Indraneil Sengupta: We need to reiterate that we are a secular state

Indraneil Sengupta plays a pivotal role in III Smoking Barrels, the biggest film from northeastern India in recent years. He talks about the importance of making films on contemporary issues and more

Indraneil Sengupta: We need to reiterate that we are a secular state

Murtaza Ali Khan

III Smoking Barrels, an award-winning anthology film directed by Sanjib Dey, is the biggest film to come out from northeastern India in recent years. After completing a successful run on the international film festival circuit, the film is now set to release across India on 21 September, 2018. Actor Indraneil Sengupta, noted for his work in films like Kahaani, and Satyagraha, plays a pivotal role in III Smoking Barrels. Here, in conversation with Murtaza Ali Khan, he reflects upon his acting journey, while sharing his thoughts on the importance of making films on contemporary issues:

Q. How do you look back at your acting journey so far? What advice would you like to give to aspiring actors?

My acting journey has been wonderful. I have worked with diverse film makers, including some of the big names in Hindi as well as Bangla film industry. I feel very lucky to have worked with Rituparno Ghosh, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Srijit Mukherjee, Sujoy Ghosh, Prakash Jha, and Vikram Bhatt. I have learnt so much and I am still learning.

My advice to aspiring actors is to keep working hard. Watch world cinema. Read a lot. Knowledge gives an edge to your personality. Listen carefully. Be attentive and sincere. Believe in yourself.

Q. You played a bisexual opposite Rituparno Ghosh in Just Another Love Story. How challenging was the role? What are your thoughts on article 377 and LGBT rights?

Just Another Love Story was definitely a very difficult role for me. I am no way homophobic but it took me some time to get comfortable playing a bisexual cinematographer who’s having a relation with his director. And he is married at the same time. I did a lot of reading and watched relevant films, Farewell My Concubine being one of them, suggested by Ghosh himself. Till date, I feel Just Another Love Story is my most powerful role and film.

Supreme Court has given a landmark decision and I am glad that the whole of India has embraced the decision wholeheartedly. There should be no binding on love. Consenting adults should be free to love whoever they love and this should have no gender restrictions.

Q. You made a special appearance in Anubhav Sinha’s Mulk. What made you take up that role? How important are films like Mulk?

I did Mulk for Anubhav Sinha. Also, I wanted to be a part of such a strong film. I feel it came out just at the right time when religious intolerance seems to be a serious concern and we need to reiterate that we are a secular state. I am very happy for the kind of success that has come Mulk’s way. It’s not a conventional Bollywood masala film; and yet,people have loved the film, which speaks highly of our audience too.

Q. You started your journey into showbiz with a modeling contest. How do you see such contests?

I started my journey with Gladrags Manhunt 1999. I feel such contests are great for showbiz aspirants to get noticed and to get a taste of the industry. They are a wonderful platform for people from smaller cities who at times have no idea about how to find an inroad into this competitive industry.

Q. You have been actively associated with both films and television. How do you see these two mediums?

As an actor, both mediums are the same for me. I have to do the same thing at both places. But in terms of the luxury of giving enough time to prepare and ponder over scenes and try to extract the best out of every scene, films are always better for an actor. On television you are always running against time.

Q. You play the lead in Sanjib Dey’s anthology film III Smoking Barrels. What are your views on anthology films?

I feel anthology films work great when the stories are woven together beautifully by a common theme. That theme needs to be obvious and needs to connect. In our film, I feel the stories are connected by true human emotions and relevant issues that northeastern India is facing. Anthology films are a very different and smart way of storytelling.

Q. You are associated with both Hindi as well as Bengali films. How different are these two industries? Also tell us about your upcoming projects.

I feel the Hindi film industry is bigger in scale, in terms of budgets and the canvas. But I must mention Bengali films have some great talent, in all fields: great directors, actors, editors, musicians, writers, and also some great stories.

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