From Kotha Dilam’s Sudha to Ichhe Nodi’s Meghla, Solanki Roy’s unplanned journey from Jadavpur University to the tele-OTT world has seen her play many roles that have won the hearts of fans and critics alike. While she has shared the small screen with veterans of the industry, her upcoming big-screen debut in Windows Production’s Baba Baby O opposite Jisshu Sengupta is so far her most high-profile project.
In a freewheeling chat with My Kolkata, Solanki speaks about her journey so far, her upcoming projects and making memories along the way that have made it all worthwhile. Excerpts…
My Kolkata: From a Master’s Degree in International Relations from Jadavpur University to bagging the lead role in the television serial Kotha Dilam — how did it happen?
Solanki Roy: [Chuckles] I was having my adda with my friends at JU. The writer of Kotha Dilam (Saurav Sengupta) spotted me there and wanted me to audition. I really don’t know how I got through! But he must have seen something that I couldn’t see in myself. That’s how the journey began. I got the opportunity to work with senior co-actors, which became a part of my learning process. Every scene has been my class since then.
A lead role on debut! How did you react to that?
The cosmic world has been very kind, otherwise this wouldn’t have happened! For me, it was a big opportunity as well as a big responsibility. I was blessed with a team who helped me at every step. Working with senior actors like Montuda (Sumanta Mukhopadhyay), Chaitidi (Ghoshal), Chandanda (Sen) and others made my work and learning easier.
Has working with industry veterans right from your first project been helpful?
I say this tirelessly and shall always be thankful that I have always had amazing co-actors. I have been really, really lucky! Be it Montuda, Chaitidi, Chandanda, Labonidi (Sarkar) or Jisshuda (Sengupta) in my recent film, everyone has helped and taught me the smallest nuances of the craft with patience. They broke down scenes to help me and have answered my queries always. So, my experience of working with these senior actors has been wonderful.
I am not from a theatre or acting background. I was learning the ropes and I still am. The learning process is endless. Each time I see a good performance, I see the huge ocean of knowledge still left to explore.
You have also worked with a lot with actors from your generation. How has the camaraderie been?
I have learnt that every actor of my generation that I have worked with is as big an addabaj as I am! Jokes apart, while Vikram (Chatterjee) is my senior in the industry with more experience, we developed and still share an amazing friendship. I have learnt a lot from him.
Honey (Bafna) is an amazing and dedicated actor. I learned a lot while working with him in Prathama Kadambini. I started working with Gourab (Chatterjee) very recently in Gant Chhora and we share a friendship that I hope will reflect well on the screen too. He is a very supportive and talented actor. I was also recently paired with Soham (Majumdar) in Sharey Saitrish. He has done some amazing work in Kabir Singh and Dhamaka. He is a very dear friend and a wonderful actor who inspires me.
So, I think I have been particularly very lucky with my co-actors. Not only the actors whom I star, but also others, seniors and juniors alike, have enriched me and I am still learning every day from them.
Next in line is your television project Gant Chhora. Tell us something about it.
I am very comfortable with Star because of my long association with the channel. So, when they contacted me and informed me about the show, I was interested right away.
Gant Chhora is a story of three sisters from a middle-class family. My character, Khori Bhattacharya, is a painter. This appealed to me because I am into painting too. Khori is the sole earning member of the family and is a straightforward and independent woman. This is something that I personally liked and harp on while selecting roles — the character must have something to give back to society. The character must add some value to the society and the script.
You are an avid reader, painter and a trained dancer. Did these help you in becoming a part of the performing arts industry?
I think so. I have realised that I am an ambivert. I, as an individual, am a certain kind of person, but I also have different shades to my personality. Performing arts allows you to explore those shades. I like playing characters who are different from me because that’s the only way I can explore myself too. That is what triggers me when I go through a script or a role. I can actually give voice to those people inside me who are not me, but are still me.
Any plans of donning the director’s hat someday, given that you are also a writer?
I am good at visualising. Direction requires execution and it needs technical knowledge. I have never thought about it, frankly! I think I can express myself more through acting, painting, and writing.
Tell us about your upcoming web-series Shaarey Shaitrish…
This is my third web series. The first was Dhanbad Blues. That was with Sourav Chakraborty and this one is too. He and Ishita (Sarkar) are wonderful people and friends of mine. The concept is very interesting — a dystopian world of 2037’s Kolkata that is loveless. Whether love returns or not is what the show is all about. With the growing alienation of present times, I think people will find the web series intriguing.
You recently visited the Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai. Any ‘Bombay dreams’ shaping up?
No, no! I simply love Bombay. There’s an attraction I feel towards the city and I visit often, explore the place and meet my friends. And I love Bombay ki baarish! I went to Prithvi Theatre and strolled outside. I didn’t go inside it because I felt entering a place like Prithvi requires some merit. I wish to enter someday. The caption of my photo was ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and it indeed was so. Visiting a place where artistes like Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak and others perform – I was thrilled!
You have experience working in television, OTT and now films. How distinct are the three?
In television, the script does not come fully ready before-hand. You get time to develop the character along with the process. You get the time to settle down in the character. For films, the pre-preparation workshops are essential. In OTT shows and in films, since you have the whole script ready, the preparation time is different than for television. Otherwise, there is no such major distinction. If you are a good actor, you will give your 100% to your character in any medium you are working.
What is your personal preparation method like?
Since I come from a non-acting background, I have to absorb everything and learn from anyone. In the last eight years, I have learnt the first step is to understand the particular emotion the character is feeling. I ask five questions: Why, when, where, who, and how. I develop the character based on these answers. I have recently learnt from a co-actor of mine that you can develop a character as a question paper. I try to relate the emotion of the character with mine and understand the psyche.
You have a very dedicated and huge fan base. Any favourite memory?
There are so many! A young girl came to meet me while I was shooting for Kadambini. She enrolled in a nursing course because she was inspired by the character I was playing! It was a huge personal gain — to be able to inspire someone.
On my birthday, my fans came to meet me and my birthday celebration was wonderful with them! It moved me. Another fond memory is of an aunty whom I met during a pandal visit while shooting for Icche Nodi. She held my hand and told me, “I wanted to be a singer, but that did not materialise. Your character has instilled the zeal in me to sit in front of the harmonium every day now.” I was so moved!
I am also very thankful to the fans who run the online pages – their creativity comes out in the videos or posts they make. Recently, a fan took me by surprise by saying, “Didi, when you are low it is evident by the posts you make.” The keen eye with which they notice and understand me, despite not knowing me personally, is so amazing!
You have also done a play with the 4th Bell Theatres. How was the experience performing in front of a live audience?
My last stage performance was in college – as a dancer. The stage has always had a different appeal. But acting in a play had never happened before. Aniruddha (Dasgupta), the director, is a friend of mine. I had told him I wanted to experience the discipline of the stage — and he offered me a part in the play that was to go under production in 15 days! I was so nervous at first! The first show was in Gyan Manch and I gained some confidence. But then the pandemic happened and halted everything. However, I’m hoping it can be restaged in the future.
Do you have a favourite actor or a dream role?
My dreams keep changing constantly. I want to do any good role I come across. I admire Meryl Streep as a performer and an actor. The more I read about her and follow her, the more she inspires me. And Shabana Azmi too!
Which has been your favourite character to portray?
Very difficult question! I think every character I play has a little bit of me in it.