Monday, 30th October 2017

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I'm there, ticking and alive'

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By Churni Ganguly on playing an actress in hubby Kaushik's RANG MILANTI and much more Kushali Nag Why is Churni so underutilised? Tell
  • Published 8.09.11

You play an actress in Rang Milanti. Are there similarities between you and your character?

My character Kamalini has a lot of attitude and is always in charge. I am more laid-back. Our spouses are freelancers, that’s one similarity... so we’ve both had to work on certain projects just to run the show. We’re both disarmingly truthful. And we’re both vulnerable… but then, who isn’t?

Does Kamalini throw tantrums on the sets?

No, she doesn’t. I’ve never had problems either, except when I have been made to work beyond the given time. I have a home and a child, and both need my time. My work is important and so is my home, and I don’t let one upset the other.

How was it working with such a young team?

Wonderful! If you have a team that is spontaneous and warm, work becomes very pleasurable. Gaurav is a very soft, balanced person. I share my love for Dylan and the Beatles with Gourab, who has a simple, quiet disposition. Indrasish has an innocent sentimentality. Ridhima is extremely sweet and the naughtiest of the lot. Tanaji, the darling of our unit, is adorable.

We don’t see much of you on screen. Are you very choosy about your projects?

In most cases, factors other than choice have determined my visibility on screen. When I had won the Onida Pinnacle Award for Best Actress at the national level, I was flooded with irresistible offers from Bombay. I had to let go of some good offers from Ramesh Sippy and Ekta Kapoor, the only constraint being time, and not choice. Again, when Anupam Kher, whose company made my career plans, wanted me to meet Priyadarshan for his film, I was away for a month-long shoot in Rajasthan for Zee TV’s Umeed. So I lost out on that opportunity entirely because of bad timing. When I became a mother, I had to wind up and forego all work in Bombay because I had no one who could come along with me if I took my baby to Bombay. So I really didn’t have much of a choice in bringing the Bombay chapter to a close.

Do you still get offers from Mumbai?

Till September last year, I’ve had constant offers from Mumbai, but I had to say no because it is not possible for me to stay away from home for 25 days every month. The offers in my city were not so exciting, but ever since Kaushik resigned from St. Xavier’s Collegiate School (as the Bengali teacher) I could not afford to be choosy and had to work when he waited for his projects to mature.... I have been lucky to get offers from Rituda (Rituparno Ghosh), Tony (Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury) and Rinamashi (Aparna Sen), but unfortunately either dates or other technicalities came in the way. I’m happy to have worked with Anjan Dutt and Anjan Das. I have heard allegations that I don’t market myself, that I don’t play according to the ‘rules of the game’. I’m not sure how all that is done. The fact that I am keen to take up roles that tease me, challenge me... all mean that I’m eager for good work. I have also been told by some of my colleagues that being the spouse of a director is a disadvantage. All I can say is, Kaushik and I are different identities, respecting our differences in professional outlook and ethics.

Kaushik casts you in most of his films...

Why not? Perhaps for the same reason why Sandhya Roy is seen in most of Tarun Majumdar’s films, why Soumitra Chatterjee was in many of Satyajit Ray’s films, why Konkona is in Aparna Sen’s films, why Neel does the music in all Anjan Dutt films, why Kalki is preferred by Anurag Kashyap, why Karan Johar preferred Shah Rukh, why Chaplin repeated Edna Purviance, why Almodovar cast Penelope Cruz again and again.... I would say it is trust, a question of comfort zone between the director and the performer.... All the roles I’ve done in his films may not have been just the roles I had been waiting for, but each role has had some element that attracted me to it.

And what kind of roles attract you?

Meaningful ones. Ones that might make me work hard, think, grow and feel rejuvenated. Roles that might push me beyond my boundaries. Roles that are different from what I’ve done.

Kaushik told us that you give creative inputs for his films. Ever thought of directing a film?

Yes. Only when I’ve written something that I’d like to make. Something I’d like to possess. Something that a like-minded producer can’t resist. I’m currently working on a subject.

You’ve done some memorable telefilms. Do you miss doing them?

It is true that I got some of my best roles in these telefilms. I miss them. And I rue the fact that these will be lost if not preserved. Telefilms have liberated the language and form of Bengali cinema. New-age cinema has found its way into packed halls and this must go on. We in Bengal boast of a host of very talented and creative filmmakers and I’m certain many others are waiting in the wings. Let us not pull down the curtains on them. Let them perform. With unbridled creative freedom.

Many young actresses are playing middle-aged moms in serials. Are you open to playing a mother or aunt on television?

When I was in my 20s, I played a 35-year-old mother who matured to about 60, in Chhoti Si Asha, aired on Sony. This project endeared me to the whole nation and I realised how much the viewers loved it. Even now, when I meet non-Bengali viewers... they still remember it. What matters is the impact of the role. But then, I can play my age now and not 10 or 20 years from today. There will be time for such roles later.

What do you do when you are not shooting?

I read. I am reading Tagore’s Galpoguchchho. I’ve also been reading Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet (for the umpteenth time), and Milan Kundera’s Immortality, which I had, by accident, never got to reading. I’d like to start Dostoevsky’s The Idiot right away. Reading Paulo Coelho’s biography is also on the cards. I’ve got hold of a copy of River of Smoke, but I need to read Sea of Poppies before that.... I also watch films and listen to music. I spend time with my son (Ujaan, 12), help him with his studies. We sing together, we watch classics together, we discuss books, films, music, life…. And there’s my labrador retriever, Jet, who takes me for granted and thinks I’m his playmate!

Looking back, do you think you could have done things differently?

I couldn’t have done anything different in this industry. If I were a different person, I might have been able to. If I could leave my baby and chase a lucrative career in Bombay, things might have been very different. If Kaushik had stayed on at St. Xavier’s, I could have preserved myself for good films, for work that attracted me.… And if I were not married to him I would have had an individual identity. Had I not taken up this career, I would have continued with academics. Or I could have immersed myself in music.... But I’m happy being what I am. And I continue to work with zeal, with the hope that the new-age films might just need me effectively some day… very soon, or in the future. I’m there. Ticking and alive!