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Interview Bengali

Grateful to Pratim Gupta for giving me a character of a woman of substance: Paoli Dam

At the trailer launch of her upcoming film Shantilal O Projapoti Rohoshyo, Dam shared her thoughts on her character as well as on working with Gupta for the fourth time.

Roushni Sarkar

Actress Paoli Dam will be seen as an actress named Nandita, who branches towards politics, in Pratim D Gupta’s upcoming detective film Shantilal O Projapoti Rohoshyo. The film is Dam’s fourth venture with Gupta. She also worked with Ritwick Chakraborty, who plays Shantilal in the film, in Gupta’s two previous films, including Maacher Jhol (2017) and Ahare Mon (2018).

In the film, Shantilal, the weather reporter, gets a lead regarding a story on Nandita and while pursuing, the story, he turns into a detective with the strength of his intelligence and natural bent for investigation. In the trailer, Dam and Chakraborty can hardly be seen sharing screen space yet the film is all about their mysterious equation.

At the trailer launch of the film on 15 July, Dam shared her thoughts on her character as well as on working with Gupta for the fourth time. Excerpts:

How was it playing an actress-turned-politician on screen for the first time?

First of all, it was a challenge to not be myself, despite being an actress. As you can see in the trailer, Nandita is an extremely successful actress, who joins politics. Therefore, a lot goes in her life. The incidents in her past and present determine her future. Along with her journey, her connection with Shantilal is one of the biggest USPs of the film.

It is not that I had many reference points to bring over the transformation from an actor to politician. But I have many friends in the industry who have joined politics. I have seen how they have been willing to work for the country and people. I have journalist friends too. My connection with them has obviously helped me in having a sense of Shantilal’s character.

However, Nandita’s story is a bit different. Her journey is quite unusual. Her character is layered and she has many grey shades too. Her background and struggles define her characteristics. I have not met many people like Nandita in my life. See, in order to be successful, one has to make a lot of sacrifices and particularly on that ground, I have found Nandita to be an extremely strong yet vulnerable character. I love this combination and I am thankful to Pratim [Gupta] for giving me a character of a woman of substance, again. The rest is a thriller and hence, I cannot reveal much.

Share your thoughts on Shantilal, the new detective in town.

The film has a quite interesting storyline. Pratim has created an original detective. Shantilal comes from a very humble background and is not quite happy with his job. At this juncture, he finds such a catch in Nandita’s story that gradually transforms his entire journey.

I have seen human beings like Shantilal but his transformation into a detective is a rare case. I think Pratim had this secret desire of turning into a detective which he has expressed through Shantilal.

We love to read thrillers and detective stories. There is always a heightened craze for detectives amongst Bengalis. In this context, I have to give credit to Pratim for conceiving an original detective. I think people, especially Ritwick’s fans will enjoy the film quite a lot.

Pratim has always been keen on making a detective film. In fact, in most of his stories, I find a thriller element. However, I could not really anticipate a story like Shantilal’s. The film was previously titled as Ink and then he changed it into Shantilal O Projapoti Rohoshyo! The element of Projapoti is quite interesting here.

Yes, there is projapoti (butterfly) in the film but to know more about it, one has to watch the film.

How does it feel to be working with Pratim for the third time?

It has always been a joyride, working with Pratim. He is a wonderful human being and he writes so well! I am a fan of his writing. He is a very sensitive director and hence, it is always a pleasure to work with him. He is calm and quiet. Also, everyone is saying that the combination of the four of us - Pratim, Ritwick, Me and cinematographer Subhankar Bhar - is deadly! Pratim has given me such beautiful characters, Maacher Jhol’s Srila, Mirchi Malini’s Malini, Ahare Mon’s Romona and now, Nandita, I am extremely grateful to him.

After working in four films, Pratim has got a broad idea of my capabilities as an actress. I could not be Paoli at all, I had to be Nandita, which also allowed me to explore the world of politics in a way, I had no idea about!

The most unique feature of Nandita is her two distinct avatars in public and private spheres. She has a mysterious character. Like an iceberg, only a bit of her can be guessed from her appearance. It is the mysterious element in her that turns a simple journalist into a detective. It was quite challenging to portray the character.

How has been your working experience with Ritwick Chakraborty in this film?

Yes, we have appeared in many films together but unfortunately in most of them, the culmination has been tragic, leading our characters into separation. We have not been into romantic situations much. Next time I am going to approach Pratim for that! [laughs].

Have you ever thought of joining politics in real life?

Currently, I am quite happy to work as an actress.

You have more films coming in this year as well?

Yes, this year started off well with Tritio Adhyay. I worked with Abir [Chatterjee], after long. The film got well appreciated in various festivals as well. Then I starred opposite Shiboprosad Mukherjee in Konttho and I received very good responses for that. Shantilal O Projapoti Rohoshyo will be released in August. Then I have Password and Sanjhbati slated to be released during Puja and Christmas.

I am currently shooting for Sanjhbati and the character in the film allowed me to challenge my abilities. I will be starring with Dev [Adhikari] in both the films. It has been a wonderful experience while working in both the films with him because he is such a wonderful human being.