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“I want to do commercial films that are cerebral”

A name to reckon with, Bangla actress Mimi Chakraborty talks to Titas Chowdhury about her upcoming movie, Mon Jaane Na, her love for commercial films and more

You are a successful commercial movie star today. How do you look at the change in the portrayal of women in Bangla commercial cinema from the time you started to now?

The graph has been fluctuating. Women who were part of Bangla parallel cinema were flourishing because they would have roles and characters like that. Even if they had 10 or 20 minutes of screen time, it did not matter because their characters were very prominent. In commercial films during 2011 and 2012, the role of the heroine was reduced to just crying, standing in a corner even when a full-blown fight sequence was going on, or merely dancing. They did not have much to do.

I started my career with Gaaner Oparey, a woman-centric television drama. Then I did a film called Bojhena Shey Bojhena. By God’s grace and the love of my audience, my character Riya was widely acclaimed. Back then, a film was known by its directors and actors; we never used to refer to a film as an actress’ film. With that film and my character, things turned around a bit. People realized that a heroine need not always act coy. At the same time, I did Proloy. I went completely de-glam for my role in it. I played a rape victim in the film.

After that, I did an out-and-out commercial film where I was again dancing! It is not like I don’t enjoy doing that. But yes, I have experimented a lot throughout my career. I think I am blessed with very good directors who understand me and the kind of films and the roles I can pull off. I am happy that there is ample variation in my filmography. And I believe that I can do much more.

Coming to Mon Jaane Na, you play Pari Begum who eventually is forced into a dark world and becomes a substance addict. How did you enter her mind and slip into the character?

I had always wanted to play a character like Pari. When I had watched Fashion, I was fascinated by the characters played by Kangana Ranaut and Priyanka Chopra. I wondered what emotional toll it is must have taken on them to play such terrific characters. They delivered brilliant performances.

To play my character, I did a lot of homework. I read books. I read up on the Internet, watched videos on YouTube and watched movies to understand what drug addiction did to people. One of my very close friends was a victim of substance abuse. I talked to him about it. Getting into my character’s head space was difficult. But I guess every actor is blessed with the quality of switching on and off.

A lot of actors say that it is different being directed by a female filmmaker because they understand the sensibilities and emotional nuances better. Was it any different being directed by Shagufta Rafique?

I have always been directed by male filmmakers and I have a rapport with them. I had heard that if you work with a female director, there is a different kind of comfort zone. But I did not see any difference.

Shagufta has written some of the most sensitive scripts in Bollywood. She is a very sensitive person, much like most women. All my directors, including her, have helped me get the emotional nuances of my characters right. As a human being, however, Shagufta understands the human mind really well. There were a few scenes in Mon Jaane Na that I was not comfortable with. I told her I could not do them and she understood that. She understood that it would take a huge toll on my mental state. In that sense, we shared a comfort zone.

You are endorsing some national brands. You have a strong presence on social media. Do you think these things are mandatory for actors to stay relevant?

There was a time when there was no social media. Actors were beyond the reach of people. They could only see them on screens and they would have to pay for tickets to watch them in theatres. Today, people can keep tabs on the activities of their favourite actors, stars and celebrities through their Instagram stories and Facebook live sessions.

Let me share a personal experience with you. I had been sick for quite a long time. My PR person told me I had to update my Instagram account because my fans were messaging and inquiring about my health. That is pressure! I sometimes say to myself, ‘Oh my God, I don’t have any picture in my gallery. What do I post next? Now, I have to click a new picture (Laughs)!’ It is definitely a pressure but I enjoy it quite a bit.

The last time we talked, you told me you wanted to do cerebral commercial films. Is that still your priority?

I always tell everybody that 80 per cent of what Mimi Chakraborty is today is because of commercial films. Commercial films have to be cerebral. The same, old stories are not working anymore. I believe there is no harm doing remakes, but the remakes need to be cerebral. You cannot just cut, copy and paste films. I am not going to be a part of such projects. These films are picked up from some region and they are put into a Bangla set-up.

Now, at this time, I don’t think that I fit into that space any more. But commercial movies are my first love. I, however, am trying to do different things. In fact, I was supposed to do Arindam Sil’s Khela Jokhon. It is a woman-centric film where I would be playing a psychotic character. It is kind of a dream role that I always wanted to play. I am really excited about that film. But it is getting pushed for one reason or another.

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