Riddhi Sen was recently awarded the National Award for Best Actor, but it’s not his Bengali film Nagarkirtan, that he is preoccupied with. “I haven’t been able to get Shoojit Sircar’s October out of my mind. I watched it with my parents, and once we came out of the theatre none of us said a word for two hours,” says Sen, over the phone from Mumbai, where he’s currently shooting for Pradeep Sarkar’s next.
The 19-year-old won the prestigious honour for his role in Kaushik Ganguly’s Nagarkirtan, where he stars alongside Ritwick Chakraborty. The film is a love story between a flautist and a transgender. It tells us the boy’s struggle to come out as a woman, in society. Sen is glad that the award will put the transgender community in the spotlight.
Sen’s acting began young. He was four when he appeared in Prachcho, a play directed by his father, veteran actor Kaushik Sen. Based on the story by well-known Bangladeshi playwright Selim Al Deen, Sen had the role of the protagonist as a child.
In Nagarkirtan, Sen plays a transgender, a challenging role especially for an actor his age. “I read Lili Elbe’s Man Into Woman and watched The Danish Girl and Tootsie.” About preparing for the role, his father, says, “He would observe his mother, her gestures and everything. You can master the technique over time, but I don’t know if you can be honest to your character until you fully embrace it from within.”
His 19-year-old is effusive. “Nagakirtana’s screenplay should be sent to film schools”, he says. His enthusiasm increases in crescendos, “October should be India’s entry to the Oscars”; “Ritwick Chakraborty is Bengal’s Rajkummar Rao”.
While Sen’s debut was in Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani (2012), his most significant role came in Anindya Chatterjee’s Open Tee Bioscope (2015). Produced by Sircar, the film chronicles the life of a teenage boy growing up in semi-urban Bengal.
Talking about an actor he would like to emulate, Sen says, “Rajkummar Rao for sure. Anyone at his stage in his career wouldn’t agree to a role like Bareilly Ki Barfi. He plays the second lead and still walks away with the film. Youngsters like me want to follow our hearts and do the kind of roles we want to do, but he’s the only one who is practically doing it.”
Sen’s next film Eela stars Kajol, and is produced by Ajay Devgn Films.