I’ll live on my own terms: Swastika Mukherjee
Indian actress Swastika Mukherjee came to Dhaka recently after a gap of almost one and a half decade. She attended the screening of her film ‘Bijoyar Pore’ with the audience at Dhaka International Film Festival on last Wednesday. Before returning home on last Friday, Swastika candidly talked about films and her life in an interview with Prothom Alo at the InterContinental Hotel.
Prothom Alo :
Apart from being an actress, your prominent stand on women rights has differentiated you. Do you agree?
I believe I don’t say anything extraordinary. And I don’t make revolutionary statements all the time. But, I might be saying things that the others aren’t saying. When everyone starts talking, my statements won’t sound extraordinary anymore. The problem is that I am the only one talking out of ten.
We think we have to keep our face, body, mind, thoughts, sorrows, pains, mental health issues hidden all the time for if someone finds out, they might judge and troll us. Due to this practice of keeping things hidden out of this fear we have almost forgotten what’s real.
My life experiences, relationships, break-ups, depression- all of these are part of my life. I should have the courage to accept them. Even when people criticise or the media make a few bold headlines, I speak. For this would encourage many ordinary women.
We shy away from fulfilling our own wishes thinking about what people would say. I have only one life, and I don’t know what will be in the next life. I’ll just live the way I feel like. Maybe a few will talk about this way of living but it will inspire and encourage many more. They will remember me.
Prothom Alo :
You appeared as an appealing character in Dibakar Banerjee’s ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy’ then played a mother in ‘Dil Bechara’. From ‘Tasher Ghor’ to ‘Patal Lok’, you have been found in many versatile roles. Where do you get the confidence to play glamour-less ‘challenging’ characters on screen?
I love acting. I have a great hunger and I want to do many more characters. In ‘Byomkesh’, I had a romantic angle with Sushant Singh Rajput. Then after four years, I played the character of his mother-in-law in ‘Dil Bechara’.
Being 38 years old, I played a mother in the series, ‘Mohomaya’, where I had a 28-year-old son. I chewed on betel leaves and didn’t put on makeup there. I changed my bodily posture and tried channelling the ways our mothers and aunts used to walk or talk.
I played a 60-year-old woman in the film ‘Anubrato Bhalo Acho’ back in 2014 while I was just 33. If I only do characters that are the same age as mine from where will I learn?
After all, I have to learn through work. And, I must flaunt my skills before the audience. I always say, give me the characters of sister-in-law, mother or grandmother; I don’t care (laughter).
As actors we live out many lives in a single lifetime. If I do a hundred films in one life, I live the lives of a hundred women. It creates so many experiences and that’s a huge achievement
Prothom Alo :
The character of mafia queen, ‘Mandira Biswas’ in ‘Shibpur’ film is terrifying; she even fights in sari. You can hardly find such characters in Bangla cinema...
Actually there hasn’t been any such film featuring female gangsters in Bengal. Even if there has, women did fight sequences wearing leather pants. It was really challenging to fight in sari. I love to wear sari, I even went trekking wearing sari in Uttarakhand.
So I decided that I would do the fight scenes wearing sari. I used to be thrilled every day during the shooting of that film. I would think I have fight scenes today, I’ll get to fire revolvers and I’ll take all the anger out.
As actors we live out many lives in a single lifetime. If I do a hundred films in one life, I live the lives of a hundred women. It creates so many experiences and that’s a huge achievement.
Nowadays everyone talks about body positivity. Many protest against body shaming. But when social media wasn’t there, Vidya Balan kept fighting. She has repeatedly been the victim of snide comments about her face and physical appearance
Prothom Alo :
You have worked with your ex-boyfriend Parambrata Chattopadhyay in ‘Shibpur’. You have always had a good understanding with your exes; what’s the secret?
When there’s a break up, a relationship falls apart then it feels like that’s the end of everything. We don’t want to see their faces anymore. Seeing their faces pains us. I too have gone through such times.
After breaking up with Param or Srijit I wouldn’t even look at the newspapers. Their photographs will be published in the newspaper and I’ll die of anger or sadness. That’s why I didn’t want to see it. Then time went on.
As the time passes on, people remember only the good parts of a relationship and the worst fades away from the memory. I have talked to them again and have seen them work well. I have called them and told them that they have done really well.
The relationships with them were true, I loved them. Bad feelings can never be greater than love. Then I worked with them again. It might have felt awkward in the first one or two hours of working together.
But then I was concerned that my character shouldn’t get affected by personal issues. They have moved forward in their lives, they have had relationships and got married. If we love someone we’ll wish for them to be happy.
I met Param at a party hosted by HoiChoi, I hugged him and said to him, “Stay well. I like your wife better. I follow Piya on social media. All the fiascos there were centering your wedding, I even protested for you two.”
I felt that something that’s unfair has to be called out as unfair. No matter if it’s happening with my ex or future partners. Seeing those I love makes me feel really empathetic.
Prothom Alo :
You have mentioned Vidya Balan as your inspiration in different interviews. How much did she inspire you and in what ways?
Nowadays everyone talks about body positivity. Many protest against body shaming. But when social media wasn’t there, Vidya Balan kept fighting. She has repeatedly been the victim of snide comments about her face and physical appearance.
She didn’t change her style of listening to others. She loves wearing sari and that’s what she wears. She’s extremely confident in her own skin. I follow a lot from her. Plus, I’m really fond of her as an actress. I have learnt a lot from her films.
Prothom Alo :
What projects do you have on the upcoming list?
In Bollywood, I have worked in the film ‘Section 84’. There’s Amitabh Bachchan in it. I have done two other films of the independent genre. Including all, around four Hindi films are awaiting their release.
Meanwhile in Tollywood, I have acted in Srijit Mukherjee’s film ‘Tekka’ that will release on Puja. And the second season of HoiChoi series ‘Nikhoj’ will also be released this year.
In April, I’ll arrive in Dhaka again for the shooting of the Dhallywood film ‘One Eleven’. I have been in contact with Taposh (Kaushik Hossain) over the phone for quite some time. I met him for the first time coming to Dhaka this time and we’ll definitely collaborate on something.