Nagarkirtan, a Bengali film about the lives and brutalities faced by the gender non-conforming communities, won big at the 65th National Film Awards. NT BUZZ caught up with Riddhi Sen, 20, who won Best Actor for it
Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
Riddi Sen is a national award winning actor at 20. With critically acclaimed films like Parched in his pocket, he was seen in Helicopter Eela with Kajol. He is currently working on several Hindi movies and for him language is no barrier to present his talent on screen. Content is what matters to him and that is what was the impetus to work with director Kaushik Ganguly in his film Nagarkirtan
- Your portrayal of ‘Putti’ in the film has been phenomenal. What got you to sign this film, this early on in your acting career?
This was Kaushik Ganguly’s dream project which he was wanted to do for nearly four years. He contacted me when I was 17. People in Kolkata are quite sceptical about a third gender movie, and thus it was tough to get a producer for the movie, many people backed out. After a long wait of 2 years we got two production groups to help us to do this film, which was done in October 2017. I always knew that this film would be a reality. Ganguly had made up his mind to make this movie no matter what. While I didn’t know when the movie would go on floor, I began my preparations – I watched the movie Danish Girl, read Man into a Woman. We shot this movie in less than a months’ time and my preparations had to be on point. Ganguly is not just an amazing director he is a great actor himself, so he guided me very well throughout the filming process. I trusted him blindly, so I just followed him and kept on observing.
- You’ve acted in movies like Kahaani, Bhoomi, Parched and several others, but here in this movie you play the character of a third-gender, weren’t you sceptical at all?
No, I didn’t have to feel that way, because that was my job. And when you become an actor, you have to be ready to be anyone, from a girl to the worst person in the society – and it’s the job of the actor to be somebody he or she is not.
- There must have been difficult aspects you faced while preparing for the film, like getting the mannerisms and nuances right.
I think the fine line is that it shouldn’t look sarcastic or like I am mocking somebody else. To maintain that line throughout was the difficult part – where you don’t overdo or under do it. You should strike the right balance and that was the hardest part, much more than the physical nuances. You can practise those, but to understand the psychology and crisis of the person who belongs to a different gender, not getting accepted by the society and to understand the psyche is the hardest part.
- Do you think Nagarkirtan will help shed preconceived notions about the third gender in society?
It should definitely! If only people have the patience to watch this movie with concentration till the end I am sure it will bring about change, because people don’t really consider cinema to be entertainment; which is the fact it is entertainment. But again, I think education coming in the form of entertainment through a film; it can’t get any better than that. I don’t know if in India the movie will get that exposure and I will don’t know how much our movie will get through to the audience. But, I do think that if the people have patience to watch it then they will be a different person when they walk out of the theatre.
- You’ve received a National Award very early into your career so what responsibility does it put you on now?
Responsibility is to forget it; that I have won the award. I am extremely grateful to the jury members and my parents and Kaushik Ganguly. I think my parents gave me a very good upbringing and have always supported me to become an actor, and the National Award is something which is definitely the highest honour in the country. But again, I am just 20 and have lots and lots of work to do. I have a large appetite to do more things so the only thing I have done successfully is I have forgotten that chapter and moved on.
- Bengali films have always made a mark at IFFI. Can you tell us about the experience, and how happy are you to be here?
This is my second visit here, my first being with ‘Children of War’ in 2014. It was my first movie and was completely awestruck about this grand film festival. We all wanted our film to be selected here so I am extremely privileged to be a part of it the second time. Also, because this is the last film festival before the commercial release of this movie, we were really looking forward to it.
- Which was the best scene in the movie for you and which was extremely difficult?
The first day on set was extremely difficult because I thought I won’t be able to get over it because I wasn’t completely prepared. The first days are tough and memorable. Here I was shooting some 40th scene in the sequence, a romantic one where Putti had a towel wrapped around her head and had come out to dry clothes. So my fear was that it will look different in the whole film. That is the inescapable and irreplaceable feeling of working on this film on the first day.