Madhurima Basak, who stars in X=Prem, vividly remembers the first time she had watched Srijit Mukherji’s 22shey Srabon. “There was complete silence in the theatre, and I, like all the others in the theatre, sat awestruck. Later on, Srijitda’s films like Jaatishwar, Chotushkone, Rajkahini, Uma and Dwitiyo Purush made me an ardent follower of his kind of film-making with such brilliant storytelling and remarkable characters,” says the pretty actress.
The Telegraph chat.
Growing up in Nabadwip, what kind of school memories do you have?
My fondest memories are of cycling back from school through the bylanes of Nabadwip... I would ride very fast... faster than even the boys who followed me! And it gave me a sense of freedom and winning back then... it seems silly now but it was special back then. Otherwise, like everyone, I have good memories of endless unimportant sessions of chatting with friends and sharing tiffin, bunking classes as I grew up and playing games that had no future in sports!
Were you very studious in school? How was life back then?
I was intelligent but unmindful and lazy. I didn’t like to study and would often daydream of unreal stuff. I basically lived in fantasies of fairies and superheroes. But I would pick up lessons and concepts fast and fared decently in exams till love kicked in. Life was simple and mostly about living each day and finding happiness in simple things without worrying to wake up the next morning and make a living.
You were in a girls school. How would you meet boys at that time?
Girls schools have the highest number of boys waiting outside the school! So more than how did I meet it was more about how did I avoid meeting and being followed. Again, I also went to tuitions and you have boys there... and you also have boys who would join that tuition class only for you and would care a dime about their future in that particular subject.
Did you have a crush on anyone? What did you do about it?
Crushes are eternal, just like love. They keep happening. I keep crushing on people. I had a crush on a senior who lived near my house. He spoke well and I was an introvert, so I kept quiet about it.
What are your college memories?
Not much. I started my acting career during college. Moreover, I was new to the city and didn’t have friends in college. I wasn’t regular after the first year and don’t have many memories. However, I stayed in a PG and had some of the best days of my life spent with my PG mates.
How did first love happen?
It was amateurish. Everyone around was falling in love at that point during school. A certain kind of peer pressure led me to fall in love with a friend. It was cute and innocent while it lasted.
How did you feel during that time?
It felt nice to have someone who would wait the whole day to meet me, for maybe just a few minutes. He would leave his football match to come and see me. He would cycle past just to get a glimpse while my mom and I would return from the bazaar... it felt special to have my birthday planned and receive surprise gifts. I too would do the same for him in return... it was all very pure and ’90s kind of old-school romance.
What was the definition of love for you back then?
Love for me was to live for the one I loved and live with him for the rest of my life. It was unconditional and loving beyond your own self.
How has the definition of love changed over time? What does love mean to you now?
Love is a lot instant now just like coffees and loans. From meeting each other for the first time to instantly falling in love and parting ways, everything seems too soon... too fast. Not to take away anything from the classic love stories, which bloom even today, but it is a rarity. Love for me now is to love beyond a definite conclusion and usual set definitions of love and relationships... a lot selfless yet loving yourself a little more. And self-love is extremely important to reach that stage... when you are happy and at peace you can love someone selflessly without regrets and expectations.
How did you deal with a break-up?
The initial madness, angst and pain eventually gives way to numbness. After a point everything seems to fall in place and you try to find solace in reasons. Though no reason seems enough to compensate for the loss of love and years gone by, one learns to deal with it, to live with it... to let go and accept that it wasn’t meant to be is the beginning of getting back to life. I got very busy with work. Work is the best distraction... and yoga and meditation does a fair bit to realign your inner calm.
What are your expectations from X=Prem?
Obviously I want the film to do well at the box office and not just in terms of numbers but for the audience to love and accept the newness of an eternal story of love. I hope what we set out to make transpires on screen and the audiences take home memories of their own love stories.
How was it like being directed by Srijit?
It was overwhelming. He made me get back to watching Bengali movies when I was in college. So now being directed by him felt surreal initially. He is a taskmaster yet accommodating and lets you evolve out of your limitations. He is a skillful teacher of the craft... it was a privilege to act under his tutelage.
Was there a challenging scene?
Yes, the climax scene was difficult... it is all four of us in that particular scene... four different emotions all strung by one common thread of love and what love brings to each of the characters. The scene for me is the high point and it needed the best from all the actors. I hope I have done justice to the scene.
You have intimate scenes in the film. How did you deal with it?
The scenes have been shot very aesthetically. I had initial inhibitions but I also blindly trusted the makers, given their body of work and projection of female characters in the past.
What is your takeaway from the X=Prem experience?
That not just watching films but playing a character in a film too can take you down memory lane and make you think once again what could have been. I take away all the shooting memories, the bonding on sets, the songs and everything that made this film. I take away the fact that despite all the hatred around and loss of love and loved ones, it is bhalobashar morshum.
Picture: Rashbehari Das
Stylist: Rudra Saha
Make-up: Baban Islam