Actor Paoli Dam never aspired to become an actor but is elated over the recent success of Bulbbul and Kaali. With the release of the second season of Kaali, an original web series on Zee5, and Bulbbul on Netflix, Paoli’s work has been appreciated by critics and viewers alike. She talks to G20 about looking forward to a corona-free world, the possibility of meeting people in person and getting a chance to entertain her audience again. Excerpts:
Q: You are what drives Kaali as the Zee5 series centres around you. What made you accept this role?
A: First of all the story, screenplay, the character, the unit you are working – these are some things that come in the priority list. But this particular project is the fact that it was a homage to womanhood – it celebrates femininity, motherhood, women’s empowerment – what we talk about in these times. Kaali is the symbol of power and hope. As the name suggests, the protagonist is that – she is compassionate and perseveres to fight against all odds. The show is in a very interesting space – it’s an extraordinary journey of this very ordinary woman and it also captures the unseen underbelly of Kolkata which has never been seen before. When my friend and producer, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, narrated the script, I could immediately relate to it.
Q: In what ways do you identify with Kaali as a character?
A: I think the very essence of her – her indomitable spirit, how feisty she is, her presence of mind. You put her in any difficult situation, she’ll come out victorious. This is what I could relate to her.
Q: Kaali season 1 was a hit. Did you feel a lot of responsibility in fulfilling audience expectations with Season 2?
Paoli: Honestly, the pressure was there when we were launching season 1. You don’t know how something will fare till it reaches the audience. Once Kaali season 1 – the protagonist and the story around her – was widely accepted and appreciated, the pressure was gone. Season 2 was made on a much bigger scale with more characters. When there were so many talented people on board, why would I feel any pressure? (laughs)
Q: Coming to director Anvita Dutt’s Bulbbul, it was a beautiful fantasy film.What was challenging about playing Binodini?
A: Clean Slate Films has been doing some wonderful work centred around women protagonists. Before even reading the script, I knew it was something different and wonderful and I was excited. As a kid, I was always fascinated with folktales and fairytales. For the first time, I got time to work in the fairytale space which is also a serious drama. When I first read Binodini’s part, I was wondering why she is so weird and extremely mean. I didn’t know how to approach her because I couldn’t relate to her and didn’t want her to be in your face. The inputs that came from the gorgeous – and one of the best human beings I’ve known – completely changed the way I wanted to portray her. She said Binodini is a child who was full of regressive thoughts and beliefs that pollutes the mind of a child. She was empty and someone longing for love. She never took the leap of faith to change her aspirations. She was the most tragic character in the entire film. For the first time, I got a character who was the victim of a misogynistic society and playing that was a challenge.
Q: As an actor, what do you look for in your roles?
A: I enjoy playing a woman of substance and entering into uncharted territories. I want to play characters that have not been done before.
Q: You work mostly in Bengali films. Is that by choice or you don’t get offers that you like from Bollywood?
A: I’ll be very honest. It’s not that everyday that roles come my way from Mumbai. I would love to work more in Bollywood if I get content which is beautiful and different like Bulbbul or Kaali or Ankur Arora Murder Case. It has to excite me. So far I have chosen the best of what I’ve got from Mumbai. Meanwhile, beautiful content is made in Bengali films and I love working here. If good content comes my way from Mumbai, then I’d be happy to do it.