You probably remember her infectious energy from Aisha and Kai Po Che and now Amrita Puri is all set to make her television debut. The super endearing actor has been roped in to play Charulata in the amazing Anurag Basu‘s Stories By Rabindranath Tagore series. We had the opportunity to speak to her about the show, working with Basu, challenges she faced portraying Charu and a whole lot of other fun stuff.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Team MissMalini: First of all, congratulations! Charulata is looking really nice. It’s your television debut… so tell us all about it?
Amrita Puri: Thank you. You’re right, it’s the first time I’m doing television, but what’s really exciting for me is that it’s with Anurag Basu. He’s someone I wanted to work with ever since I saw Barfi. So when I was offered the role, there was no doubt in my head that I wanted to be a part of the series. He’d pretty much said that “I’m doing a bunch of stories, so why don’t you pick up something that interests you?” And the moment he said Charulata, I was very sure that that was what I wanted to do.
Team MM: For those of us who don’t know, could you tell us a little about the character of Charulata?
AP: Charulata is a tough character to play because firstly, it’s iconic so there are expectations to live up to. Then, it’s also a complex character to play because she is a young beautiful woman who is well-educated but we’re talking about a time when women were just confined to the household. She didn’t really have much to do in her free time and her husband is much older. Though there is companionship, there is no love in the marriage. So her loneliness gets to her, till eventually her husband’s younger brother comes into the picture, who helps her with her “sangeet”. In the novel of course, Charu is a writer, but here the medium has been adapted to singing. The point of controversy is basically that she falls for someone who calls her ‘bhabhi’, but at the same time she’s too innocent to realize it till it’s too late. And that’s when her world sort of comes crumbling down. To get her vulnerability right, I would say, was the toughest part of Charulata.
Team MM: You’ve been a literature student yourself. Did that help you grasp the character in any way?
AP: Umm… not really. Like, I think it helped that I was slightly familiar with Tagore’s work, but at the end of the day, it’s your acting ability alone that brings character to life. And your director, of course!
Team MM: Speaking about your director, did you have a different perception of Anurag before you started working with him?
AP: Anurag Basu and his wife Tani Basu jointly directed this. When I went and met them for the first time, I was a little nervous to be honest because he’s such a big name. I didn’t know what to expect. But he’s so chilled out and down to earth. I’d heard stories about how it’s fun to shoot with him, but also scary (laughs), because he doesn’t really work with a fixed script. And I like to prep myself before I shoot, so for me it was very unnerving because I’d never know what I was shooting the next. It was all a surprise! He makes the atmosphere so light… constantly fooling around and chilling – I had no idea he was like that.
Team MM: So you’d say this was a learning experience for you?
AP: I learnt a lot. It took me out of my comfort zone. We get set in our ways. not good for an actor to follow a pattern. (laughs) Here there was no pattern! I remember this one time on set I was learning my lines in shuddh Hindi so I used to get super stressed. And he comes to me and goes, “What are you learning?” and I tell him, “The scene we’re going to shoot right now!” “But now we’re shooting a song! What are you learning this for?” It scared the shit out of me and I went all ‘What the..? Where are the song lyrics?!’ And dada is also a cinematographer. So he’d look at the sun and suddenly go, “yeh lighting ke liye song better hoga, song karte hain!” And I was just like, “Okay… I can do this! I can do this!” It was amazing! And the results look beautiful.
Team MM: Do you think this is funny only in retrospect?
AP: I think so, yes! In retrospect!(laughs)
Team MM: Okay. Let’s take a slight detour from our Charulata conversations – if Team MissMalini came to your house for dinner, what would you make us?
AP: I wouldn’t cook myself because you guys will never come over again! But, I’d feed you good food. We’d have chicken brown rice biryani, mutton curry, mustard wrapped fish in banana leaf and probably bhindi, and with the fish, there’s going to be this yum tomato chutney…
Team MM: For someone who can’t cook, this is quite a spread!
AP: I’m a huge foodie! I’m very good at giving instructions to my cook and buying ingredients.
Team MM: Okay Amrita, moment of truth – when was the last time you Googled yourself?
AP: Oh! Just yesterday. We’ve been doing promotions for the show, right? So I just wanted to see what interviews have gone up and what people are saying generally. I don’t Google myself often though… just when projects are coming up and stuff.
Team MM: Cool. Can you describe yourself in 3 words?
AP: I’m trying to think of non-cliché words (laughs)… I’m exuberant, emotional and fun!
Team MM: So all the boys want to know your relationship status…
AP: Let’s leave them hanging on that! (laughs)
Team MM: Back to Charulata, do you think there is one major similarity and major dissimilarity between Charulata and you?
AP: Major dissimilarity is that Charu doesn’t really talk or express herself out loud. She finds it tough to talk back. Another interesting dissimilarity is that she sings beautifully whereas my singing is something my friends make fun of all the time. I think the similarity would be that we’re both vulnerable.
Team MM: If you could be a part of another Tagore story also, which one would you choose and why?
AP: I don’t remember the name of the story, but it’s the one where the woman comes back from the dead to haunt her lover. It’s so interesting. Because of the way I look, I get cast in a certain kind of roles. So it’d be great to play something people don’t expect me to play at all.
Team MM: Okay. And finally, tell me why I can’t miss the Charulata story under any circumstance?
AP: One – Anurag Basu and his vision. Two – Tagore, who is an icon in Indian literature and three would be for the look and feel of the series.
There you have it! Don’t forget to watch the Charulata story unfold tonight at 10pm only on The Epic Channel.