Bidita Bag says she was trained in the arts, like most good Bengali girls are. And yes, she excelled at academics too. “I was a jack of all trades. I got interested in acting when I composed the background score for my father’s amateur theatre company. But he never considered me for acting. In fact, my decision to pursue acting as a profession caused quite a rift between us,” shares Bag, whose upcoming release Babumoshai Bandookbaz, with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, had been mired in controversies till now. “Since I was good in academics, my father wanted me to pursue it. But I have always been a rebel. I stood my ground and told him that I will not die in a 9-5 job and rather live a thousand lives as an actor everyday,” adds Bag.
The 26-year-old, who hails from Bengal’s Santragachhi, came to Mumbai in 2010. She started off with modelling on the ramp and also did TV commercials. She also dabbled in regional cinema. She has quite a few Odiya, Bengali and Assamese films to her name, including the acclaimed Ekhon Nedekha Nodir Xhipare (As the River Flows in Hindi). “It was supposed to be just a Hindi film. But then the director, to cut costs, said that let’s do a bilingual film. But I am happy I did that, I got to work with Victor Banerjee and Sanjay Suri,” says Bag.
Bag also did some Hindi films, which largely went unnoticed. Babumoshai Bandookbaz is her big-ticket entry to Bollywood and she hopes for recognition and more work. Bag plays Phulwa, a cobbler in a Uttar Pradesh village, and the love interest of Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The character, adds Bag, is pathbreaking in many ways. “First of all, she is a female cobbler. Secondly, she is unapologetic about everything she does. She spares no opportunity to make a quick buck and charges Rs 20 for every man who stares at her,” she says.
Talking about the explicit dialogues and scenes shown in the film’s trailer, Bag says, “The social setting of our film is in a fictitious village in UP. We have kept the gender dynamics quite fluid. We have shown the men and women as equals. I smoke with Babu (played by Nawazuddin), I drink with him. We are equal partners in bed also. Phulwa is manipulative. And she needs to be that way, as the perfect foil to Babu, who has no moral centre.”
Bag reveals that she almost did not play the lead character in the film. Chitrangadha Singh was playing Phulwa, and had even shot a lot of her role. “I was about to play the second lead in the film. When Chitrangadha wasn’t able to continue, director Kushan Nandy was desperately looking for another actor for the role. A common friend, a model from Kolkata, suggested my name to him for the lead. I did a super quick audition, and was chosen to play the lead on the very same day. It was almost as if I was upgraded to first class from the economy section of an airplane,” Bag says with a laugh.
The film had been initially given 48 cuts by the CBFC. But a couple of days ago, was given a go-ahead with 7-8 voluntary cuts and an ‘A’ certificate. This is good news for Bag, who is currently working on a biopic on Daya Bai, a social reformer from Kerala, and also on a children’s film.