Ambition is such a fickle, relative concept. For some, making your Bollywood debut as the lead female role of a rom-com set in the villages of India and the urban outfits of Australia would be a dream come true. While Bidita Bag is certainly happy to play the central protagonist in Prateek Chakraborty’s From Sydney With Love, the Bengali artist, model, and singer believes there is so much more in store for her as an actress. Launching her acting career in the Bengali film industry with Icche, Ms. Bag quickly found an alluring role waiting for her in Bollywood as the impressionable village girl who moves to Sydney, Australia, to pursue her college education. Now fully convicted acting is the career for her, the economics graduate hopes to pop up on Hollywood’s radar in the not-to-distant future. Should good fortune smile on her, Ms. Bag confessed she would love to either be cast by Quentin Tarantino or star in a film opposite Leonardo DiCaprio.
Before Hollywood calls, Ms. Bag hopes audiences will fill the cinema halls and enjoy From Sydney With Love, which opens August 31 and also stars Sharad Malhotra, Reshmi Ghosh, Karan Sagoo, and Evelyn Sharma.
Buzzine Bollywood had the chance to have quite the in-depth chat with Ms. Bag. She spoke to us of the finer nuances of Indian cinema, her many artistic interests, and how she would like to see her acting career develop.
Parimal M. Rohit: You are newcomer to Hindi film but no stranger to the camera. With all the modeling and acting you have done, how would you introduce yourself to a large audience?
Bidita Bag: my modeling career really helped me. It made me camera friendly. I knew how to take light on my face and carry myself with confidence. I have done my bit of acting in front of movie camera. So far people say I have done a decent job. Whatever I do, I do with conviction. Now it’s my luck ... and I don’t know how the larger audience will accept me, but I am optimistic!
PMR: What three phrases best describe your acting style?
BB: 1) First, understanding the film, 2) spontaneous, lively and crisp, and 3) improvisation if needed.
PMR: You have also starred in the Bengali film Icche. What was that experience like?
BB: Icche was my first Bengali film. Before that I never acted in school, theatre or television, neither had I faced any video camera! I was so bad in acting and had no idea about films. Director Shibprasad Mukherjee groomed me for seven days. He rehearsed a single scene in 10 different ways. He has taught me to give variety in a single scene then asked me to decide which variation suits the best for the film. It was a very low budget film sought in film camera, and maximum we can afford to have is only one take. About 90 percent of my first takes were okay.
PMR: How different is Bengali cinema from Hindi cinema? How much overlap is there between both industries? What did you learn working in Bengali film that was able to help you in Bollywood?
BB: Regional films there are budget constraint issues. Infrastructure is small. You can’t spend lavishly. To finish a film in a given budget and time is challenge for all the members in the film crew. That work and time pressure brings best out of an actor. Everything I learned, I learned from Bengali films. Whatever I am today ... thanks to vigorous training from Bengali film industry.
PMR: How would you describe your role in From Sydney With Love?
BB: In this film I am playing Megha Banerjee. She is a girl from Bolpur, Shantiniketan, West Bengal. She bags a scholarship from University of New South Wales (UNSW). She goes to Sydney and she falls in love. Well, it’s not that easy. There are three guys: good boy, bad boy and obnoxious fat boy. These three guys try to impress Megha in their own style. It’s a comedy film. I am playing a serious girl whose only aim is to study, get a degree and make her family proud. This story is about her journey to Sydney, how she opens up to a new culture, her experiences, her love life!
PMR: Tell us a little more about 'As The River Flows.' was it difficult to portray an Assamese village girl? How much research did you have to do for that role? How different was the character from you in real life?
BB: I am a Bengali girl. So I understand little bit of Assamese. But Assamese language is very difficult to pronounce, especially when u have to say “x” as replacement of “s.” Very, very difficult to dub. I am a fashion model for this film. I traveled three months in bus and train wearing saris. I took Assamese classes (and) seen 20 Assamese films. It took almost 10 days to dub the Assamese version, (but the) Hindi version in just two days! I was not even 20 then and I was playing a matured girl who is 30. It was the toughest role I have ever played in my life! It was a political film. Shooting was not a cake on platter. We survived a grenade attack!
PMR: Many movie fans in the United States or Europe believe Indian cinema is just Bollywood. How would you describe the wide breadth of Indian cinema?
BB: No. Indian cinema is not just Bollywood. India is big country with so many languages. Cultures are different, so are their films. South Indian films have huge market in India and abroad. Parallel Bengali and Malayalam films are loved by intellects all over the world. Commercial Tamil, Bhojpuri films are all about entertainment. Films made in northeast part of India talks about how they have been neglected over the years by rest of India. Indian film in itself its a subject to do research on.
PMR: We are seeing a wave of new actors coming into Bollywood. Is the face of Bollywood changing? If yes, how so? What is Bollywood’s current evolution?
BB: With all existing super stars, films with fresh casts are also doing well. Small films with good content and big budget action packed films ... both have their own set of audience. I can’t do so much trade analysis, but it’s a good sign that films are not just nacha-gana (singing and dancing). People are open to experiments. Multiplex culture has changed face of Bollywood.
PMR: What about Indian cinema, in general? How has Indian cinema evolved in recent years?
BB: Yup, Indian has grown matured. It’s experimenting with different kind of stories with smaller budget and all traditional Bollywood-style entertainment-packed films also co-exist. Either films are very real or too unreal.
PMR: What can Hollywood and Bollywood learn from each other?
BB: I find these days Hollywood films are more of action. They are lacking emotions and soul. Indian films have emotions, songs, dramas but they depend on Hollywood technicians to execute action scenes. If they learn from each other, then we can get balanced film with all ingredients that make a film successful.
PMR: Do you have any ambitions to work in Hollywood?
BB: Yes I do have ambition. I really don’t know how to work towards it. I would love to think of Quentin Tarantino casting me in his future projects.
PMR: If you can pick an actor, dead or alive, to co-star with in your dream role, who would that be?
BB: I want to work with Leonardo DiCaprio!!! He is very versatile, not too old. I think we will look good together!
PMR: What is your favorite movie?
BB: My favorite movie is Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring [by Kim Ki Duk of South Korea], and an endless list of Hollywood, Bollywood and Bengali films!
PMR: You are also quite the academic, with a degree in economics. Do you ever see yourself pursuing some sort of career in business or finance?
BB: Right now I am focusing on acting. I have two economists in my family already: my brother and sister in law! I would rather be happy in this creative field!
PMR: You are also a classical singer? What is your favorite song? Who inspires you and your singing?
BB: I used to sing in All India Radio as a child artist. I learned Indian classical (and) can sing bhajans, Tagore songs and modern Bengali /Hindi songs. I am very much inspired from Manna Day, Kishore Kumar, and Asha Bhosle! These days I am singing folk songs!
PMR: Shed some light on your talents as a painter. What is your style? How would you classify your style? Modern? Classical? Is there an artist who has inspired your work?
BB: I can call myself a good color copier. Give me any painting I can make exact copy of that. I can get a job in any museum or at any antique dealer shop! I prefer the classical style. Modern abstract painting - I really can’t relate to that. Cubist painting is the last modern style I liked; that is also very old now! In future, I would love to paint few landscapes and faces that I have captured in my camera!
(All images courtesy Dale Bhagwagar Media Group).