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Sherni actress Sampa Mandal: Jyoti is my inner voice

Sampa Mandal played the role of a tribal woman in Vidya Balan starrer Sherni.

Jul 17, 2021
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Sampa Mandal.

Remember the tribal woman from Vidya Balan’s Sherni? In real life, Sampa Mandal is actually a graduate from NSD who has worked on some important projects even before Sherni.

That’s right. Sampa was a part of films like Sonchiriya and Article 377. However, her journey to becoming an actress has not been easy.

We at OTTplay spoke to her exclusively about her ride from National School of Drama to Sherni. Excerpts from the interview:

From Sonchiriya to Sherni, what has your journey been like?

One of our colleagues from NSD called me up to offer Sonchiriya in 2018. I was selected in the second audition round itself. I worked on short series, web series and that is when I got Sherni. My friend Aditi Singh called me up to offer this role. I didn’t get a call after the audition so thought it didn’t work out. The project came to me after one and a half months. A few days later, I was selected.

Did your role require any kind of special preparation?

I found the character very strong. Jyoti is my inner voice. Even when sitting at home, I was waiting for such a powerful role. My parents weren’t the kind of people who encouraged me to succeed in life. I thought that experience would help enhance my character. I found the language a little difficult since I’m a Bengali but this demanded a language from Madhya Pradesh.

Were you nervous knowing there were so many veteran actors like Vidya Balan, Sharat Saxena, Vijay Raaz, Ila Arun in the film and you might have to share the same screen with them?

My character only interacted with Vidya ma’am. Vijay Raaz is from NSD, so we connected because of our theatre connection. I just felt like we’re all actors doing our work. If I get scared then I won’t be able to act. I never thought that they were such established actors while performing. I wanted to work and go back to my life.

Did you get any recognition after doing Sherni?

When I was on the sets of my upcoming project, the filmmaker’s relative whispered to him, “Isn’t she the Sherni actress?,” while referring to me. Another instance was when one of my friends told me that her family members fought over my character. They thought I was a local from MP, but she knew me.

Sampa Mandal in Sherni.

Were you offered more projects after the film?

I’m working on Srijit Mukherji’s Shabash Mitthu, which has been postponed due to COVID-19. I play an Indian bowler in the film. I have another South Indian (Telugu) film. I also have a short film in my kitty.

Sonchiriya, Article 377, Sherni - you have mostly acted in movies which have some kind of a message. Was that your conscious decision?

Not really. I wanted to take up good roles, but these came to me. I didn’t care about doing a smaller role but wanted to work in strong characters so that people remember me.

You have acted in theatre. Do you think that gave you a benefit over others when it comes to acting in a film?

Definitely. I recognized myself after working in theatre. Otherwise I would have been stuck in the society’s loop of getting girls married as soon as they grow up, leaving little to no scope for their career to take off.

Did you struggle to find roles? Were there instances when you were rejected for stupid reasons?

I never had to struggle. I look at bettering my present, so the future can also be better. I was approached for Phoolan Devi’s character in Sonchiriya too.

You have also worked in a Bengali film. Do you plan to take up more projects from that industry?

Definitely. I would love to work not in the Bengali film industry but explore the film industry in every language.

How is that industry different from the Hindi film industry?

I find the warmth between the crew a little lesser in the Bengali industry.

Did you relate to Vidya Vincent’s character from Sherni?

Yes, I have been through situations that she was put through and from what I see, it might continue further.

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