Seema Biswas conquers Canada
The singular honour may have gone largely unnoticed, but the best actress Genie Award won by India’s Seema Biswas for her multi-layered performance in Deepa Mehta’s Water represents an achievement of huge import. The Genie Awards are Canada’s equivalent of the Oscars.
On March 13, at the 26th annual Genie Awards ceremony hosted by Water co-star Lisa Ray and actor and talk show host Terry David Mulligan, Biswas shook off competition from such accomplished Canadian actresses as Macha Grenon, Sylvie Moreau, Arsinee Khanjian and Gina Chiarelli to win the coveted statuette.
Consider the quality that Biswas was up against. Producer-actress Chiarelli has earned rave reviews for the role of a schizophrenic thirty-something woman grappling with increasingly erratic behaviour in Pete McCormack’s See Grace Fly.
Arsinee Khanjian, winner of the Genie award in 2002 for her performance in Atom Egoyan’s Ararat, was in contention this time around for playing an Arab woman who falls in love outside her conservative community in Ruba Nadda’s Sabah. The two actresses were widely regarded as frontrunners for the Genie.
“Being among the best actress nominees was a big enough honour,” says the unassuming Biswas, arguably one of Assam’s most prominent film industry exports. “I wasn’t expecting to win the Genie at all.” In Water, she plays Shakuntala, a devout and intelligent 30-year-old widow facing a crisis of faith as life pushes her to the edge of an act of defiance.
The 4000-odd members of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, a professional association set up in 1979, vote for the Genie Awards.
Biswas couldn’t, however, make the trip to Toronto to receive the award in person. She was in Chennai, shooting for a Tamil film, Thalaimagan, DMK MP and superstar Sarath Kumar’s home production. “I desperately wanted to attend the Genie awards ceremony but just could not adjust my dates,” says Biswas, who essays the role of a crooked cop in the action thriller produced by the Tamil star’s wife and actress, Radhika.