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Subhashree Ganguly on Indubala Bhaater Hotel: ‘I was carrying myself and Indubala together’

The Hoichoi web series has been directed by Debaloy Bhattacharya and is based on an eponymous novel by Kallol Lahiri

Soujannya Das Calcutta Published 17.03.23, 03:04 PM
Subhashree Ganguly as a young Indubala in the Hoichoi series Indubala Bhaater Hotel.

Subhashree Ganguly as a young Indubala in the Hoichoi series Indubala Bhaater Hotel.

After 17 years in Bengali mainstream films, Tollywood actress Subhashree Ganguly has morphed into a 75-year-old woman for her OTT debut with Indubala Bhaater Hotel. Based on the novel by Kallol Lahiri, the Hoichoi web series directed by Debaloy Bhattacharya traces an immigrant woman’s journey from Bangladesh to India and her relentless struggle — from her difficult married life to widowhood and then setting up her own pice hotel in Kolkata. Subhashree chatted with us about the challenges and joys of transforming into Indubala emotionally and physically, and making her mark as an actor.

Hoichoi’s Indubala Bhaater Hotel marks your web series debut. What were the challenges of playing a character that is 75 years old?


Subhashree: I have played Indubala when she is 24, 35 and 75 years old in the web series. The most challenging was playing her at 75 and understanding her thought process. I know the psyche of a 24-year-old, I’ve passed that age. It was difficult to understand the psychology of a 75-year-old woman, someone who has already seen her whole life, is much wiser and has gained a lot of experience.

Since I’m a method actor, it’s very important for me to transform into the character. I follow a process and within two-three days of the shoot, I start becoming the character and behaving like her. It takes a lot of time to get out of the character when the shoot is over.

We shot for Indubala in extreme summer and on a tight schedule. It is very difficult to wear prosthetic make-up in summer but Indubala’s life struggle was way more difficult. Since I completely transform into the character, I forget if I’m feeling hot or uneasy with the make-up on. I used to feel more pain when I would return home after pack-up. I felt like somebody had burdened me with something. It was the character. After the shoot, I would stand in front of the mirror and tell myself, ‘Get out of Indubala, please.’

What was the hardest day on the set?

Subhashree: I think every day was a challenge. I wanted to live like Indubala every day. I used to feel as if every scene was happening in my own life. It’s a different feeling. Subhashree Ganguly was living another person’s life, and experiencing that person’s sadness, happiness and other emotions. I enjoyed every day. Indubala stayed with me even after I returned home from shooting. I was carrying Subhashree and Indubala together. It was very challenging. There were times when I kept crying even when the scene was over. I couldn’t stop.

Did you read the novel before the script?

Subhashree: Yes. Director Debaloy Bhattacharya had sent me the novel. I became very nostalgic. I was extremely moved by the character. I wasn’t sure how it was going to be adapted to the audiovisual medium. He told me that he was working on the script but requested me to not refuse the role because he couldn’t imagine anyone other than me as Indubala. I also wanted to play this character and portray her journey. When I heard the script, I was blown away.

What is your preparation process like?

Subhashree: I read the script at least a hundred times. I read it like a storybook. I make my family members listen to the script. The more I read, the more I get to travel via the incidents and the situations in the character’s life. With this, I end up turning into the character. On the set, with the make-up and costume and director’s help, I turn into the character completely.

Subhashree as the 75-year-old Indubala.

Subhashree as the 75-year-old Indubala.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in the industry as an actor and when you started your family?

Subhashree: When I started working, the scenario was different. There were not many options. I remember visiting different studios and meeting several directors with my photos. Now when I look back, I thank God because those experiences were really important. If I had gotten everything very easily, it would not have been possible for me to work for 17 years. I still treat myself as a newcomer. I feel I have a lot to learn.

When I got into the industry, a lot of people told me that an actor’s career span is 10 years. After you get married, everything is finished. And after you become a mother, you can never work. All these are myths. Such talk breaks a person’s self-esteem. Women have proved themselves and other people have also come forward to support them. Actors like Neena Gupta have started working again. Sabitri Chatterjee is still working. I started working within seven months after I became a mother and within four months after I got married. If you’re talented and hard-working, nobody can stop you.

Does social media trolling affect you?

Subhashree: Negativity never affects me. When I was size zero, people said I must have done surgery for it. When I became a mother, I was trolled for my body weight. I was happy when I was size zero. I was happy when I was 92 kilos, and I’m happy even when I’m trying to lose weight. To me, staying happy every day is very important. I never let anyone enter my happiness.

Quite a few Bollywood stars are getting into the OTT space with web series. Has their decision emboldened you to make this move?

Subhashree: Not really. Since Covid, we have been enjoying OTT content so much and I always wondered when I would get to do this kind of work. That’s where my thought of debuting on the web came from. I got lots of offers for OTT before Indubala but didn’t go forward with those as I either didn’t like the story or my character.

What’s next for you?

Subhashree: I’m reading scripts almost every day. I want to do a character which will push me out of my home. Something that’s very challenging.

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