By Shoma A. Chatterji
Arundhati has been copyrighted for the Bengali version by Shree Venkatesh Films from the thumping Telugu hit Arundhati (2009) in which Anushka Shetty played the title role. It was later dubbed in Tamil and Malayalam with the same title while the Odiya version was called Mantrasakti. In the Bengali version, Koel Mullick is portraying the title role of Arundhati while Indraneil Sengupta is pitted against her as Kaalrudra, the roles portrayed by Anushka and Sonu Sood in the Telugu version. The two talented actors get together to talk about their work in the film.
What is your response to your own work in Arundhati in terms of characterisation, acting and so on?
Koel Mullick: I have been in the industry for eleven years. Looking back, I do not think I have done a role or a film more challenging than Arundhati. I have done a double role in the film. Earlier, way back, I had done one in Bandhan. But Arundhati is a story of reincarnation so it is much more challenging. Both characters – Arundhati and Mishti – have different shades. Besides, I do not have a hero opposite me in the normal sense. That makes it more challenging.
Indraneil Sengupta: The biggest challenge in playing Kaalrudra was that it was an out-and-out negative role of a person who epitomises evil. The entire film is a battle between Arundhati who is a human metaphor for everything good while Kaarudra stands for everything that is evil. There is not a slightest hint of positivity in him and that itself was a challenge for me.
How did you prepare for the role?
Koel: It was a wonderful learning experience. I almost memorised the script to internalise the characters before the shooting began. I had to engage in physical activities to physically fight, with Kaalrudra. As Arundhati, I learnt sword-fighting. In my reincarnation, I ride a horse. I had to do two different kinds of characters in the two incarnations. Arundhati’s fight is against the vulnerability of a woman, that a woman is conditioned to accept. I drew inspiration from three women icons who fought their battles in their own different ways. They are Mother Teresa, Rani Rashmoni and Joan of Arc.
Indraneil: Kaalrudra is a very loud character and I generally play low-key characters even if they have negative shades. I do not do much homework for any role but for Kaalrudra, the make-up took three solid hours everyday and I had to report to the sets three hours before everyone else. Four make-up artists worked on my get-up. Putting on the make-up for three hours itself was a kind of prepping up for the character, a kind of internalising the horror my character needed to project to instigate hate in the audience for me. I am made to look as ugly as I possibly can be made to look except in a few scenes in contemporary times. This role was both physically and emotionally draining.
What was working with director Sujit Mandal like?
Koel: This is my fourth film with Sujitda. He is wonderful to work with. He can extract the best out of his actors and his long track record in Bengali cinema proves this. I worked with him first in Saat Paake Bandha and I learnt a lot.
Indraneil: He is very strong technically and works out his shot divisions and scenes to the last detail. He knows his job very well. It is a pleasure to work with a director as sure of his work as he is.
What other projects are you two involved in after Arundhati?
Koel: I am very excited about one of the four short stories in Sandip Ray’s Char set to release this month. I am paired with Abir Chatterjee in a story called Poreekkha. Highway, directed by Sudipto Chatterjee, is a film due for release .
Indraneil: I am currently trying to confine myself to one film at a time. I am portraying an important character in Saibal Mitra’s thriller based on Byomkesh Bakshi’s Shajarur Kanta where I am paired opposite Konkona Sen Sharma for the first time and also with Mitra. I play a low-key role of an affluent man who is trapped in a marriage, to rescue a theatre group.