Interview Hindi

Never played such a dark character before, says Raima Sen on Kuldip Patwal: I Didn't Do It!

The actress opens up about working opposite Gulshan Devaiah and Deepak Dobriyal, and explains the reason for her selective movie appearances.

Shriram Iyengar

With films like Chokher Bali (2003), Antar Mahal (2004) and Parineeta (2005), Raima Sen carved a niche for herself in the consciousness of film lovers across the country. However, she has been very careful in her choice of films, scarce even. Since the initial spurt, she has chosen to make her appearance in just one or two films a year.

This year seems to be an exception already. Having appeared in Vodka Diaries, which was released on 19 January, Sen is set to make an appearance in Kuldip Patwal: I Didn't Do It! on 2 February.

Despite having worked with a slew of directors like Rituparno Ghosh, Pradeep Sarkar, Kaushik Ganguly, and Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, the actress ranks her role in the Remy Kohli directorial as among her more difficult ones. 

"I have never played a prosecution lawyer before," she told in an exclusive interview. "For me, it was very challenging to be able to do this."

The film has Sen playing the prosecution attorney seeking the death penalty for a man accused of assassinating her husband, the chief minister. She is pitted against Gulshan Devaiah, who plays the defence lawyer, and Deepak Dobriyal, the accused.

Praising the two actors for their preparation, Sen said, "To watch these people work is a learning process. I admire them." 

About her rare appearances on the big screen, Raima Sen said that is deliberate. "It has become such a rat race everywhere," she said. "If I do everything that comes my way, I would just die out in no time."

That, she emphasized, she is in no mood to do. "I want to last. So, I do films that will be noticed. You have to be clever in your choices," she told us. Excerpts:

How did you get approached for the film?

I think Remy was looking for someone. A casting agent called me. I flew to Delhi and met Remy, and that's how we took things forward.

What was the first thing that hit you about the script?

She is a prosecution attorney. A dark character. I had never done such a gray character before. I have never played a prosecution lawyer. For me, it was very challenging to be able to do this. Also, I was pitted against theatre actors like Gulshan Devaiah and Deepak Dobriyal. I thought, let me do this as a challenge that I can. 

The film has an interesting premise. I thought Remy had a different style of work. He would often not let us leave the set from morning till wrap. We had to sit in costume while the others were doing their scenes. We had to sit silently because the shoot was in sync. We all felt like real lawyers. 

All of us were together for those three weeks, from morning till evening.

That must have been great prep, seeing that you have many scenes of argumentation with Gulshan Devaiah in the film.

Yeah, it definitely helped.

You talked about playing opposite Dobriyal and Gulshan Devaiah. What was the more challenging part?

For me, to be playing a prosecution lawyer was challenging. She is resolute, modern, takes up challenges. She is defending her cause. For me, that was the most challenging part to play. 

They [her co-stars] are extremely professional. Dobriyal stayed in character from the time he arrived. From the moment we met him, he was living his character. Even Devaiah. It is very difficult to keep up with them.

I am very spontaneous, and a director's actor. To watch these people work was a learning process. I admire them. They go through a lot of research. They are so perfect in their diction, appearance, and characters. 

I can't place your character though. Is she on the good side, trying to convict a criminal, or the bad side, trying to get an innocent man to hang?

You will have to watch the movie to find that out (laughs).

Although it is one of the more different roles I have ever played. I was recently in Vodka Diaries, where I played a pivotal character. This is another very different character that came my way. 

You have been quite selective in your film choices, or even public appearances. Why so?

Yeah, you see, it has become such a rat race everywhere. There is so much of competition. If I supposedly do everything that comes my way, I would just die out in no time. The only reason I have lasted so many years is that I select the roles that I can do.

So, there is no screen fatigue in sight. Yet, when I do my movies, they get noticed. For whatever reason, in Vodka Diaries, I was noticed. It was a different kind of film. It was a different genre altogether. 

Even my Bengali films, I have kept it like that. It is not like I don't work with newcomers. I have worked with a lot of new Bengali directors. 

I want to last. So I do films that will be noticed. You have to be clever in your choices. 

Talking about choices, you have been a part of a Bengali web-series, Hello. How did that come about? What led you to do a web-series?

I had never done a web-series before. I did not realize how much hard work it actually is. I watch a lot of web-series though. I know that this is going to be the new wave. I wanted to try it out in Kolkata, before I try it out in Mumbai. 

It is really hard. And you work with a time limit. You have to finish 10 episodes. 

At the end of the day, it has a great feel to it. It is like watching a movie. The only difference is that there are a lot of working hours. When I worked on Hello, it was like working in a film. I wanted to finish season 2 and season 3 too. It has got that intrigue factor and all that.

When we watch Netflix, we want to watch it all together. I actually prefer them [shows] to half the movies actually. It is the same thing to working in one.

There is a huge audience opening up to the digital market. It is all digital now anyway.

Well, what else are you working on? Any chance we can spot you in Mumbai sometime?

Right now, I am working on Churni Ganguly's film called Tareekh (Timeline). I am doing another Bengali film, about the Bangladeshi immigration, based on a true story. I am shooting another film right now which is Tridev, directed by Ankush Bhatt. I am opposite Kunal Roy Kapur. That is tentatively supposed to be released in March.

So I am in Kolkata, at least till March, I suppose.