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‘I try and strike a balance between commercial and content-oriented films’

Even though she hails from a film family, movies were never on her mind. Yet, after a career spanning 11 years and some of the most successful Bengali films to her credit, actress Koel Mullick is the reigning box-office queen in Tollywood. The actress discusses her career and the Bengali film industry. Read on...

Your film Arundhati released recently. Are you happy with the way the film has performed?
I am getting extremely positive reviews for my performance and I am very happy. It was a dream role for me. In fact, this was one of the toughest roles I have ever portrayed. I had to undergo a lot of fitness training for it. For instance, I learnt sword fighting and horse riding. Initially, I had thought I would be using a prop as a sword but my action director made me use a real sword so that my muscles would pump up and my jaw would look tense with the weight of the sword.

Also, since it is a period film about a warrior queen set decades ago, I had to showcase the glamour of power and not merely look all dolled up. So it was challenging both mentally and physically. I had to also work hard on my body language.

Your father Ranjit Mullick is a famous Bengali actor. Was acting a natural career choice?
Not at all. I was in school when I got my first offer. A director had asked my father if I would be interested in acting. But like all Bengali families, my dad thought it was best I complete my education. In fact, he told me about that offer much later as he didn’t want to distract me from my studies. Later, when I was doing my graduation, I got another offer, which was for my first film Nater Guru. By this time, my dad decided I was mature enough to take up film offers. The film was based on a famous novel by the great writer Samaresh Basu and my dad was also cast in the film. He gave his nod because it was a rom-com, which was a famous literary work and he thought it was a film which was best suited to be my debut platform.

I was very fortunate that I bagged my first film when I was in my first year of college. But to tell you the truth, films were not on my agenda. I have done my Masters in Psychology and I wanted to become a psychologist. I was very studious and focused on academics.

I was such an introvert in my teens that when my father had meetings with people from the industry, I would lock myself up in my room, even if it meant staying there for four hours! I was aloof from the industry as a kid. When I was on my way to shoot my first film, I waved goodbye to my relatives all teary eyed, as if I would never return. (laughs)

With your industry background, the pressure to live up to your father’s calibre must have been huge.
Absolutely! Almost the entire Bengali film industry turned up on the first day of my shoot, because they were all friends of my father’s and they wanted to see how this new girl
would perform.

Since your debut in 2003, how much has the Bangla film industry grown?
It has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, the change had already taken root by the time I made my debut. There was a time when it was impossible to imagine a regional film going overseas. But my second film went to Singapore, parts of Europe, Spain, Milan and Cannes. The audience had stopped going to cinemas but thanks to multiplexes and better films being made, they have returned to movie halls. This obviously brought about better returns for our films and for producers to invest more. on special arrangement with box office india
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