Bipasha Basu is a surprise package. Hiding behind that beautiful body and naughty eyes, is a razor-sharp brain quietly ticking away. Just when everyone is getting ready to see her shapely self in sizzling style in Race, hotting it up with Saif Ali Khan, here she goes all sari-bindi-ethnic jewellery for her first Bangla film SHAWB CHORITRO KALPONIK (All Characters are Fictitious). And who, pray, has directed Bipasha? Rituparno Ghosh himself. If JISM was a tribute to her sex appeal, then Madhur Bhandarkar’s CORPORATE offered her the scope to show that she can do much more than just strut her stuff.You are looking amazing in a sari. What is your own reaction to this radical image change?
I am an actress. I should be prepared to step into any role that I choose to take on. Where does the question of ‘image’ come in, tell me? As for the change in my looks, well, even my father was surprised and asked me – ‘where are your shorts?’ The ‘look’ depends entirely on the demands of the script and the character and not on who is going to portray the character. In SHAWB CHORITRO KALPONIK, I am playing Radhika, a Bengali housewife. So, Ritu-da and I discussed the look I should have. So, I wore the sari, a nice, round and red bindi and some ethnic jewellery throughout the film. That is all there is to it.
How did this offer come to you?
Once, during one of his trips to Mumbai, Ritu-da had narrated a part of the script to me. I had liked it very much. Later, I heard the entire script and even then hesitated a bit because the role demanded some difficult Bengali lines. That was the only reason. Then, I made up my mind and accepted the challenge. In fact, I had been toying with the idea of doing a Bengali film for the past three years. Talks were on with Ritu-da as well. But I could not take a final decision because of date problems. Once I heard about Radhika, my mind was made and here I am. Ritu-da said there would not be any problem, as we would probably complete the shoot in a single schedule.
What is the character all about?
Radhika is an ordinary Bengali housewife who has lived away from her home state for some time. She comes back to Kolkata after her husband Indranil goes missing, in search of her roots, in a manner of speaking. Indranil was an engineer by profession but chose to concentrate on poetry. The film is filled with lyricism and the romance of poetry. When Radhika returns to Kolkata, she gets introduced to Shekhar, a photographer. She also tries to discover some little-known things about her missing husband through his poems. SHAWB CHORITRO KALPONIK traces the journey of Radhika – the physical journey of coming home, the emotional journey of trying to discover her roots, the retrospective journey into her relationship with her husband, and the metaphorical journey of all these journeys put together.
Now that the shooting is over, how do you look back on the character and the film?
It was an extremely challenging role. It is my first film in Bengali, for one thing. Secondly, I have never played a character that comes even remotely close to Radhika’s. Thirdly, the character is slightly older than what I am now. I have tried my best to mould myself to become Radhika in the best possible way I could. At the same time, there are some similarities between Radhika and me. Like Radhika, my roots are also in Kolkata. I went away to Mumbai like she went away from her hometown. Like Radhika, I have come back now, to rediscover my old self in my old city. Ritu-da chose me to do this role precisely because of these similarities between Radhika and myself. I do not think he would have asked me to do this film had these things not been there. The character demanded tremendous intensity.
How do you look back on the experience of working with the bigwigs of Tollywood like Prosenjit?
Wonderful! He was already the top star of Bengali cinema when I began my career in films. He is a brilliant actor and is such a perfect gentleman that he never allows you to feel uneasy when you are working with him. He plays my husband in the film. In fact, my comfort levels with everyone on the sets were very good. Working in Tollygunge has been a memorable experience. I had the opportunity of talking in Bangla all the time. I made friends with everyone, Jishu, who plays Shekhar, and the pretty Paoli Dam who I have motivated to stick to a fitness regime. Shooting was a lot of fun.
How was it working under the directorial baton that has fetched so many national awards for Indian actresses?
I must confess that I have not seen all his films. From the ones that I have seen, and while I worked with him, I discovered how much detailing he does for every single element in his film. I requested him to conceptualise
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