I wanted to play a grey-shaded character in Byomkesh: Paoli Dam
Indian actor Paoli Dam has worked for the first time with senior filmmaker Arindam Sil in the latest installment of Byomkesh franchise, Byomkesh Hotyamancha, which is releasing Aug 11 in the cinema halls. Ahead of the film's release, Paoli, who plays Sulochona on screen in the SVF project, speaks to India Blooms correspondent Souvik Ghosh
Excerpts of the conversation...
Q. How was your experience of working with Arindam Sil for the first time?
A. Excellent. It was like a beautiful experience. For me, each and every film is like a journey which matters to me more than the destination. This journey has been incredible, extremely satisfying and creatively very enriching. I have learnt a lot from this film actually.
We (Paoli Dam and Arindam Sil) have known each other for years and have been planning to do something together for a long time. I am happy that it has started with Byomkesh Hotyamancha, which is my first film in the franchise.
(From L to R) Paoli Dam and Arindam Sil | Image Credit: Avishek Mitra
Q. You definitely had a perception towards filmmaker Arindam Sil as an audience. Did that change on the shooting floor in some way?
A. I really like all his films from various genres including Byomkesh. What I have always liked about his filmmaking is his ability to give a simple, small content a larger-than-life appearance. Arindam-da tries to make the best out of any character, be it a protagonist or an antagonist or a cameo.
Also being an actor for years, he knows how to tap and get the best out of his cast in a film. Keeping aside the technicalities, Arindam-da shoots a film so intelligently that the budget (read shoestring budget) is never realised. Moreover, he is very flexible with the actors and accepts their inputs if they are logical.
Before featuring in films, Paoli had worked in some of the popular television serials like Tithir Athiti, Sonar Harin. She has played legend late Suchitra Sen in daily soap Mahanayak.
Q. Was there any instance where you had given some input on the set?
A. While we were discussing Sulochona's character in the script-level, we gave various inputs. In fact, the need to include an interaction between Sulochona and Byomkesh in the film was first felt during a discussion over the script.
Paoli Dam | Image Credit: Avishek Mitra/IBNS
Q. Did you discuss the Byomkesh franchise informally with Arindam Sil before this latest installment of the franchise?
A. I had actually called Arindam-da after watching Har Har Byomkesh (the first film of the franchise). After watching the film, which was amazingly done, I had felt this sleuth was a human (laughs) though he is a larger-than-life character. I felt like the character was relatable. So it was a mixture of realistic and mainstream spaces.
Paoli caught the limelight in films with Gautam Ghosh's Kaalbela in 2008. She later collaborated with Ghosh in Moner Manush in 2010.
Q. Do you think the gap between realistic and mainstream films has been bridged?
A. Yes... that gap has been bridged. I don't think people now go to the theatre thinking about the magnitude of a film or whether it is mainstream or not. Now the audience gets intrigued by the content, performances and certain names which people always want to watch.
Q. How was the experience of having theatre in the film?
A. Theatre portions were really dramatic with loud and organic performances. The three spaces, Sulochona being herself, Sulochona as Droupadi and Sulochona going through her inner churning of emotions, were done very interestingly. It was definitely challenging. There was a certain synergy among all of us during the eight-nine days of shooting in the theatre space.
Paoli has worked with iconic filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh in 2009 film Shob Charitro Kalponik.
Q. It was a very good opportunity to be in theatres as well!
A. Yeah, I took it that way (laughs). It was a workshop for me actually (laughs). So there are things to learn from every space and film.
Paoli Dam in Shob Charitro Kalponik | Image Credit: Instagram/Paoli Dam
Q. Being in the film business for years, how do you choose your scripts now?
A. First I see the script, then the character which is offered to me and what I can contribute to it. I like playing characters with substance. The internal and external journeys as well as the dimensions of characters are important to me. In Byomkesh, I always wanted to play a character with grey shades.
A massive controversy broke out in Kolkata after her nude scene in 2011 film Chatrak- directed by Vimukthi Jayasundara from Sri Lanka- went viral on internet.
Q. Is it also easier to connect with a multilayered character because we humans too have shades?
A. First I see whether I am able to relate to the character or not and understand the reasons behind her behaviours. Maneuvering comes after that. It is important to understand the basic human wing, her background, her emotional fragile spaces, whether she is emotionally dependent or not among others. I love playing independent, rebel women with a substance.
Paoli ventured into the OTT space with Kaali which premiered on Zee5 in 2018. She has also worked in Raat Baaki Hai and Anushka Sharma's Bulbbul.
Q. You have ventured into OTT even before its recent boom. Do you want to explore more in that space?
A. I started with Kaali on OTT. I don't think we had explored something like Kaali in Bengali content on OTT back then. I wanted to do something which the Bengal audience or me hadn't watched. It was followed by Bulbbul and then Raat Baaki Hai.
Paoli Dam in Bulbbul | Image Credit: Instagram/Paoli Dam
Now with Covid-19 pandemic, people, who were forced to stay at home, had to depend on OTT, a craving grew and they became a part of the system. Since the audience has become choosy, the content, which is huge in numbers now, needs to be so superlative so they don't switch to something else. I wanted to do something on OTT which had the possibility to have a longer life.
(Images by Avishek Mitra/IBNS)