Bengali actor Shubhashree Ganguly is all set to star in Hoichoi’s upcoming web series Indubala Bhaater Hotel. Ahead of the show release on March 8, the actor sat down for an interview with Hindustan Times in Kolkata and opened up about playing a 75-year-old, managing work and family, dealing with online trolls and husband-filmmaker Raj Chakrabarty’s political stint.
Indubala Bhaater Hotel goes beyond food, Subhashree said. She explained, “We say the taste is a memory. With food, we create a lot of memories, and stories, whether we are eating out or with our family. From the age of 4 to 75, Indubala’s journey is all about her memories.”
The series also shows the emotional connection between the then East and West Bengal. Often such things turn people sensitive. “It’s definitely sensitive. I think we are the same, we always feel that way. Now we are two different countries but somehow we feel we are connected because of our language. My director has made it careful and with a lot of emotions, to say. I think where there are emotions and honesty, there cannot be any difficulty,” the actor shared why Indubala’s story is free from any such debate.
Playing an older character, beyond real-life age, is a challenge. When asked Subhashree if she borrowed anything from her grandmother who is her inspiration for the role, she shared, “When I read the novel I was really nostalgic. I could feel her all the time. I told my baba (father) that I got a character who is like my thamma (paternal grandmother). I am blessed to play a little bit of her.”
The actor underwent a complete transformation with heavy prosthetics for the series. Her makeup alone took 1.5 hours to complete, but nothing bothered her. Subhashree felt, “The story is so intense. Her life is all about struggles. In real life, the prosthetic makeup, the circumstances, the make up, nothing affected me. She had pain in her life, something I have never felt before. Definitely, that part was painful after the pack up but before that, I did not feel anything.”
Subhashree also shared her 2.5-year-old son Yuvaan’s reaction to her Indubala look. “I face-timed him after my make-up and prosthetics. He is a 2020 kid. He has a genius brain. He saw me for two seconds and he was like ‘oh mama. Mama (has become) thamma.’ We all were in shock,” she burst out laughing.
Indubala Bhaater Hotel depicts how a life of a woman changes once married. She leaves her identity, and country and is even asked to quit her ‘refugee’ language by her in-laws. Did Subhashree go through a phase after tying the knot? She answered, “Yes, a lot of changes happened in my life. My mother-in-law doesn’t like me to enter the kitchen. She doesn’t allow me to do anything. If I am thirsty and want to go to the kitchen for water, she will be like ‘why are you doing it.’ It is in a good way. She is a very progressive woman. I have learned a lot of things from her. I am very lucky. She puts me first, even before her own son. It’s very rare. She is a bigger cheerleader for me than my mom. And my husband…what should I say about him…it will take a whole day if I start talking about him.”
Recently, Raj Chakrabarty celebrated his birthday in February. Subhashree posted a series of their mushy photos on Instagram, including one where they shared a kiss. It attracted mixed reactions with some trolls who called them ‘show off’ in the comments. While fans came out in support of Subhashree shared her reaction, “I am really amazed. This time I am seeing a lot of comments which are supporting the post. See these things don’t matter to us, only one expression comes out and it is this– (flips the bird).”
“Those who love me, their comments matter to us. Those people (trolls) are invisible to us. We are doing our thing. I mean every minute we kiss each other, and we will do that.” Raj’s political moves put his family in question. Subhashree and her son are often dragged and trolled online each time Raj’s career as a TMC leader hits the headlines. The actor candidly shared how she deals with it. “I am a very positive person. In fact, my whole family is. We believe in our actions. We know we are honest. Frankly, these kinds of things don’t touch us at all. Not even a single second of our lives we want to waste on it. We know what we are doing.”
So, does Subhashree feel female actors got through the judgement as compared to their male counterparts in the industry? Raj faces significantly fewer similar situations online, than Subhashree. She admitted, “Women have to face a lot more, as human beings, than men. They (trolls) do it purposely because they know women are stronger. When I started working, it’s been almost 16 years now, words like feminism, gender equality and women empowerment weren’t popular. Now it’s there and we are working on it, fighting every day and we will end up achieving something someday. I think it’s in people’s minds, so the mentality should change. Equal respect should be there.”
Commercial or thought-provoking artsy projects, what is the actor’s pick? “It’s all the same for me because I act in front of the camera. My character should excite me,” Subhashree smiled. What about the possibility of a Bollywood debut? “If the correct offer comes and it excites me, why not. It’s the national platform.”
Indubala Bhaater Hotel is directed by Debaloy Bhattacharya, adapted from the popular novel of the same name written by Kallol Lahiri. It showcases a young girl who grows up in East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh) and later moves to Calcutta (now Kolkata) after marriage. Although her life changes drastically, she keeps a little part of her country alive through her food. The story revolves around Idubala (Shubhashree Ganguly) who opens a quaint hotel within her house. Each dish she serves comes with a story and whoever comes to Indubala Bhaater Hotel becomes a part of her story.
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