"Rina-di (Aparna Sen) infects everyone she works with and brings out the best in us" - Actor Kaushik Sen (Interview)

By Shoma A. Chatterji

Editor's Note: This interview with actor Kaushik Sen was recorded by the author on Saturday, July 16, 2011. Kaushik Sen plays Chintan Nair in Aparna Sen's new Bengali film Iti Mrinalini which opened on July 29, 2011.

Bengali Actor Kaushik SenCalcutta, August 3, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) Meet Kaushik Sen. He is an established actor, director and writer of the Bengali stage who began his film career long ago as a small boy in Mrinal Sen’s Ek Din Pratidin. But theater has remained his first love. Television comes second in terms of frequency of appearance because it solves much of the bread-butter problem which professional theater in West Bengal does not. One enjoys his limited screen appearances from time to time because he is really a very talented actor. Acting runs in his genes. His earlier screen appearances in Tapan Sinha’s Antardhan, Wheelchair, Ajob Ganer Ajob Katha, Mrinal Sen’s Amar Bhubon and Kaushik Ganguly’s (interview) Shunno E Bukey have brought in whiff of fresh air into a screen normally filled with over-familiar faces performing stereotypical characters. Let us hear what he wants to say about Chintan Nair, the character he has portrayed in Aparna Sen’s (interview) Iti Mrinalini.

“I play a writer who, though originally from the South, has studied in Shantiniketan. But he carries over a heavily stressed South Indian accent which gives a distinctive touch to the character. This is my first film under Rina-di (Aparna Sen)’s direction and it was amazing to discover her passion for cinema while working with her. She is acutely conscious of technique but is emotionally involved in the very process of film-making, getting angry, feeling thrilled, breaking into tears, everything. It sort of infects everyone she works with and brings out the best in us,” says Kaushik.

Trailer - Iti Mrinalini (An Unfinished Letter)

Some of Kaushik’s finest performances have been on stage. His Tiktiki, a Bengali adaptation of Sleuth, is a milestone in Bengali theatre in its complete adaptation to the cultural and social backdrop of Kolkata without taking away from the original. Other memorable productions are Pratham Partho based on a play by Buddhadeb Bose (check out Shukti / Washington Bangla Radio's own Ajker Natok: Prathom Partho Bengali Radio Drama production) and Malyaban written by noted poet Jibananda Das that is said to be autobiographical, and Tagore’s Bisharjan.

“Wheelchair, in which I play a spastic, is till date, my most challenging performance on the big screen. But Iti Mrinalini is another challenge because I had to act opposite Konkona Sen Sharma who is brilliant. She can make a dead situation come alive and you have to be very conscious and aware when you are working with her which is underlined by a spirit of healthy competition,” says Kaushik.

“My character is limited to the younger Mrinalini and I am not around when she becomes old. Chintan is a married man with an ailing wife at home with who he shares a lovely relationship. But with Mrinalini, he develops a relationship that is that of a close confidante without any quid pro quo. My character tries to explain to Mrinalini that there are different kinds of love and ours is one of a kind that one cannot put a name to. Sometimes love demands space and Chintan’s love for Mrinalini makes him her closest friend. I enjoyed the role very much indeed,” he explains.

“Theater may not bring in the kind of money it should but it gives you a very good and appreciative audience. Bengali theater today is filled with young directors like Bratya Basu (interview), Suman Mukhopadhyay (interview) and I. The kind of theater we are involved in brings in respect. Cinema and television keeps us in touch with the skills of our trade. Television brings in money never mind that I am asked to perform characters that are much older than what I should be playing. But theater offers me escape from the monotonous over-sentimentalism of television while cinema is something I enjoy because I am asked to do films that are not the mainstream ones I might not care to work in,” he sums up.

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