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Mamata Shankar on revisiting her role from Mrinal Sen’s Kharij in Kaushik Ganguly’s Palan

Palan, which is a throwback to a character in Kharij, stars Anjan Dutt, Sreela Majumdar, Jisshu Sengupta and Paoli Dam

Soujannya Das Calcutta Published 20.09.23, 01:14 PM
Mamata Shankar in Kaushik Ganguly’s Palan, releasing at theatres on September 21.

Mamata Shankar in Kaushik Ganguly’s Palan, releasing at theatres on September 21. YouTube

From Kharij to Palan, she is returning as Mamata Sen after 41 years. Mamata Shankar, who made her film debut with Mrinal Sen’s Mrigayaa in 1976, shares her memories of working with the auteur and reprising her role from Sen’s Kharij in Kaushik Ganguly’s September 21 film Palan.

You are revisiting your role (Mamata Sen) from Mrinal Sen’s Kharij in Kaushik Ganguly’s Palan. What was new in the script that made you say yes to it?


Mamata Shankar: The first reason I said yes to the film is because it is a tribute to Mrinal-da, and secondly even after Mrigayaa being my first film with him, I am very attached to Kharij. It is very close to my heart. After so many years, Kaushik (Ganguly) is bringing the same sentiment back on screen. I had a cameo in Kaushik’s first film and worked with him in TV serials later but I haven’t had the opportunity to work in a full-length film under his direction.

I always believe everything happens at the right time and for good. Very surprisingly, Kaushik never approached me before and this being Mrinal Sen’s centenary year, he is paying a tribute to him with my favourite film. I don’t believe in coincidences as I feel everything is designed up there somewhere. This was destined to happen. I am extremely happy about it.

Mrinal Sen had brought Mithun (Chakraborty) and me together for the first time (in Mrigayaa) and we have given the blockbuster, Projapoti, together this year. On top of that, Palan is happening with Anjan (Dutt), Sreela (Majumdar) and Debapratim Dasgupta (the cast members of Kharij). This is Mrinal Sen’s birth centenary year. I am glad I could be a part of it.

How is Palan’s story different from Kharij?

Mamata Shankar: Our characters’ names are the same. Palan shows how we face problems in today’s times. That is why I feel people will love the film.

Kharij was a different story altogether. It was a story of a boy who dies. The boy’s name was Palan. The theme of Kaushik’s Palan goes with the theme of the name, ‘palan’ (run away). It is also a coincidence. Jisshu (Sengupta) plays my son and Paoli (Dam) plays his wife. Palan is an extension of Kharij. The story continues after 40 years where the family is facing another problem.

How has your character Mamata Sen evolved over the years?

Mamata Shankar: I have aged. I am the same person and of the same nature. I am more experienced.

Was it challenging to bring back the character after such a long time?

Mamata Shankar: Not really. When I did Kharij, I was very involved with the film. After 40 years, I feel that I am the same person and going through another new problem in the film. It was not really difficult for me to emote that character. It was rather a happy moment. I am so lucky to be able to do it again.

What are some of the fondest memories you have from Kharij and of working with Mrinal Sen?

Mamata Shankar: There was one scene where I just broke down, saying how would I face Palan’s father? Because Palan has died. The father would come to take his salary every month. I burst into tears when I was doing the shot. Mrinal-da was so happy with the scene. He came and hugged me. I couldn’t stop crying because I got so carried away with the scene. He told me, ‘Now you are putting in a lot of hard work and dedication.’ That was a huge compliment from him.

While doing Palan, all these memories came rushing back, especially because I was shooting with Anjan, Sreela and Debapratim. There were so many small incidents that happened during the shoot of Kharij. There are so many special memories.

You had a long association with Mrinal Sen…

Mamata Shankar: Yes, from the time of Chorus, Calcutta 71, Padatik. These are the films for which my brother (Ananda Shankar) had scored the music. That’s how Mrinal-da became a family friend. He used to always ask my mother why she wasn’t letting me join films. He felt I would be a good actress. My mother was not very keen on it as she wanted me to finish my studies. She said I could do it once I was in college and felt like doing it. But the one thing my mother promised was that if I ever joined films, it would be with Mrinal Sen. Mrinal-da said that if I ever thought of doing a film, he should be the first one to know about it. I had promised him that I would.

With Kharij and Mrigayaa, we went to the Moscow film festival. Mrinal-da took me with him. I also went to the Tokyo film festival with him for Kharij. That was a great opportunity. The film made me reach so many people.

How has it been to work with Kaushik Ganguly?

Mamata Shankar: It was lovely. I was a bit scared because he is such a good actor and director. I was very nervous. I am never satisfied as I always feel my performance could have been better. Anjan has done a brilliant job. Even Jisshu, Paoli and Sreela.

Earlier, we would shoot on celluloid. We would be scared of asking for a retake because reels were costly, but now it has become so easy as it’s digital. Now time has become a constraint. A film is being finished in 15-20 days. Earlier, it would take months. Mrinal-da was the only director who finished his films fast. He never compromised on anything. If he felt there was a need for another take, he would go for it.

How has it been reuniting with Anjan Dutt for Palan?

Mamata Shankar: It is a delight to work with him. Since we have worked in so many films, there is a very good understanding. There are few actors with whom I feel very comfortable to work with. Anjan is one of them. We sort of understand each other. We both know how we will react after a shot.

What else are you working on?

Mamata Shankar: I am working on Avijit Sen’s Pradhan, and a very special film called Bijoyar Pore by Abhijit SriDas. I’m so anxious about the film. It is one of the toughest roles of my life. We have finished shooting. Another film I’m working on is Patri Chaayi, directed by Biplob Goswami. He is from Bombay. He is a very good scriptwriter. Also, I’m going to work with Anjan Dutt in his next film. He is a brilliant director.

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