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Exclusive! Rituparna Sengupta on Maayakumari: In our industry, men still call the shots most of the time

In an exclusive chat with OTTplay, the actress talked about her new film, the patriarchy in the film industry, and her visit to Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ LA house. Read on…

Exclusive! Rituparna Sengupta on Maayakumari: In our industry, men still call the shots most of the time
Rituparna Sengupta as Maayakumari
  • Shamayita Chakraborty

Last Updated: 06.48 PM, Jan 10, 2023

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Rituparna Sengupta is all set for her next big Bengali release, Maayakumari. Directed by Arindam Sil, the film also features Abir Chatterjee, Arunima Ghosh, Sauraseni Maitra, and others. Billed as a tribute to 100 years of Bengali Cinema, the film will be released on January 13. Meanwhile, the actress is in Mumbai shooting for a new film and dubbing for another one. In an exclusive chat with OTTplay, the actress talked about her new film, the patriarchy in the film industry, and her visit to Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ LA house. Read on…

Are you nervous?

Obviously, I am tense. A film release is just like an exam and every week’s box office reports are like results of the first semester and second semester and so on. I constantly worry if the film runs for 25 days or more than that.

What are your expectations with Maayakumari?

Maayakumari is a positive film. It has a lot of nuances. It will evoke nostalgia. It will take you to an era that you have not seen. I think people will love to know about that period. And also, the film is not just about the heroine Maayakumari but also how the other people who surround her – her attendance, director, makeup person, and so on. How the shoots used to take place so many years ago and how a production unit ran are captured in the film.

Tell us a little about your character…

Maayakumari has a powerful persona inside her. She has an aura, grit, and power. She believes in herself. However, she lives in a society that looks down upon her. She deals with a lot of turbulence in her personal and professional life. She is judged for who she is. She is a star but the society around her never takes her as significantly as her male counterpart.

While Maayakumari is a star of yesteryear, do you think today’s women stars face similar patriarchal behaviour?

Our society has changed but not completely. It goes without saying that such patriarchal behaviours still exist. During her era, it used to be in your face. Now there is sugarcoating. In our industry, men still call the shots, at least way more than women. The male actor gets paid more than their women counterparts. In certain industries, including the South industry, men get bolder, more heroic, and meatier roles. Can you name a heroine who is equivalent to a Mahesh Babu or a Rajinikanth?

Meanwhile, Bollywood indeed went through rapid changes. There is a strong brigade of heroines, including Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Priyanka Chopra, Rekha, Tabu, Kajol, Vidya Balan, and others, who are versatile, and bold.

Tell us about your personal experience…

I have films that are remembered as my films – Muktodhara, Rajkahini, and so on. I got one National Award and 11 of my films got National Awards. Women actually came a long way. The gap is still there but there are changes. Actresses are getting more scopes and they are evaluated on a similar benchmark. Maayaklumari deals with these issues… male and female actors. It talks about 1940, tracing the 100 years of our journey. There is an enigma in the film.

Rituparna Sengupta as Maayakumari
Rituparna Sengupta as Maayakumari

Tell us about your visit to Jonas and Priyanka Chopra’s house in LA. Everybody is talking about it…

It was October last year and I was in the US. Priyanka Chopra’s mother Madhu Aunty invited me to their house in LA and I dropped by during my visit to LA. Priyanka was in India during that time. Madhu Aunty and I met when Priyanka’s production house was gearing up for Brishtir Oppekhyayy. Madhu Aunty was looking after the production. This time she said that the film may start this year. Anyway, Priyanka and I met on several occasions and she invited me to her reception in India. This time, I missed meeting her but I met her husband. He was very kind – offered me a drink and we greeted each other. They showed me the house.

I am very proud of Priyanka. She is younger than me and yet she inspires me every day. She is brave and gutsy. I don’t think it is easy to become a global icon. Many people have tried but she made it. She made a name for herself in Hollywood. How many people do we know who could do it? She has that brilliance. A lot of people gossiped about her and criticised her. I think she did not give a damn about all those things. You have enormously competitive people from all over the world there. It is a ruthless world and she has proved herself there. It is a huge big deal.

Tell us about your work…

I am working on an Indo-Bangladesh project with a new director. The name of the film is Sparsho. I will also work with Indrasish Acharya. I am working on a Hindi comedy film. It is a Bappi Lahiri production. I am also dubbing the film I did with Arbaz Khan and Mahesh Manjareker.

Lastly, what’s your plan for OTT?

I need to get something absolutely meaty, different, spectacular, and on a national platform. I have no intention to work on a regional platform. How and why should I work on something that is not spectacular?

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