Tigress of Bengali cinema roars in Sydney

Rituparna Sen

By Neeru Saluja

Actress Rituparna Sengupta is in her finest moment of glory. As the ruthless, foul mouthed and courageous madam of the brothel caught in a crossfire during the partition of India, Rajkahani has brought out her best.

In Sydney for the opening night of the ”˜Indian Film Festival’ organised by Mind Blowing Films, director Srijit Mukherji and actress Rituparna Sengupta introduced their film ”˜Rajkahini’ to a Bengali film loving audience. After the introduction, Rituparna talked to TIDU and we ended up in a heart-to-heart conversation outside the cinemas munching out of a bucket of popcorn!

Rituparna is an Indian film actress known for her work in Bengali and Hindi films. She has won the National Film Award for her performance in Dahan, having mesmerised audiences with her powerful performances in films by the late Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen (Paromitar Ek Din), and Tarun Mazumdar (Chander Bari).

Though she has been ruling the Tolly film industry since two decades, Rajkahini is the film which is close to her heart, “This movie has not only given me accolades and recognition, but also gave me a lot of strength as an actress. We don’t know what kind of trauma and fear people went through during the partition time. This film is a tribute to our forefathers”.

Portraying the role of a prostitute didn’t come easy to Rituparna, “Srijit was very hard on us. He brought the best out of me. I had to transform myself to become Begum Jaan, the head of the brothel and had to talk in foul language. It was a complete makeover and my director wanted me to do full justice to the role. He pushed me to my limits. I used to sometimes cry and he told me ”˜don’t think you are a superstar, you are the madam of the brothel,” says Ritu.

Be it Begum Jaan or any other strong female character, Rituparna has always made a difference to films. “I enjoy being an actor and want to play as many characters as I can. As an actor I’m a free bird, I want to touch different horizons. I’m a director’s actor and really thankful to my directors for letting me play various shades of roles,” tells Ritu.

Known as the tigress of the Bengali cinema, Rituparna is still going strong after two decades. She has showed her strength in commercial as well as parallel cinema, and both remain her forte. She was introduced to parallel cinema by Rituporna Ghosh and has always been a big supporter of regional cinema. “Bengali cinema has always showcased the best of literature and best of films. I have done a few movies in Hindi and I loved doing them because of their huge changing concepts. Hindi cinema has gone to the next level, I call it a positive cinema. At the end of the day, I feel comfortable with both the worlds. My commitment as an actor is with the director, not the genre or the industry.”

Besides acting, Rituparna is also an established dancer and writer. “I write a fortnightly column called ”˜Ask Rita’ in the Telegraph which specialises on relationships and topical issues. After Sydney, I will fly directly back to India where I’m performing on Rabindranath Tagore’s ”˜Shyama’.

So how do you balance being an actor, writer, dancer and a mother? “Balancing everything is the biggest challenge of life! If you do less for the family, you feel guilty, and if I’m saying no to my work due to my family commitments, then also I feel guilty! I love my kids but I also love my passion for acting. I’m a workaholic, every day I wake up and I see how much more life has to offer. I’m a very positive person and can only see the positive side of life and people,” reveals Rituparna.

With changing times, has the film industry been more open to married actresses who want a work-life balance? “The mindset is changing for Indian cinema. Age for actresses is not a taboo anymore and they are not written off once they get married. This change has come across in the past five years and actresses like Vidya Balan, Aishwarya Rai have proved that we can break open the gender bias. It’s been quite a process but now there is no looking back. Why is marriage and commitment always about women? We have the same psyche, same desires, same aspirations, then why is there a difference between men and women when it comes to career choices? If a married actor can flirt around with ten actresses, why not a married actress have 10 husbands in a film?” questions this bold actress, aptly referred to as tigress of Tollywood!



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