The Brave Outsider

Read more below

  • Published 25.04.13
Picture: Pabitra Das, costume, Styling and make-up: Aniruddha Chakladar

Guess what?! I got a call from Taran Adarsh (trade analyst). There was a private screening of Ankur Arora Murder Case in Bombay. After the screening, Taran called and said: ‘Paoli, you must work in Bombay more’! It’s a great compliment,” giggled Paoli Dam, sipping on a red wine cocktail and digging into Spanish Tango, a mix of prawn, squid and chicken, at Zara, The Tapas Bar & Restaurant, South City Mall. For the next two hours, what followed was a freewheeling chat with t2 over four more glasses of her favourite cocktail...

So is the plan to do more films in Bollywood?

Of course. Bombay has a different charm... the sea-side coffee shops, the long drives along Marine Drive, the adda, the food, the whole masti of staying alone! I love Bombay. People there have a couldn’t-care-less attitude. I love to shop there. Even if a John Abraham walks around in a mall, nobody would even bother to give him a second look. That is what I love about the city, everybody is busy with their life…. When I met Bhattsaab (Mahesh Bhatt) for the first time, he told me: ‘You are a brave girl. It’s better to live on the edge than be at the centre of some circle. It is tough and painful but at the end of the day you can make your own mark.’ I try to remember his words. He told me he had said the same thing to Emraan Hashmi.

You’ve signed your third Hindi film with Vikram Bhatt...

Yes! He must have liked my performance a lot in both Hate Story and Ankur Arora Murder Case. Why else would a director of his stature cast me again and again? I haven’t yet signed the film, so I can’t say anything now. I’m also doing Vishal Mahadkar’s (director of Blood Money) next.

Aren’t you exploring the option of working with other banners in Bollywood?

Of course. There’s Jee Jaan Se with Ashu Trikha with Kay Kay (Menon) and Raveena Tandon. We were supposed to shoot in Rajasthan from April but since it’s very hot, Ashuji decided to push back the shoot by a couple of months. You know, I had met Ashuji at some other actor’s office and he immediately offered me the film! Talks are on with Satishji (Kaushik) too. Subhash Sehgal’s Yara Sili Sili will start soon. I like the work culture in Bombay, there’s transparency among people. They are professional. But I also don’t want to lose out on films here. I had to reject seven Bengali films for Ankur Arora! I’m doing some very good films in Tollywood too. Snehasishda’s (Chakraborty) film (Promotion, starring Indraneil Sengupta) has a beautiful script, something I have never done before.

Have you made any friends in Mumbai?

Not really. Vikram (Bhatt) is my friend. We meet up often. My Hate Story director Vivek (Agnihotri) is a good friend. I have become good friends with Manoj (Bajpai) and Kay Kay. I have rented a flat in Andheri, a fully furnished studio apartment. I have even taken one of my cars there. I love cooking. I can cook very good mutton curry with absolutely no oil! All you need to do is marinate the mutton with mishti doi and other spices, pour a little water and pressure-cook for half an hour! You will never want to eat any other mutton preparation if you taste mine!

You have very few friends in Tolly too...

I have never had many friends. I have never had too many friends in school or college either. I respect my co-actors. You will never see me speaking against any of my co-actors.

“I can cook very good mutton curry with absolutely no oil. You will never want to eat any other mutton preparation if you taste mine!” says Paoli, nailing prawns at Zara, South City Mall. Pictures: Pabitra Das

What’s your relationship status with Tolly actor Vikram?

We have our fights. But at the end of the day, we end up meeting each other again. We don’t think of the future much.

Why don’t we see you more in new-wave Tolly films?

Well, I have worked with Rituparno Ghosh and Goutam Ghose at the beginning of my career. In fact, both repeated me in their films. See, the directors here know that Paoli Dam will not do a film just like that. They can’t cast me in a film where my character has no importance. I’m not here to be a part of a film where nobody will notice me. I want to play strong characters. I need to challenge myself in every film that I do. Even in Bombay, look at Hate Story or Ankur Arora. Hate Story was centred around Kavya (Paoli). In Ankur Arora, I play a lawyer, so I think directors approach me only when they have a meaty role to offer.

Who do you consider your competitors in Tollywood?

I don’t believe in competition. If I had believed in competition, I would not have experimented with my career.

How are you planning your Tolly-Bolly career?

In our profession you can never plan anything. You never know which film will click and which will not. Your best efforts can go down the drain, sometimes.

Are you happy with the way your career has shaped up?

I regret missing out on films like Ami Aadu (which won the National Award for best feature film in Bengali in 2010). It was purely because of date problems. Otherwise I think I have done well, considering that I am a rank outsider in this industry. I have done films where women are the protagonists.

Given a second chance, would you’ve done things differently?


You are busy doing up your new home in Lake Gardens...

Yes. I am just waiting for the interiors to be done. I will throw a lavish house-warming party! My parents and my younger brother will shift with me. I have been waiting for a house of my own for years. We have always lived in rented flats. I hated shifting from one house to another. Hopefully, we will shift to our own home soon. (Smiles)

Your screen heroes in a word...

• Parambrata Chattopadhyay: Kalbela.
• Indraneil Sengupta: Complete.
• Vikram: Sweet.
• Prosenjit: Star.
• Jisshu Sengupta: Romantic.
• Abir Chatterjee: Reliable.


• Ankur Arora Murder Case
• Baga Beach (Konkani)
• Hoichoi
• Sweetheart
• Obhishopto Nighty
• Ajana Batash

Your current diet...

Grilled fish and vegetables.

What do you think people gossip about behind your back?

I don’t know. Maybe the worst things imaginable!

One-night stands or long-term relationships...

Relationships that are not too short and not too long.

How often do you have a crush?

Every other day!

Songs you are currently hooked to...

Roshni sey dhula (Ankur Arora...) and Tumhi ho (Aashiqui 2).

Films you watch on and off...

Meghe Dhaka Tara and Mahanagar.

Your directors in a word...

• Vikram Bhatt: A silent supporter. Dignity personified.

• Goutam Ghose: A brilliant teacher. Proud to have worked with him... one of the all-time greats!

• Rituparno Ghosh: Nobody understands emotions better than him... a scholar, and every actress dreams of working with him!

• Bappaditya Bandopadhyay: Different. Who would make a film like Houseful?

• Anjan Das: Poetic, lyrical, brilliant.

Kushali Nag

Should Paoli focus on being a star in Tollywood rather than being a starlet in Bollywood? Tell