‘I am what I am because of my parents’

Debarati Palit Singh
Monday, 7 May 2018

National Award winner Riddhi Sen talks about winning the prestigious award for playing a transgender in Nagarkirtan.

Nineteen-year-old Riddhi Sen has become one of the youngest actors to receive the National Award. The actor received the Best Actor award from President Ram Nath Kovind during the 65th National Film Awards ceremony in New Delhi, for his portrayal of a transgender in Kaushik Ganguly’s Bengali film Nagarkirtan. 

Sharing his excitement on receiving the award, Riddhi says, “It was brilliant! However, the most exciting part was the ambience, being present amongst people like Yesu Das, A R Rahman, Pankaj Tripathi and Amit Masurkar. They are the best artists and filmmakers in India so it was a great feeling being with them. I was also in touch with Shekhar Kapur for the last couple of days and had also met the jury members. The jury appreciating my work was a fantastic feeling.”

Nagarkirtan has won not just one but four National awards, which Riddhi informs, the team had not expected. “This is a great step from National Award committee. For example, Newton is completely an anti-government film, but it won the Best Hindi film. Similarly, Nagarkitan dealt with the transgender issue. Considering that homosexuality is criminalised in the country, we had to make only two cuts. We are therefore indebted to the jury members. All the major awards are won by regional films so the entire credit goes to the jury.”

Importance of awards
This is not the first time, the young actor has received such a prestigious award. At the age of 15, Riddhi was honoured with the West Bengal government’s the Mahanayak Samman for his performance in Open Tee Bioscope. What do awards really mean to him? The actor replies, “I think an award is for a particular performance. It gives an actor the confidence to do better. Having said that, there are some great artists who haven’t won an award and there are others who have won several awards. As long as someone loves their work, nothing really changes. But who doesn’t like getting an award? (laughs)”

Playing a transgender
Riddhi is portraying the character of a transgender in Nagarkirtan. Was it his most challenging role till date? “Definitely. Since I was not playing my gender, that was a huge disadvantage. I couldn’t keep any nuances of myself. Also, more than understanding the physicality of a girl, I had to understand their psychology, which was the trickiest part. I was focusing on the fact that I shouldn’t be over doing it, because if I did that, people would be laughing, while watching the film. That was the fear I constantly had and that’s where my director Kaushik Ganguly helped. This is one of the best scripts of his career. His approach towards actors and acting is so clear. He writes a complete blue print for an actor, and if you follow it clearly, you will find answers to all your questions,” says Riddhi, adding that his co-star Ritwik Chakraborty’s guidance also helped him a great deal.

Besides that he was also working on his internal preparation. “I met transgenders to understand their life story. I also observed my mother and girlfriend to understand their physical nuances. Unlike Hollywood or Bollywood, we don’t have the infrastructure and money where you get the time to prepare for your role. That was a bigger challenge because we knew we have to finish the shoot in 20-25 days,” he adds.

Role of theatre
Not many know that Riddhi started off his career on stage at the age of three. His father is a well-known Bengali stage and film actor Kaushik Sen, who founded the theatre group Swapnasandhan. But the actor maintains that he doesn’t like discriminating between stage and camera. “There shouldn’t be any difference for an actor because both the mediums are the same. I owe films and theatre equally,” he says.

He adds that the biggest thriving force was the atmosphere at home. “I am what I am because of my parents. That’s why I ended up winning an award because they made me understand that my academics is acting. We consider physics, chemistry, maths as true academics, but no one considers acting or cinema as part of academics. They made me leave school after Class X and I studied in private so that I could focus on acting more. My session with each filmmaker was my semester,” he quips.

Carrying forward the legacy
Riddhi’s mother Reshmi Sen is also an established dancer. His grandmother Chitra Sen is also a veteran name in films and dance circle. Does he feel the pressure of carrying forward the family legacy?

“There is a lot of pressure. Many people say that there is an advantage being part of a star family, but the disadvantages are more — you will be judged more and have a bigger competition in front of you. That’s why the debate of nepotism is meaningless. No matter who your father or mother is, you will not move forward, if you do not have it in you. Thankfully, I didn’t have to face too much comparison,” he says.

No discrimination between Bollywood and regional films
Riddhi isn’t new to Bollywood. He has been a part of Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani, Omung Kumar’s Bhoomi and will be soon be seen playing Kajol’s son in her comeback film Eela, to be directed by Pradeep Sarkar. How is he going about choosing scripts in Bollywood? He replies, “For me, film has its own language and I don’t think if I am working in Bollywood or Bengali films. It’s irrelevant to me. As long as the script is good, the length of the character doesn’t matter. I do what I enjoy doing.”

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