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Interview Bengali Hindi

Mumbai is far more welcoming than Kolkata: Chitrangada Chakraborty

The actress, who made her Bengali film debut portraying a terminally ill but courageous young woman in Ahare Mon, speaks about her journey so far.

Chitrangada Chakraborty in a scene from Ahare Mon (2018)

Roushni Sarkar

A regular on the stage in Mumbai, Chitrangada Chakraborty has been winning hearts with her debut performance in Bengali cinema in Pratim D Gupta's Ahare Mon. Chakraborty also won an award for Best Debutant Actress for her portrayal in Aditya Kripalani’s Tikli And Laxmi Bomb.

Chakraborty is the daughter of independent Bengali filmmaker Satarupa Sanyal. Her sister Ritabhari Chakraborty is a celebrated Bengali television and film actress.

In a heart-to-heart chat with Cinestaan.com, Chitrangada Chakraborty reveals the reasons for leaving her beloved native city and shifting to Mumbai to build a career and shares why the character of Titli from Ahare Mon is special for her. Excerpts:

You made your Bengali cinema debut with a very unusual character in Ahare Mon. How was the experience?

Of course it was quite a nice experience. It gave me a lot of opportunity to perform. I have done two Hindi independent films in which also I have enacted unusual characters.

I feel lucky that I mostly get interesting offers. I feel my energy matches with those characters, or that is how the directors like to perceive me.

Ahare Mon review: Warmth created will make you feel grateful for the little joys of life

I had read a few lines while auditioning for Ahare Mon and realized that the character has an internal journey which is not loaded with heavy dialogues. Pratimda had described Titli’s traits to me and it helped me to get into the skin of her character. Also, playing a girl who is much younger and affected with a terminal disease was psychologically quite a strain and exciting at the same time.

Chitrangada Chakraborty

Why do think the character of Titli is quite unusual?

When I was given the brief of the character, I was told that Titli is a girl-woman. She is a girl but she doesn’t behave like a teenager or an adolescent; rather she acts like a lady who is madly in love with a film celebrity. When she speaks to him for the first time she says she is not his fan, but she loves him.

Despite knowing that she is terminally ill, she is not really scared; there is a hope within her that makes her cheerful and jolly. Her character has a lot of depth and nothing stops her from living her life. That is a very inspiring way to look at life, you know!

While shooting, when I used to come back from my shifts, I used to ponder a lot over the character and realized how many people must be there who are struggling to move forward with their dreams.

Can you talk about your previous works?

I went to Mumbai in 2013. I have worked with Manav Kaul and Makrand Deshpande and quite a few other distinguished theatre personalities. I was also doing a few TV commercials when I got a call from Anurag Basu for his television series, Stories By Rabindranath Tagore. I was selected to play Mrinmayee, the protagonist of Samapti. My performance was well received and I still keep getting positive responses.

I did a cine play with Suman Mukhopadhyay called Chokher Bali and then got cast in Aditya Kripalani’s Tikli And Laxmi Bomb which won the [award for] Best Feature in the 10th edition of the Berlin Independent Film Festival. Luckily, I also got the award for Best Debutant Actress at the Jaipur International Film Festival.

This is an independent film on Mumbai sex workers, but its logistics and content are getting quite a rave in several international festivals and in media houses.

You are performing on stage and also doing films. How do you plan to maintain the balance between these two separate journeys?

I just want to go on with my career on the basis of quality. I want to choose scripts that allow me to perform.

As an actor I feel one should have the hunger to act, no matter what the medium. I have been lucky to be able to explore stage, television, and the big screen. In Bengal most of the television series are not that rich in content.

All I can say is that I just want to go with the flow and grab the good opportunities that come in my way.

Your sister Ritabhari has been quite popular on television from the beginning of her career. How did both of you choose such different approaches?

Ritabhari Chakraborty

See, I started my career as a model. I was part of the Unish Kuri Glam Hunt contest and was modelling after that. Since I was in St Xavier’s College, I did not have the liberty to be part of a mega-serial because of attendance issues.

Simultaneously, I was doing theatre with Bratya Basu. During that time my sister first appeared for the serial Ogo Bodhu Sundari. I also did a series called Prafulla for Rupashi Bangla, but it was not that big a success. It was just an experience for me.

I guess we both went with the flow and it was my decision to move to Mumbai. It is not that two people coming from the same womb have to take similar approach in their work. We have both been supportive and have shown respect towards each other’s works. Our journeys are different.

Why did you shift to Mumbai when you could have done theatre here as well?

No, I did not want to. It’s not that I specifically wanted to do theatre in Mumbai; I just wanted to work there because here I was not getting proper opportunities. Only a few casting directors hold auditions in Kolkata, while in Mumbai there are ample opportunities. There are a lot more works. Also, I wanted to build my career on my own and create my own space step by step.

In Mumbai, theatre happened to me very organically. My friend was working with Manav, she recommended me to him. He was then working on a play on Tagore. He found me good enough to cast in that play which had Kalki Koechlin, Swanand Kirkire and many other important artistes in the team.

I am happy that I have been associated with people who are not only good artistes, but are also very warm and welcoming as human beings. I feel Mumbai is much more welcoming than Kolkata. Here it takes time for newcomers to get noticed as there are not many casting directors. I hope the situation changes gradually.

You can see how long it has taken me, despite being a girl from this city, to get a properly delineated character in a film. Also, it is true that I am very picky and have never had the mind-set that I would grab whatever offer came my way. I will soon be going back to Mumbai after I finish one more shoot here in Kolkata.

How did Pratim contact you for the audition of Ahare Mon? What are your next projects?

He had seen a few works of mine on Hotstar [a content streaming app] and while casting for Ahare Mon he knew I was in Kolkata. He contacted me for the audition and I had to enact two scenes from the script. He quite liked my performance. He called me up after 10 days and confirmed that I was on board.

I am also working in his next film Ink which also stars Paoli Dam and Ritwick Chakraborty. I am yet to finish shooting for Kripalani’s next film Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal. I am also pretty excited as Tikli And Laxmi Bomb will soon be [released] on a public platform.