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An ‘Exhausting’ Character

As Bengali filmmaker Srijit Mukherji’s Shah Jahan Regency plays out in theatres, Titas Chowdhury speaks to its lead actress, Swastika Mukherjee who broke down his role in the film which is a modern interpretation of the classic Chowringhee

On The Character

Komolini is not just a regular hostess. She is very well-read and educated. She can quote Neruda and solve complex mathematical problems. She has in-depth knowledge about a lot of things. Her clients do not just come to her to fulfill their physical needs. They also come to her to talk to her to maybe find solutions to a stock market problem. She is also compatible with people on the intellectual level. That is what makes her interesting and layered.

On Relating To The Character

The way my character, Komolini journeys in the novel or the film, there is a longing for love, dependency, belonging and settling down with someone. She is doing this for money and taking care of her family. As a woman who is an actress, that is something I can relate to because at the end of the day, you would want to come back home, feel settled and belong to someone who appreciates the real you and not the image that the world has of you.

The life of an actress is pretty lonely. If you are outspoken, live life on your own terms and do the kind of films that you choose to do, people jwill udge you. You come across in a certain way and they think you are ‘easy’. You are judged for everything because it is a male-dominated society and industry.

After a point, you realize that people want to mix with you because you are ‘someone’. That bit of the character is something that I could relate to. If you have lived a life with many failed relationships, you can relate to Komolini.

On Her Preparation

I read the book Chowringhee when I was in college. I have seen the film many times. In a Bengali household, if an Uttam Kumar film airs on television, you cannot switch channels. It is a film that comes quite often on TV. But before shooting for Shah Jahan Regency, I did not read the book or watch the film. I am not a person who does a lot of workshops or homework and prepares too much for a role. I am spontaneous and intuitive. I read the script thoroughly though.

On The Challenges

My character goes through an emotional graph with sharp arcs. It is difficult to portray such characters because you feel exhausted. I always end up playing characters that are complex, dark, layered and walk on treacherous waters and I leave a bit of myself in them. With age, that is happening more and more.

On Her Expectations From The Film

I expect this film to be a blockbuster. The reaction and feedback to the trailer and the song, Kichchu chaini aami, has been stupendous. Srijit has gone back to his older self of creating characters who are all about love, care and depth. He has created author-backed characters; they are witty, straight-forward and speak power-packed lines that stay with the audience. Komolini will be added to the list of my top three films and performances.

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