Actress Raima Sen is basking in Bengali cinema’s current golden phase, marked by bolder films and bigger budgets.
Clad in a glittery brown gown, she looked every inch a glamorous diva — gracing the red carpet with practised aplomb and giving nippy sound-bites — but the first thing you notice about Raima Sen is her poise. There is none of the cookie-cutter sameness of showbiz starlets. Perhaps, it’s her innate elegance. Or those doe eyes — just like her grandmother’s.
It’s this “presence” coupled with some stellar performances that has made Raima the go-to-girl for many of the new-age indie filmmakers.
The actress was in London, after a gap of four years, for the screening of her film Baishey Srabon, which closed this year’s London Indian Film Festival. Directed by Srijit Mukherji, the movie had created quite a stir with its liberal use of violence and cuss words, something which the Bengali audience wasn’t used to. However, the thriller was well received, and became one of the biggest hits in Bengal.
She plays the role of a feisty journalist who is in a live-in relationship with a cop, played by Parambrata Chatterjee of Kahaani fame.
In fact, Abosheshey, the second Bengali film screened at the festival, also stars Raima in a pivotal role.
With several critically-acclaimed films in her repertoire, Raima is now seen as a brand ambassador for a newly resurgent Bengali cinema marked by bolder concepts and increased financial backing.
“Bengal is going through a golden period. There is more awareness and more money. Films are releasing on national and international levels… festivals like these provide a platform for Bengali cinema to reach millions of Indians living abroad,” she says.
The petite actress will also be seen in two Hindi films this year: I, Me aur Main opposite John Abraham, and Raakh by Tanuja Chandra. Although she is keen on doing more Bollywood films, her image of a “serious actress” mostly fetches her niche, author-backed roles instead of the usual song-and-dance routine.
“I made my debut in Godmother alongside legendary actress Shabana Azmi, so people associate me with a certain kind of cinema but I am open to experimentation. Actually, I’ll be signing more South Indian films as well.”
She is often compared to her illustrious grandmother Suchitra Sen, both in resemblance and acting talent. Of course, Raima understands the expectations of this legacy and admits to being scared at times. She says she was offered a remake of Deep Jwele Jaai, which she refused, as that would’ve meant “too much pressure”. However, she’s agreed to the remake of Chandranath as people haven’t seen the film — there are no prints available — and hence she can escape the dreaded comparison.
During the post-screening interview by Sangeeta Dutta — associate director of Chokher Bali and Raincoat, and director of Life Goes On, someone in the audience asked why most Bengali films hark back to the past... to Rabindranath Tagore.
Raima conceded that Kolkata has a habit of holding onto the past, but not all films are based on Tagore’s works. She further said that Bengal has a certain flavour, a yearning for its rich cultural past, which the audience doesn’t seem to mind as these movies seem to be doing well nationally and internationally.
Asked about the differences between Bollywood and Bengali cinema, Raima said: “Films from Mumbai are technically superior with heftier budgets, unlike their Bengali counterparts.”
But she finds the latter more “women-centric” as they are inspired from the literary heritage of Bengal.
Picture courtesy: London Indian Film Festival