Interview Bengali

Saayoni Ghosh: I love cinema and dream of directing and producing films one day

The actress, who had two films being released simultaneously on 9 March, speaks about her beginnings and aspirations and her affinity for original stories and independent filmmakers.

Roushni Sarkar

Bengali actress Saayoni Ghosh is known for her intense body of work. In a career spanning just 10 years, she has appeared in more than 30 films and numerous television series.

Work is the mantra of Ghosh's life and when it comes to working on a good script or supporting a struggling director, she does not take a backward step.

Ghosh has been in the spotlight again with two releases, Jojo and Ka Kha Ga Gha, earlier this month on 9 March. In a candid chat with, she shares her vision as an actress, and says she is in the industry not simply to entertain audiences but that she also thinks seriously about the medium of cinema. Excerpts:

Jojo and Ka Kha Ga Gha were released on the same date. You worked for two first-time directors in two very different films, one a comedy and the other a horror thriller. How was the experience? What kind of responses are you getting?

I worked with two first-time directors, Krishnendu Chatterjee and Argha Deep Chatterjee, and also with two new producers, Krishna Chakraborty and Harit Ratna. Being an independent actor, I always support independent cinema and new filmmakers because therein lies the growth of the industry.

I am grateful that the directors thought of me in those roles. So far, the audiences have liked my performances, even if they have not found them to be outstanding. Also, for an actor it is an advantage that the audiences are watching his or her performances in two different roles at the same time. The films are doing well and I am happy that Bengali independent films are coming to the fore.

Argha Deep Chatterjee said he chose you for the character of Polo in Jojo because you have extremely smart body language and there is oomph in your attitude. On the other hand, Priya in Ka Kha Ga Gha is a very sweet-natured, supportive girlfriend.

Well, I have acted in roles that are similar to my nature quite a few times. I can be very spontaneous and I don’t need to attend workshops for the roles that fall in my comfort zone. (Smiles) I have not had any personal discussion with Argha Deep in this regard and I am glad he thinks of me that way. While briefing me about the role, he only told me that my character is exactly the opposite of Darshana’s. I will have to be as fearless and smart as Darshana is timid in the film. Since these features are generically present in my personality, he found me to be suitable for the role.

Krishnendu, on the other hand, conceived of my character from an entirely different perspective. Priya is very feminine, sweet, and even features in a romantic song. He had also given me the role of a coy wife when I had performed a skit for him.

It feels really good when a new director like Krishnendu does not fall for any pre-conceived notion and brings out an original character.

You have never been to film school and you do not come from a film background either. However, you are continuously moulding yourself into new characters and doing so many films. Can you talk about your growth as an artiste?

Honestly, I am still on the lookout and do not know what exactly I am doing. I love acting and I love the medium of cinema; therefore, I also dream of directing and producing films one day. All I know is that I want to stay in this industry and I am fascinated with the art of filmmaking.

Though I have come this far and am enjoying the feeling of giving interviews, I do not really think I have achieved a lot and think I will continue to feel that way all my life because there is no limit to success or to recognition.

When I see a new director putting all his dedication and a producer risking all his money for a film, as a part of the film I too feel the responsibility and try to deliver my best.

So when did you decide to step into the world of films? You were also a very good student.

Yes, I was more than an average student. My father wanted me to study more and so did I. However, there is a saying: 'you don’t choose it, rather it chooses you!' So I guess my art chose me. It has been almost 10 years with five or six years of television career and four years of working for the big screen. I feel that my art has been very kind to me and I have always got more than I put my efforts for.

I must tell you that I never really thought my career would turn out this way. I used to act on stage and was quite used to being in the spotlight. I knew in my heart that I was not meant to be in the audience but on the other side. I did my first telefilm with Rajarshi Roy, who happens to be a distant relative. I remember I had my board exams then. My father told me, “You can do whatever you want; I only want you to pass with a good grade.”

I appeared in the telefilm with a lot of support from my brother and my mother and I also secured 87% in the board exams, so my father was happy!

There was no looking back thereafter as I continued to appear in many television series and eventually got cast in Amit Sengupta’s Natobar Notout (2010). At the premiere of Natobar Notout, I met Raj Chakraborty. Raj spotted the spark in me and I got the offer of Shatru (2011). Then I appeared in his film Kanamachi (2013) and the daily soap Proloy Aschhe. I can say that Kanamachi is the defining moment of my career.

You have acted in so many films, with so many directors. Can you name one director or film that has specifically taught you the nuances of acting?

Each and every film of my career is important to me. When people remember my dialogues from a film or the name of a character that I played in a daily soap, I enjoy the feeling much more than people on the road suddenly asking for a selfie with me. Sometimes I find people talking about my performances in Meghnad Badh Rahasya (2017) or a few of my parts in Kanamachi. This has been possible because of all of my films, not for any particular one.

You said in an interview that you do not do commercial films. Is it a conscious decision?

See, there is a huge difference in the commercial films of the Bengali industry and those of Hollywood or 'Bollywood' [Hindi cinema]. Most of the Bengali commercial films are remakes of films from another industry or language. I have always gone for original stories. I have no issue with adaptations, but remakes are mostly hero-driven films which I don’t believe in. For me, cinema is not only a medium of entertainment but also of education and awareness. Rather than dancing in a song, I would prefer to say a dialogue that will retain its relevance over the years.

You have been acting continuously in films, one after the other…

Yes! Lots and lots of films! I know sometimes people wonder how I am able to do so many films. I want to make it clear that I am an actor and have no other avenues of income. I am not acting in mega serials, I don’t launch products; neither do I have a start-up of my own nor do I do live performances. I am an actor and I don’t want to mix up job roles. I mostly act in parallel films which do not have huge budgets. Therefore, I am left with no choice but to act in two or three films a month to sustain my lifestyle and to survive in this industry.

I have tried to cut down on the numbers, but at the same time I cannot really take a step back when I am offered an interesting role or when a new director approaches me. I don’t regret it; I only want to go on working.

Don’t you get exhausted?

Of course I get exhausted! But there are so many artistes who are way older than I am but have been doing their work with a consistent spirit. When I see Soumitra Chatterjee or Sabitri Chatterjee working, I fear I might not be alive at their age. They are such big inspirations! When they can carry on with their work with such zeal, who the hell am I?

You also sing well. Have you ever thought of a music career?

There are so many good singers now. Iman Chakraborty, Madhubanti Bagchi, Prashmita Paul, Lagnajita Chakraborty, Shomelata, the list is endless. If I start singing now, the consequence will be the same if the singers start acting. If any director approaches me to sing for a particular role then I might do that for the sake of the film. But I have no plan to go for playback singing, I am happy singing in private gatherings or for myself.

You were frequently seen chatting on the stairs or singing on campus during your university days. Do you get the opportunity to unwind like those days? Do you miss that time?

Honestly, I am so busy and I love my work and the industry so much that I want to solely concentrate on it. The phases that I have gone through in my life have all contributed to the person I am today. Had I not been a student of Jadavpur University, I would not have decided on my present approach towards life.

In a film industry, one’s acceptance depends a lot on one’s education and behaviour. I do not face a lot of additional pressure today because I studied in an English-medium school. Yes, I definitely miss those days, but one is supposed to grow, one cannot go back to one’s childhood.

All I want to say is that I am carrying the experiences of all the phases with me as I grow.

So what are your upcoming projects?

There are many pending projects such as Rehena Parvin Jenny and Dipayan Mandal’s Amar Sohor, Nabarun Sen’s Dwikhondito, Souvick Sarkar’s Sakhhi. I have finished shooting for Kamaleshwar Mukherjee’s Good Night City and started shooting for Adda, alongside Soumitra Chatterjee and Indrasish Roy. I will also begin shooting for Murari M Rakshit’s Reunion in which Parambrata Chattopadhyay and Raima Sen play important roles.