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'It Slowly Dawned On Me That I Had Won'

Last updated on: June 05, 2024 23:51 IST
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'I want to believe that now the world is my oyster.'

IMAGE: Anasuya Sengupta at the Cannes Film Festival. Photograph: Kind courtesy Anasuya Sengupta/Instagram

As Anasuya Sengupta stood at the conclusion of the Cannes Film Festival receiving the Best Actress award in the prestigious Un Certain Regard section, her mind was floating in a state of disbelief.

Reliving that golden moment, Anasuya says, "I was listening intently to what (jury member) Vicky Krieps was saying while announcing the award... she said, 'We decided to give the prize to that person who got up everyday and went down to hell, who gave her skin for this film.'

"I was moved even hearing just that, when my name followed it was a few seconds of utter disbelief.

"I was sitting between my co-actors Omara (Shetty) and Tanmay (Dhanania), and they both yelled out in joy. It slowly dawned on me that I had won, and it was a surreal feeling realising that my immense hard work had, I believe, paid off."


IMAGE: Amul salutes Anasuya Sengupta after her win at Cannes. Photograph: Kind courtesy Amul India/Instagram

All she wanted to do after landing in India was to reach home. "All I could think of in my head at that point was I wanted to hug my family and tell them I won. I think the validation and adulation from one's family is always that much more special.

"And now suddenly with the love coming my way from all quarters, everyone feels like extended family, because I sense the warmth they have and the wishes are so genuine. My personal pinch-me moment was the Amul ad, I think, and my family is still celebrating that."

IMAGE: Anasuya at the success party in Mumbai after her win for The Shameless. Photograph: Kind courtesy Anasuya Sengupta/Instagram

From art direction to acting to global recognition, Anasuya's success story is is like a Cinderella story. She agrees.

"I suppose it could appear that way! I see my life and journey so far as that of a multi- disciplinary artist. Be it art direction, or my illustration work, and now acting, I believe that the practice of one art form almost always enriches another.

"I believe everything I have done in my life so far has held me in good stead for the work that I now want to plunge into. It's exciting for me to see this as something that can bring a newer more diverse aspect to Indian cinema, for film-makers and particularly for women in film.

"I'm discovering newer sides to myself and think I want to explore it that much more."

IMAGE: Omara Shetty and Anasuya Sengupta in The Shameless.

Speaking on how she got this plum role in The Shameless, Anasuya says, "I had tried my hand at acting before art direction took over. Growing up, I was always involved with performance arts in some form or the other, be it school plays, elocution and eventually theatre groups during my university years.

"My director Konstantin Bojanov and I had been Facebook friends for a few years because of common film-maker friends. He used to follow the art that I posted quite keenly, and that was the extent of our interaction with each other.

"I was, therefore, completely caught off guard when he sent me a message on Facebook asking me to potentially try for one of the leads in his next feature.

"Though initially surprised, once I read the script I knew I simply had to do it. Parag Mehta and Konstantin spent months trying to lock the right actor for this part, so when they settled on me, I couldn't have been more thrilled and grateful.

"I think what set the ball rolling for me was that I fell in love with my character Renuka as soon as I read the script. She was powerful, she was strong, she was tender -- a hero or even a sort of an icon in my eyes!

"I wanted to stand up for her no matter what, and that became my starting point of entering her/my universe.

"It was challenging, sure, there was a great deal of both physical and mental work that I put into building this character. I had a fantastic director, coactors, and a team of thoroughly professional and able technicians around me.

"Every person involved in the film came with a deep love and passion to tell the story. To say that that helped, is an understatement."

IMAGE: The Shameless Director Konstantin Bojanov with actors Omara Shetty and Anasuya Sengupta. Photograph: Kind courtesy Konstantin Bojanov/Instagram

Anasuya felt a sense of kinship with Director Konstantin Bojanov right away.

"I believed in his vision, and very quickly I think I understood how he was seeing this film play out in his head. I workshopped and played out the part in my head over and over again till it felt right to me. I wrote her into existence by writing page upon page in my notebook about her probable backstory.

"I worked on keeping my imagination strong and fertile, birthing my character Renuka in my mind, and then worked backward to bring her alive. It was essential for me to tell her story truthfully, have fun with it and layer it with almost a Bachchan-esque 'angry young man' flavour, yet capture the tenderness and love that lies deep within her.

"These are real people, real women, and I wanted to play her with all the love that I could muster. I now realise that maybe I was able to achieve that, after all. I had a great time filming, perhaps the best time of my life!

"It was a challenging film to mount, very demanding creatively, and with constraints atypical of relatively smaller films. Our producers worked tirelessly to put it together and it was beautiful for me to see so many people from so many different contexts come together in shared passion to tell the story of The Shameless."

IMAGE: Anasuya Sengupta in The Shameless.

For Anasuya The Shameless is a testament of what cinema truly is. "A collaboration of people from across the world who come together to make something they believe in. The film has truly been that.

"Be it Akka, urban factory, TPHQ, Klas films, House on Fire, Shanta Nepali productions who line-produced in Nepal, all of them were on the film's side and backing Konstantin's vision.

"And then to be backed by my co-stars, who are such genuine, warm and powerful people and performers. I've been lucky to say the least. The Best Actress award can only go to one person alas, but it's much more than a personal achievement for me."

IMAGE: Anasuya Sengupta walks the red carpet before The Shameless was screened at Cannes. Photograph: Kind courtesy Anasuya Sengupta/Instagram

The Cannes-do-it actress doesn't want to believe her world has changed. "If anything I want to believe that now the world is my oyster and as an actor and production designer, I want to be able to break the traditional barriers of what is considered possible. There's some very exciting work that's been coming my way, so fingers crossed."

Payal Kapadia also made the country proud at Cannes.

Anasuya feels a deep kinship with Payal . "There aren't enough words to describe the feeling. I adore Payal and the entire cast of her film. Many of us are friends; and to go together with our films, which then went on to bag these prestigious awards... how to even put words to this feeling.

"It really felt like going as a team. Standing together on a world stage connected by our friendships, our mutual respect and admiration for each other's work and efforts.

"It feels like a pivotal moment for many of us here trying to make the stories we hope to tell and say. I'm genuinely hopeful that this paves the way for so many more varied voices, particularly women to be able to tell their stories and be the change we so want to be."

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