In a free-wheeling chat with OTTplay, Mimi unapologetically challenged the bias in beauty standards in today’s society, and talked about her debut on OTT and her journey with Shiboprosad and Nandita.
Durga Puja is here and this is the time to celebrate womanhood. Mimi Chakraborty is undoubtedly one of the most fiercely honest actresses in the Bengali film industry. She is all set with, not one, but two major work updates at the moment. In a few more days, Shiboprosad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy’s ambitious thriller, Raktabeej, which features Mimi as a stout IPS officer. Sanjukta Mitra. Besides, after much deliberation, she finally stepped into the world of OTT with Jaha Bolibo Satya Bolibo on Hoichoi. In a free-wheeling chat with OTTplay, the actress unapologetically challenged the bias in beauty standards in today’s society, and talked about her debut on OTT and her journey with Shiboprosad and Nandita. Read on…
Let’s start with your OTT debut. How was your experience of shooting? Did you find any difference between your job on the big screen and OTT?
A lot of people say that there is no difference. But I feel otherwise. Let me explain. I felt working on an OTT project was a bit more strenuous. You finish your day’s shoot within that 14 hours. It is a lot more acting-oriented. Those, like us, who are used to working on the big screen, suddenly realise that I will be watched on a palm top. A viewer can pause, rewind, and re-watch one shot multiple times. So acting plays a huge part here. That I found to be the most challenging and interesting. It allows me to act. I finally made up my mind for OTT and here it is.
What are your expectations?
My expectation is always to be in projects that people would love to watch. This project will be at people’s fingertips and they can watch it anytime. I hope to show my acting skills.
When OTT came to India, a lot of actors and actresses were in a dilemma if they really wanted to step into the digital world straight from the big screen. Did you have any such dilemma?
Definitely. I had this dilemma. I have been working on the big screen and now suddenly if there is a change, how would things turn out for me? Is it too early? Am I being late? What should I do? And then I saw the growth of OTT. And finally, all the big films are going to OTT at the end of the day. I used to think that I would lose out on something if I went to OTt. and finally I understood that it is not that. Now I know OTT is the future. It took me some time to make up my mind. But as they say, ‘Everything has a perfect time and this is my time to step into the world of OTT. Besides, I was watching a lot of great content on the OTT platforms and I wished to work on an OTT project in which I will get to play the central character. Things will go around my character. I saw a lot of great actors working on OTT and I drew encouragement from them.
Is there any particular actor, actress, or show that you would like to mention in this regard?
Well, I am watching Breaking Bad for the second time. What a fantastic series this is. You cannot make a film out of it. It had to be a series. Mare of Easttown is my other favourite and I was completely bowled over by Kate Winslet’s performance. Anyway, she inspires me a lot. I was so impressed when she asked not to photoshop her body. She is so real.
Kate Winslet is one of the first actresses who talked about keeping things real without photoshopping and airbrushing your body. That is inspiring, is it not? You can look good without makeup. Your beauty doesn’t define you.
How realistic is this idea in the Bengali entertainment industry?
I’ll try to elaborate. Even today, if you travel to interior rural areas, you will hear, ‘Are ki forsha re’. The colour of your skin matters in many areas, especially around rural areas. “She looks fairer on the screen but she is pretty dark.” I have been hearing this statement since I was very young. I grew up in Jalpaiguri. I heard it there and many other places. The general notion is that heroines are always under the mask of makeup. After my first film, when I went to Jalpaiguri, I was asked, “Do you do makeup on your hands and legs also?” I laughed. And why am I mentioning rural areas? It is because people there are unfiltered. In the urban areas, people mask it up. Since then, I have seen people have evolved. Today, even in the Bengali industry, we are seeing films where people are not wearing makeup. There are works focused purely on acting skills. I think heroines are also walking beyond all their insecurities and embracing no-makeup looks. I’ll give you an example. When I joined this industry in 2009-10, I was told that heroines must always step out in makeup. And today, I regularly post photos on my Instagram without an iota of makeup. It is doable. Just because I am a heroine I can’t have pimples and dark circles is not a realistic idea. We overcame it. Let’s embrace ourselves with what we have – with all the imperfections.
But in today’s world, the cosmetic beauty industry is booming. How do you explain that?
I don’t need to. There is a difference between taking care of oneself and abiding by the social fixation on a certain beauty standard. If someone is doing Botox in their 40s and 50s, probably they are trying to look good by taking care of themselves. It is a billion-dollar industry today. It is rather a luxury than a necessity. It is a personal choice. Judging someone by their skin colour is about mindset. We are often compelled to follow an unnatural beauty standard. If someone gains weight, they are criticised. If someone loses weight they are cricised. Even today, many random conversations start with, ‘Oh you’ve lost weight.’ My question is, ‘Why is that relevant?’ There cannot be any beauty standard. It is a hoax.
Let’s talk about your film. What was your brief for Raktabeej?
The brief was to be myself. I was told that the character is more or less like me. I did not have to change my body language, etc. I was also told that there was nothing in the film that I couldn’t do. They said that this character is meant for you and when I got the script I realised that’s how it was.
And what about preparations?
Yes. I went through the preparations to get into the character. It began with reading the script a number of times and getting a grip on the character. Sanjukta Mitra is a no-nonsense character. She is a tough woman in the male world. She has that aggression. I rode a bullet so I took training for the scene.
Was it the first time?
In a city, yes. I rode a Bullet in Purulia once. But it was very different from that time. That was probably 10 years ago. Riding a Bullet on the road gives you a kind of adrenaline rush. Bullet is not like any other bike. It is very very heavy. After a point, my wrist was aching. Then you have so many cameras in front of you and you know you cannot go wrong. I had my dialogues. The bike ride in Raktabeej was not a beauty shot. It is there because we have a whole scene on that. So doing that scene wasn’t easy. I had to follow the right pauses and everything. But yes, it was fun.
This is your second Bengali project with Shiboprosad and Nandita after Posto and thirst in total. How do you see their journey?
Each director has their process of filmmaking and they have their process. I was 25 when I played a mother in Posto. I had to go through a lot of learning during that time. Playing Sanjukta was different. I had a long journey in between. Shibuda (Shiboprosad) and Nanditadi also had their journey. They have seen a lot, offered hits, and evolved as directors. Their process remained the same but with different characters, the flavour changes. For me, it has always been a learning process through them.
It is a very different kind of film from them…
Yes. they have never done anything so larger than life before. Even they confess that. In Raktabeej, there are huge outdoors. There are fight sequences. This is a new package even for them. But writing a tight and good script is their forte. They bring out real pictures effortlessly and convincingly. Raktabeej takes inspiration from real events. When I first heard them out, it was about Puja flavour. When you watch it you will know how larger-than-life the film is.