Raima Sen’s Khwato recently released in Bengal and she is savouring all the acclaim for her bold performance. After being an actress for more than 15 years, Sen has now decided to turn producer. She tells Soumita Sengupta about her journey and her new venture, Bongflix
You have worked for 15 years as an actress in Bengali films. What has the journey been like so far?
The journey so far has been very mesmerising, where I have experienced all kinds of ups and downs. I started my career with Hindi films then made my debut in a Bengali film, but those films didn’t take me anywhere. No one noticed my work until Rituporno Ghosh gave me Chokher Bali. That film changed my entire career; and suddenly everyone took notice of me. Our industry has evolved plenty in the last few years. There was a time when nothing was working in the Bengali space and then remakes started happening and they did well at the box office. Now, once again, we are back on track and every director wants to tell a new story.
What kept you away from South remakes?
I have always been typecast, so even in comedy films, my role is that of a serious girl. I don’t think directors ever saw me in that zone and that’s why I was not offered South remakes.
In Khwato, you worked with Prosenjit after almost a decade.
It was a rollercoaster ride to shoot for this film. We worked together in Chokher Bali, where he was a superstar and I was a newcomer. I usually kept quiet and did whatever my director asked me to do, but in Khwato, I had grown up as an actor and also as a human being. So it was amazing to share screen space with Bumbada (Prosenjit) once again. What is more coincidental is that in Chokher Bali, I played his wife who was innocent and naive, whereas in Khwato, our relationship is far more mature.
Since this is an erotic thriller, were you in a quandary before signing this film?
I was but then Kamaleshwar Mukherjee narrated the script to me and my character didn’t demand any bold scenes. I was the wife. On the other hand, here was an actor who was taking all these risks; he was doing some brilliant roles and he is my co-star, Bumbada, so I snapped up this role. If he can take such risks, why can’t I? Apart from the erotic element, the story is wonderful and my character in the film demanded a very strong woman, one who supports her husband and stands by him but the moment he crosses his line, she teaches him a lesson.
How would you describe Kamaleshwar Mukherjee as a director?
Kamaleshwar is an actor’s director. It is very rare to find a director who thinks from an actor’s point of view. I was very impressed with his way of directing. We did many workshops and script readings. It was then that he noticed the individual in each of us. Rituporno Ghosh was an actor’s director; Kaushik Ganguly is the same and I would say Kamaleshwar is the third such director I have worked with. He is knowledgeable and works silently.
You also do Hindi films. How do you manage to work in both cities?
The Hindi industry is all about a rat race, and everyone is busy trying to grab that role. I am not comfortable doing that, and I choose one out of every five films I am offered. I have just finished shooting for Tridev and will soon start Vodka Diaries with Kay Kay Menon, with whom I am reuniting after Honeymoon Travels Ltd.
After working for so many years in the film industry, people usually either turn director or producer. Any such plans?
Oh yes! Parambrata Chatterjee and I have decided to turn producers. As you know, there are Bengalis all over the world and the more you stay away from your country, the more you miss it. So the audience is huge but the films don’t release and they have to watch it on their computers, months later.
So like Netflix, we have decided to launch Bongflix, where people can pay a nominal sum and watch films. The first film we are making under Bongflix is Mi Amore, a Spanish-Italian phrase for My Love. Parambrata and I are acting in it. Since we are all shareholders in the company, from editors to composers, we are not charging anything. Whatever we earn will be divided equally. That’s our first step towards turning producers and if it works out, we have plans to make more content for the Internet.
It’s an interesting concept. How do think the Bengali industry has grown and changed over the years? Will the Indian audience accept Bongflix?
It would take ages to describe how the industry has grown but, yes, the industry has grown – and how! I am very glad that more than the industry, it’s the audience that has grown in the last few years. Prakton and Bela Seshe have been the biggest hits of our industry.
But, today, producers are in a space where they can spend `4 crore on a film, plus some more on promotion and marketing. I believe budgets speak for the industry’s growth. Now, the Bengali industry is catering not only to the Bengali audience but to non-Bengalis too. Bela Seshe and Prakton were appreciated by everyone.
Coming to the audience accepting Bongflix… I believe this generation is all about the Internet, they love watching everything on the Net. So if not in the next five years, it will be accepted in the next 10 years.