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Cracking The Code

Lead actress of Bangla film Vinci Da, Sohini Sarkar talks to Titas Chowdhury and sheds light on her character, the Bengali film industry and her stint with theatre

On the surface, Vinci Da looks like the story of Rudranil Ghosh and Ritwick Chakraborty. What significance does your character have in the narrative?

You’re right! Vinci Da is the story of the characters played by Rudra and Ritwick. However, the parts played by Anirban (Bhattacharya), Riddhi (Sen) and me are also very important. I was fascinated with the part because she stammers. Actors are greedy when it comes to essaying roles that have unique characteristics because such parts are very attractive. That was the biggest motivation for me in this case. I wanted to play Jaya despite knowing that I would have limited screen time. But Jaya’s character changes the momentum of the film.

How did you prepare yourself to play Jaya?

The biggest advantage with Jaya was that there weren’t too many lines. I did not have too much of time to prepare for this film. When I got this film, I was working in television. I had to jump into Vinci Da right after the television drama that I was doing.

There is no grammar or formula to stammering. People stammer in different ways and under different circumstances. Some people stammer when they get very excited about something. Others do it when they are angry. Then there are some people who stammer when they talk but they can sing without stuttering. When you play such roles, it organically comes under the spotlight. When you play such roles on the big screen, there is this thin line. If you overdo it, it can kill the character. Playing a stutterer in a subtle manner without going overboard was a challenge for me. I also had to make sure I retained Jaya’s innocence.

Despite being a film actor, you have not shied away from working in television. What motivated you to straddle both mediums?

I finished shooting for Bhoomikanya in January this year. I was part of a story in an episode. I was never worried that getting into television at this point could harm my film career. I am a performer. I will do anything that fascinates me, irrespective of the medium.

I started my career with television.Along with shooting for Bhoomikanya, I finished four films. A lot also depends on the industry. If you are part of the Hindi film industry, you have to work for one medium at a time, unless you are someone like a Ram Kapoor. If you want to play a protagonist in a film, then you cannot do television.

For instance, Sushant Singh Rajput left television to become a lead actor. But the scenario is completely different here in Tollywood. My contemporaries such as Yash (Dasgupta) and Vikram (Chatterjee), who are film actors, also work in television. Our biggest star, Bumbada (Prosenjit Chatterjee), did Mahanayak for television. In Bollywood, actors transition from television to films. But in Tollywood, the opposite happens.

What would you say was the biggest turning point of your career?

My turning point was when I bagged my first film. I did television till 2012. At that time, I was told about an audition for a film called Phoring. Before I started doing films, I used to work with big names like Ravi Ojha and I played a lead character in a television serial for Star Jalsha. People used to appreciate my work.

But after Phoring, I received a lot of positive feedback and I received many awards. That is when everyone in the industry became aware of me. Directors started taking notice of me. Very few actors get noticed by the film fraternity with their very first film. I feel fortunate. Filmmakers started casting me in their films after Phoring.

With new concepts and stories coming up, do you think it is a good time to be an actor in the Bangla film industry?

The golden period is long gone. But, yes, newer kinds of stories are being written today. I would not say that it is a very happy time for us because our films are not doing exceedingly well. Of course, there are a lot of work opportunities for us. Every actor is doing about four or five films a year. Many films are also releasing every month. Fortunately, no artiste or technician is idle.

But that is not a benchmark of success. Considering the Bengali diaspora across the country and the world, our films should be doing much better. If you look at the profits being made by producers and the remuneration of artistes outside our industry, you will realise that we are not in a very good place. 

You are also doing a play called Mahabharat. Would you like to share something about that with us?

Arno (Mukhopadhyay) called me up in 2018 to tell me about Mahabharat. He is a very popular theatre director. I have watched a lot of his plays and I was waiting to work with him. At that time, I was doing a television show and I did not have enough time to rehearse for theatre. It turned out that they too could not put up the production in 2018. After Bhoomikanya finished, Arno contacted me again and now it is finally happening. We did workshops for two days. Abantidi (Chakraborty) supervised us. As we speak, I am on my way for the rehearsal.

This year, we did a show written by Kamaleshwar Mukherjee at the Theatre Olympics in Bangalore.

You are working on a biopic of heptathlete Sapna Barman. How is your training coming along?

I have not started professional physical training for the film yet. I am just going to the gym as part of my routine. Sapna and her coach, Subhash Sarkar, are not in Bengal at the moment. Once I finish the shoot of my other films and the promotions of Vinci Da, we will start prepping for the biopic. We have already chalked out a plan to kickstart the process.

What are your releases after Vinci Da?

After Vinci Da, Bibaho Obhijaan will hit theatres. By the end of this year, there is a fourth film in the Byomkesh franchise.

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