Interview: Swastika Mukherjee - "I am a Bhoot" | Swastika talks about Bye Bye Bangkok, Nandini, Bhooter Bhobishhot & her career


Click on play to listen to Swastika Mukherjee on WBRi on-demand audio broadcast service

Tollywood Bengali Movie Actress SWASTIKA MUKHERJEEGermantown, Maryland, Jan 9, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) Tollywood actress Swastika Mukhopadhyay is the quintessential Bengali girl. Her spectacular career in Bengali films is well deserved, and a result of the usual and only way to attain success - hard work and a passionate belief in one's own self.

Today, her illustrious father Santu Mukherjee must be very proud of her daughter. Being Santu Mukherjee's daughter must have had it's own curious implications, but it is entirely understandable when Swastika tells Arijit Chakraborty over this little chat how she was initially disappointed when her father refused to give her the "little push" in the industry when Swastika was a rookie trying to make a career in films. Today, a confident, glowing and successful Swastika thanks her father to have forced her to make it on her own. While recording the audio interview, I was listening to Swastika describe this aspect of being Santu-da's daughter, and I could connect - being a father of a young daughter myself, as surely all our listeners who are dads will - and you will doubtelss feel the swell of pride as a Bengali of Santu-da and Swastika when you listen to Swastika.

Swastika grew up in a traditional Bengali way. In spite of having a superstar dad, priorities and expectations of her were clearly and correctly set - academics was of utmost importance, she took lessons in the Indian classical dance form of Bharatnatyam (and then creative dance - more about which comes later). She and her sister did the usual navigation through school and high-school, and Swastika took up college studies at the hallowed Jadavpur University of Kolkata (of which I am a proud alumnus as well !).

Santu-da's wisdom comes to light once again in the fact that he had kept his remarkably attractive daughter away from the glitter of showbiz before she was ready - Swastika talks about how she actually saw a studio for the first time in her life when she started to work in the industry ! It should be an eye-opener to all the legions of Indian parents who are now pushing their kids into "reality TV shows" in the want of money - kids barely in their teens or even younger are being pressurized to perform in the front of a national audience to become singing champions ? Come on, parents - stop and think what you are doing to your children !

Swastika was taking lessons in modern creative dancing at the iconic Ananda Shankar Institute of Performing Arts, headed by Tanushree Sankar. Around that time Santu Mukherjee and Tanushree Sankar were working on a NFDC-sponsored film titled Hemanter Pakhi (a film which we also heard about a couple of days from actor-director Parambrata Chattopadhyay as his debut feature film as well!) - the makers of which were looking for a fresh face for the film. Tanushree Shankar spotted Swastika in her class, and she ended up having to go through a rigorous audition and selected, thus performing a couple of scenes in her debut film.

As events continued to transpire in Swastika's young adulthood, she was studying History at JU with no particular goal of becoming a superstar herself one day, and a buddy of hers was studying Comparative Literature ("Comp Lit" in JU parlance). Perhaps one day, sitting on the steps of the Arts Lobby (which have been destroyed now!), or maybe across Milanda's canteen, the two friends talk about the dad of the Comp Lit buddy - a dad who is deeply involved with a mega serial and how Swastika might be a good fit for such TV serials. You will hear Swastika tell us about how, when approached for TV Serial roles, she made a set of exorbitant demands and ridiculously high amounts of money in a misguided attempt to wiggle out of the TV serial stuff, and how her attempts backfired when the producers agreed to all she asked for !

Swastika started to shuttle between work and school, delivering popular performances on TV shows. The episodes would air on TV channels often within days of shooting, and Swastika talks about how her dad would sit down and watch her perform, and give her little pieces of advice and tips drawing from his own huge volume of experience, and how Swastika would go and apply her dad's little tips in the next day's shooting.

TV serials lead to offers in feature films, and soon Swastika was on her way to becoming a top actress in Bengali film industry.

This interview was recorded a few weeks before the widely awaited release of the Bengali comedy-drama film Bye Bye Bangkok directed by Aniket Chattopadhyay (interview). The story of the commencement of Bye Bye Bangkok is a strangely fascinating one - Swastika describes how the film was born, as you will also hear from Aniket Chattopadhyay and a lot of the other members of the cast on other interviews posted at the Interviews/Features section of Washington Bangla Radio. It starts with the producer Kaustav Roy and his friends deciding to go on a vacation to Bangkok, but then thoughts pop up along the lines of "well - we are a bunch of friends but also actors and actresses - let's do a telefilm over our vacation" which rapidly morphed into "let's do a feature film in Bangkok" literally over one night !

Actually, Swastika was told about the film in a reception party of a wedding, and the entire cast and crew (all of who are close friends of Swastika and each other) showed up the next morning in her office with Aniket-da himself reading out the script. Swastika was drawn into the craziness, and within a couple of hectic days involving passport, air ticket, dresses, packing etc. she was on a plane to Bangkok! Do not miss Swastika's description of the sheer fun the entire team had over the shooting for the film over a vacation with friends.

Bye Bye Bangkok is a film about multiple couples who are - in Aniket-da's words, beyond "moon" and "honey" - and confusingly hilarious circumstances of a set of disgruntled married people trying to make the best of new opportunities! A comedy-drama on the surface, the film explore deeper human emotions and cravings in uniquely witty way which is the trademark of Aniket Chattopadhyay.

Swastika plays Tanima who works as an assistant in a office in Kolkata. Tanima has a remarakbly short memory and in one instance her boss's wife walks in wanting to meet her husband, but Tanima having forgotten about her name, kept her waiting for four hours. Watch the film for what happens with Tanima and the other nine people in Bangkok! Bye Bye Bangkok is releasing in Kolkata on Jan 28, 2010.

Among other upcoming projects of Swastika, the Bengali film NANDINI directed by Subrata Sen is ready for release. Swastika appears with Mir and debutant Dibyendu Mukhopadhyay in NANDINI and plays the title role. Nandini is a serious film touching on extra-marital relationships, described by Swastika as a very different movie and a very bold subject for her role. NANDINI is expected to release in February or March of 2011.

Another project Swastika is working is Aneek Dutta's film BHOOTER BHOBISHHOT. Aneek Dutta is a venerable name in world of ad-films in India, and BHOOTER BHOBISHYOT is his debut feature film where Swastika is literally playing the role of a Bhoot - an apparition of a beautiful heroine from the 1960s who had committed suicide after her lover - a rich landlord - showered wealth and comfort on her but did not marry her. There are many other apparitions in the film as well - those of a landlords (Zamindar), a modern girl, a band member, a refugee, a cornell and so on. BHOOTER BHOBISSHOT is a serious film told in a light-hearted way, a satire on the mall and multi-storied condominium craze recently seen in Kolkata, coming up at the expense of historic buildings and thus causing the spirits living there the loss of their accommodations! The film is a tale of around a dozen ghosts and various situational problems faced by them, and is expected to release in mid-2011.

Also two more films are in Swastika's queue - both directed by Aniket Chattopadhyay - the first one going on the floor around March and the second one around June of 2011. The latter is described by Swastika as a "fultu non-nonsensical commercial film" the kind Swastika has done around two scores of but Aniket-da wants to try his hand at.

Interview details:
Guest: Swastika Mukherjee, Acclaimed Bengali Film Actress, Kolkata
Host: Arijit Chakraborty, Washington Bangla Radio, Toronto, Canada
Recorded, Edited and Article By: Supratim Sanyal, Washington Bangla Radio, Washington D.C.
Photograph: Somnath Roy