The festive spirit of Durga Puja or Pujo can be seen everywhere around, as this is the major festival celebrated by Bengalis across the globe. Durga Puja annually coincides with the 9-day-long Sharad Navratri, celebrating the victory of good over evil. Famous Bengali actress Ritabhari Chakraborty spoke to Zee News Digital and shared her Pujo experience. She also talked about gaining 20 kgs for a film role and her journey through it.
Q. How is this year’s Durga Puja going to be different?
A. In the last two years we could only feel the essence of Durga Puja and not have the usual grand celebrations because of COVID restrictions. This year’s celebrations remind us of the years before COVID. We have gone all out doing everything that we can, almost overcompensating in a lot of ways. I’m the face of a puja this year and I was involved in picking up the custom design inside the pandal and all the work it required.
Q. Your best memory of the Puja through the years.
A. What I enjoy the most about Puja is the joy of giving. I’m very big on buying gifts for family and friends. And you won’t believe that my friends actually tell me if there was a profession built around buying gifts, I would be very good at it. I still remember when I was 15 and I had just started modelling, I had bought a purse for my grandmother. And I remember how happy and proud she was. She was a private person and never quite expressed her feelings, but the look on her face on receiving the gift was priceless. So ever since I started working at the Ideal School For The Deaf – we have 84 silent children now – my favourite school day has been the day when I give out new clothes to the children just before the pujas. Some of them will put new clothes over their uniforms and show it to me, and that’s my biggest joy, every year.
Q. So where is the school? Is it in Kolkata?
A. The Ideal School For The Deaf is located in the Salt Lake area of Kolkata, and I live very close to it. This school is a major part of my life today, and living in the vicinity allows me to visit whenever I want to.
Q. Are you planning to go pandal hopping in Kolkata this year during Durga Puja? And do you have a favourite pandal?
A. Yes definitely. My favourite is Dakshin Para Durgotsab. I’ll be giving Anjali with at least 10,000 people on Ashtami. It will be a one-of-a-kind experience.
Q. What did you buy for yourself this year?
A. A green Masaba saree and gold jewellery. Like Kalyan Jewellery is literally my wardrobe.
Q. Besides your fondness for your students, do you have a special person in your life?
A. As far as personal life is concerned, I would only say that I’m absolutely engaged and married to my work.
Q. You have gained 20 kgs for your new film, Fatafati. How easy or difficult was it for you, shoot for it, and your character?
A. The weight part was actually quite difficult because I have always been somebody who’s known to have a very fit body. If I give you an example, you know how people associate a certain kind of body with Bipasha Basu, they cannot imagine her ever becoming plump. I knew that showing any kind of weight on screen may go against me and I actually got trolled for it. When I openly spoke about my surgery, there were a lot of people who were nice and kind and supportive. This was the time when I wanted to do a film about body positivity and I really wanted my experience to transcend into a project. Thankfully, the producers already had a script in place. The only challenge was gaining 20 kgs to look the part of a plus-size model. I was convinced I should do it so I went about it in a methodical way by consulting a nutritionist. I gained weight by eating healthy foods and not by binging on junk.
Q. When is the film coming out?
A. It will be released on Women’s Day next year.
Q. So, besides this one, what are your other projects?
A. I don’t like talking about films I have signed till it has gone on floors. I can happily talk about Fatafati because I have finished filming. All I can say is that I have both Bengali and Hindi films in the pipeline.
Q. Are you working on any project that is likely to be released on OTT platforms?
A. I’m reading a few scripts that may be released on OTT platforms but cannot talk about it unless it is finalised. OTT platforms have their own appeal and command a huge audience today. I’m looking forward to a Hindi feature film that will be announced in November.
Q. Who are your favourite co-stars from the Bengali film industry?
A. One of my favourites is my Fatafati co-star, Abir Chatterjee. He is truly inspirational. Despite a huge body of work, he is so humble. I really admire him.
Happy Durga Pujo and Navratri to all!