very important.
In Haami, there is this famous scene that everyone loved. In this scene, I grabbed Laltu by his hair. Till today, I actually have to make people understand, ‘Trust me, I am not like this in real life!’ (Laughs) The day we were supposed to shoot that scene, Shiboprosad and I had fought over something and both of us were stubborn about not talking to the other. After we shot the scene, Nanditadi said, ‘You’ve done really well.’ Then Shiboprosad came in and said, ‘What was inside has come out.’ He meant that I am a hot-headed person and that is why the scene was perfect. (Laughs) There are enormous crazy moments like this. I will always cherish them.
You were approached to play the character of Mitali in the Malayalam remake of Ramdhanu. Why didn’t you do it?
Gargee: Yes, the producers wanted me to play Mitali in Malayalam. I did not feel like doing it because it would not have given me anything new as an actor. I knew it would have given me a lot of money and exposure but somehow I did not want to do that. Shiboprosad had scolded me for not doing it. Firstly, I couldn’t stay outside for 45 days, and secondly, the bonding of Mitali and Laltu would not have been possible without Shiboprosad. After Ramdhanu, I was approached many times to do roles similar to Mitali. I am extremely selective. I don’t want to repeat myself.
This year has been very kind to me. I am grateful to God for that. For the first time, I got a chance to play many different characters with Haami 2, Mahananda and Sesh Pata. What more can an artist ask for?
Haami 2’s storyline is different from Haami. How has Mitali been different in the two films?
Gargee: Mitali is like any other mother. Like everyone else, she wants everything good for her family and children. In Haami 2, Mitali has two kids. She is more practical. She understands the reality of life. I have tried to highlight this aspect of the character. I have tried to retain her characteristics and add other elements since with time she has changed and evolved. Mitali is also very ambitious but not greedy. She is like the lioness who takes care of everyone and holds them tight.
Haami 2 is a children’s tale. What is the fondest memory you have as a child?
Gargee: Oh my god, I’ve loads of memories. When I saw Bhepu (Ritodeep Sengupta) and Chinu (Shreyan Saha), the two kids in the film, I thought, was I seriously like this? Chinu is very naughty. I was exactly like him.
How challenging is it to work with children on set?
Gargee: It is extremely challenging. Children are very organic. You will not even understand when they will hit the goal. I always wish I could act like them. They give so much happiness. They are very serious when they are on set. They know everything that is in the script. I feel this generation of kids expect mature behaviour from adults.
How much do you relate to Mitali?
Gargee: Like Mitali, I’m very possessive about my family. To be very honest, I’m very privileged. I did not have to struggle like Mitali. Being a homemaker, Mitali has to think about everyone. She has to take care of everything, from housework to her husband, kids and other members of the family. She doesn’t have time for herself. One thing that Gargee has in common with Mitali is that both are honest.
How has it been working with Shiboprosad Mukherjee, the actor and the director?
Gargee: I will use just one word to describe him as a director and an actor – focused. He is very clear about what he wants. I respect his energy level and capacity to think. We have a great bond. I understand something even before he explains it to me.
Your film Mahananda has been receiving positive response at festivals. Gargee: I am extremely possessive about my projects. Mahananda is an important film. Mahasweta Devi is very close to my heart. It was the only Bengali film selected at the 53rd IFFI in Goa and has travelled to many other festivals. I also received the best actress award at the Ottawa Indian Film Festival. It feels extremely good. Mahananda is not a magical film. It is a film of realisation. I feel this is the right time for Mahananda and that is why it is gaining a lot of attention in the festivals. Mahananda will soon release on OTT.
Any special memories from the Mahananda shoot?
Gargee: We shot Mahananda for 21 days, in around 42-45 degrees Celsius with prosthetic make-up. Not for once did I feel exhausted. I remember shooting the last scene on the last day of the shoot, where Mahaswata Devi is 52 years old and is walking down the street. She looks back at the camera, and that is when (director) Arindam Sil says, ‘Cut… and here we end the last shot of Mahananda.’ I was choked with emotions. I was so into the character that it was hard for me to accept that the shoot was over. When my mother passed away, I did not cry. After 13 days of the funeral ceremony, I had felt like this. I was choked with tears.
You have sung a song in Atanu Ghosh’s film Shesh Pata. Are you a trained singer?
Gargee: There are two songs in the film and I have sung both. Both are Rabindrasangeet. I don’t have any training in singing but I love to live with music. I was very active in co-curricular activities from childhood and would dance, sing, recite in events and competitions. That is the only training I had.