Actor Rituparna Sengupta, who plays Begum Jaan in Srijit Mukherji’s film Rajkahini, describes why she was happy to be a part of the film. “Last October, I received the offer to do Rajkahini. I was in Delhi for an event. Srijit had called me a couple of times but I couldn’t take the call. When I finally answered, he asked if I was angry with him… (laughs). He told me that he has written an exciting character for me and wants me to hear it. Later, he came to my house and told me about Rajkahini.”
Given Srijit’s track record, he has always created strong male characters. But in Rajkahini, he has written powerful roles for women. “I was clueless how to portray Begum Jaan; she was an alien character to me. She is courageous, dominating and authoritative. It was quite a departure from the characters I have played so far. Her expressions were tough. She has got immense power within her.”
“According to Srijit, since I am a dancer I have a lot of feminine movements. But Begum Jaan is ruthless and Srijit wanted me to get rid of the softness in me. He wanted Begum Jaan to be rude and speak harshly. I don’t know how to speak rudely to anyone or use slang,” adds Sengupta.
Sengupta further says, “When we started shooting, I was struggling with the voice and hookah. Begum Jaan is fond of the hookah. I don’t smoke and I don’t know how to use a hookah. On the day of the shooting, it was a catastrophe. I inhaled too much of the hookah smoke and I was groggy. I threw up and was almost in tears. I took a break, rested and then resumed shooting.
Watch: Rajkahini trailer
I struggled again while dubbing for the film. Srijit used to switch off the microphone. I used to scream my lungs out till my voice cracked. I would then dub in the hoarse voice. I used to be in tears while dubbing. My head, chest and throat would hurt.”
Rajkahini is based on partition. So, did you attend any workshop for the period film. “I have not seen partition but I have heard about the traumatic history. My mother and grandmother used to narrate the brutal tales... how everyone turned a refugee overnight and had to leave their ancestral place in Dhaka. I also read a book by Benu aunty (veteran Bengali actress Supriya Devi) on Partition... she vividly recounts how her family was displaced overnight. It was a horrifying phase in history.”
“So, when we started shooting, it was traumatic. The film has historical facts and we recreated the disturbing past on celluloid. Srijit told all the actors to live the trauma. He told us people have sacrificed their lives for Partition and that is how we are where we are today. It was then that I gathered courage to portray Begum Jaan. The film looks back at history. Begum Jaan is the heart of the film and she unfolds different shades in the film,” explains the sultry actor.