Paoli Dam decided against accepting any project for four months so that she could get into the skin of the character of iconic Bengali theatre actor Keya Chakraborty. Paoli, who considers this to be one of her most challenging roles, says that Natoker Moto depicts the struggle of a female artiste in a patriarchal society.
The film also marks theatre director Debesh Chattopadhyay's directorial debut in films. "I had to understand the psyche of the character, the crisis of the people associated with group theatre during 1970s and the true meaning of group theatre before playing this character. It was emotionally taxing but it was a learning experience. I read numerous books on theatre and on Keya Chakraborty. Debesh da (Debesh Chattopadhyay) provided me with the books. The film also has numerous clippings of plays and we had to do stage rehearsals for those scenes. It's a challenging role," she says.
The film, however, isn't Keya Chakraborty's biopic. "It's not a biopic but draws inspiration from her life. The film talks about the crisis, struggles and existence of female artistes from any creative profession," says the Moner Manush actor.
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It goes without saying that much like Bollywood, the Bengali film industry too is male-dominated. Having worked in both the industries, Paoli says that she could relate to the character of Keya as a woman. "As a woman I can understand what she had gone through during those hard times. She wanted to do so much for theatre but faced a lot of problems," says Paoli, who has also worked with the likes of Gautam Ghose and Rituparno Ghosh.
The actor also says that she feels blessed to have got a chance to work in Natoker Moto, which boosted her confidence as an actor. "Few women-oriented films are made in Tollywood. I feel lucky to have got a chance to play such a role. I am also happy that these days films are being made keeping women in mind," she says.
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Though Paoli was never associated with group theatre, she has worked with Sishu Rangan under the aegis of prominent Bengali child litterateur and dramatist Sailen Ghosh during her school days. Fondly recalling her childhood days, the actor says, "The film is a tribute to theatre and I feel honoured to have played such a role. I have worked with Sailen Ghosh during my school days and I still cherish those memories."
Given that she is busy with films, one might think that the Paoli doesn't watch plays. But the actor says that she makes sure to find out time to watch plays. "I have watched plays by Bratya Basu, Kaushik Sen, Anjan Dutt, Suman Mukhopadhyay and others. We have got some really brilliant theatre actors… it's unfortunate that I couldn't watch Utpal Dutta perform on the stage. But I love watching him in films," she smiles.
Paoli, however, informs that she hadn't watched any of Chattopadhyay's plays. But the Hate Story actor made it a point to watch the opening show of Chattopadhyay's play Brain. "I remember, after the script-reading session of Natoker Moto, I watched Brain and I was blown away. I hadn't seen much of Debeshda's works before doing this film. But I suggested him to adapt Brain into a film. It's a brilliant play," she signs off.