Playing a mafia queen was liberating: Swastika Mukherjee

She recalls being a ‘nervous wreck’ while shooting with megastar Amitabh Bachchan for the courtroom thriller ‘Section 84’

Playing a mafia queen was liberating: Swastika Mukherjee

Swastika Mukherjee has been a resilient fighter from a young age, facing numerous challenges in both her personal and professional lives. Throughout it all, her family, especially her daughter, Anwesha, was her loudest cheerleader. Meanwhile, Mandira Biswas, a simple housewife, finds herself at a crossroads after the tragic loss of her husband. With no one to fall back on, she is thrust into a world of uncertainty and vulnerability. Swastika empathises deeply with Mandira’s plight and her portrayal of the widowed mafia queen in the Bengali film ‘Shibpur’ goes beyond surface-level acting. She internalises the character and fully embodies her struggles, fears and aspirations. Those who are familiar with Swastika’s journey can’t help but ponder, “Could this be a manifestation of her seeking revenge against those who once caused her suffering?”

“Playing Mandira Biswas was truly liberating. Here was a woman hailing from a lower-middle-class family who went out to seek revenge for her deceased husband. But she falls into the vicious circle and then becomes a part of the system. Through Mandira, I have taken revenge against all those for whom I had angst in real life. Mandir’s win in reel life gave me pleasure in real life,” said Swastika.

Director Arindam Bhattacharya’s recent release, ‘Shibpur’, also starring Parambrata Chatterjee, is the first film in her career where she plays a mafia boss and shoots down people like a pro. “It’s a film I am proud of. How often do you see gangster films and that, too, with female protagonists in Bengal? I have never played a character like Mandira in my life. Whenever I do a film, I intend to reinvent myself as an actor. Even after 23 years, why would the audience buy tickets to watch me if I don’t give them something new? Also, I didn’t know holding a gun could make one feel so powerful. I give credit to the actors who convincingly do action scenes on screen. It might look gorgeous on the big screen, but it requires a lot of hard work. I was exhausted. Even pulling a trigger takes so much effort and you need to know the technicalities,” she said.

‘Shibpur’ got into controversy when Swastika came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against co-producer Sandeep Sarkar. Then, the film’s other producers publicly affirmed their unwavering support for the lead actress. “Sexual harassment and death threats are no joke and I have proof. They have removed the name of Sandeep Sarkar, but I didn’t receive any apology. Also, I have yet to receive any promotional plans from the said production house. I didn’t receive any assets that actors share on social media. From the posters to the trailer, nothing was shared with me by the production house. Just sending an invitation card for the trailer launch isn’t enough. I need to know the promotional plan. Funnily enough, I received an email in which I was asked to share my marketing plan for the film. When did actors start sending marketing plans? Yet, I spoke to the media because I know ‘Shibpur’ is a well-made product and since I am acting in the film, my audience would want to know about it,” said Swastika, who played impactful characters in ‘Saheb Bibi Golaam’, ‘Take One’, ‘Jaatishwar’ and ‘Shah Jahan Regency’.

Nowadays, Swastika is super busy and spends most of her time in Mumbai. Her last outing, ‘Qala’, demonstrates her versatility and ability to leave a lasting impression on viewers, solidifying her footing in the Hindi film industry. Her slew of projects in the OTT space, namely ‘Dil Bechara’, ‘Pataal Lok’, ‘Tasher Ghawr’, ‘Mohomaaya’ and ‘Criminal Justice: Adhura Sach’, have not been easy characters to pull off. Even her next Bengali OTT project, ‘Nikhoj’ will see her as a cop. In several interviews, she mentioned her desire to do lighthearted roles. “I don’t think I would be comfortable doing lighthearted roles now. In ‘Qala’, I had to move into a dark space. It wrenched me emotionally. But it was deeply satisfying,” said Swastika.

2023 marks her 23rd year in the film industry. Never succumbing to haste, she selects her roles carefully. “I have never rushed into anything. I would rather do one good project than five bad films in a year. For me, quality matters over quantity,” she smiled.

Her next, however, is a massive one. She will be seen in the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer courtroom thriller ‘Section 84’, which also stars Diana Penty, Nimrat Kaur and Abhishek Banerjee. She recalls being a ‘nervous wreck’ while shooting with the megastar.

She has started shooting for Bhattacharya’s Bengali film, ‘Durgapur Junction’. Additionally, Swastika has also given an audition for a significant Hindi project in Mumbai. So, does she still need to audition?

“It irritates me at times. But now, the number of auditions has come down from 100 to two. The film industry in Mumbai operates differently and auditions remain a common practice. So, I learnt my lines and asked for a costume brief meticulously before the audition. I believe that before you give auditions, you need to become that character. If the project happens, it will start in July. I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” she said.

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