Rituparna revels in the paradise called cannes

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By PICTURES: AMIT ROY
  • Published 23.05.13
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Rituparna Sengupta, who is a Cannes virgin — the 66th Festival de Cannes is her first — is enjoying the experience hugely. “I am very happy and elated to see Cannes because it is such a beautiful spot,” she goes on. “It is not only the best film festival in the world but the whole feel is like a dream come true for me.”

She has come to promote her latest work, Alik Sukh (Fleeting Happiness), but she is also proving to be a passionate champion for Bengali cinema. “Bengali cinema today is conquering everything,” she asserts. “It is not meant only for Bengali sentiments, it is getting universally recognised. Bengali cinema has its own identity.”

Meanwhile, Alik Sukh, has received a market screening in Riviera 1, a respectable venue inside the Palais des Festivals. The plot is about a doctor’s dilemma in the modern world. Her own look in the film is “sans makeup with specs”. According to Rituparna, this is the first Bengali film for several years to receive a market screening.

Alik Sukh is about a celebrity doctor who suddenly faces a problem in his life because of his relationship with a patient — “I play the doctor’s wife”. The films co-directors, Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukhopadhyay, who cast Rituparna in their last film, Muktodhara, have also come to Cannes.

Before we sit down to a refreshing pineapple juice in the bar of the iconic Carlton Hotel, Rituparna and I have a walk round Cannes, taking in its sights and sounds. The sea breeze off the Croisette does the job of a powerful hairdryer, blowing her long hair in all directions. She sits down and applies lipstick very near the spot on the beach where Brigitte Bardot, the sex kitten, announced her arrival to the world over half-a- century ago in a brief bikini. Rituparna is in an orange Abhishek Dutta dress.

Not wishing to leave anything to chance, Rituparna has come with two suitcases groaning under the weight of her ‘Indian fusion’ designer outfits. When I tell her about Nandita Das who arrived for jury service with only one small suitcase, Rituparna confides her favourite designers include Rohit Verma from Bombay (“he is very famous and also designs for Kate Moss”), Abhishek Dutta and Agnimitra Paul. “I have a huge collection of their dresses,” she confesses.

This explains why her two heavy suitcases are “crying” because “they don’t have breathing space any more”. But clearly a gal has got to be prepared for Cannes — “every morning and evening I have to wear some nice dress.”

[She wore a black Rohit Verma creation for the formal India-France dinner, a “fusion number” for lunch with the Indian ambassador Arun Singh at the Hinduja villa in Cannes, and Radhika Singhi at the premiere of Alik Sukh.]

She has received compliments including one from a man who told her she had “interesting eyes”. Cannes is certainly a place for beautiful women, I say to Rituparna. “Men also!” she retorts, throwing back her head and laughing. She has been observing the way men in Cannes carry themselves. “I was looking at them, the way they dress, the way they walk, their attitude — they are very nicely attired and they have a beautiful personality as well.”

After two decades in the business and 70-80 films, Rituparna is aware she is one of the best-known Bengali actresses. Among western actresses she greatly admires Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep and Susan Sarandon. She points out that Hollywood stars earn enough to spend months and even years preparing for a particular role and attempting to get ‘into the skin of a character’. She herself does not like taking on more than three films at any one time.

She would not mind taking on the kind of Anne Bancroft-type role — young man, older woman — in The Graduate and she is certainly proud she has staying power. “I have done a lot of films with Prosenjit and had great success with him,” she recalls. “But then I have worked with other heroes and today I am working with all the newcomers as well. I have heroes who have just started.”

Although she is taking on work both in south Indian and in Hindi movies, her fight is to secure a place in the sun for Bengali cinema. She appears especially proud of some of her recent work, including Charuulata 2011, a kind of tribute to Ray’s masterpiece, and 3 Kanya, both directed by Agnidev Chatterjee.

She believes the market for Bengali films is widening and expanding and the demand is coming even from people who are not Bengali. “They know Bengali cinema has a lot of potential. It is the land of Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen whose movies have been the pride of Cannes.”

She wants to come back to Cannes because she understands this is where Bengali cinema could make the big breakthrough in securing a global market — and ensuring producers get their money back.

“This is the best hub where under osne roof you are connecting with so many people from world cinema,” she emphasises. “What more could you want? Oh, yes, I would like to come back here over and over again. Cannes is paradise,” she sums up.

What kind of clothes does Rituparna look best in? Tell t2@abp.in