'I have started getting a lot of messages from people, directors, photographers...and I realised the importance of being visible.'
"Bollywood hasn't exploited my talent (as much as I would have liked) but I'm to blame for it too," Raima Sen says.
Her last Hindi film was 2018's Vodka Diaries, which sank without a trace soon after its release.
But her career has got a new lease of life, thanks to the digital platform.
"This year, you will see me more in Bollywood," she promises.
The actress, who has been in the industry for 20 years, tells Ronjita Kulkarni/ Rediff.com, "When I first joined the movies, I would have loved to be a part of a really big commercial movie with dancing and singing and all of that. But I have always done niche films, and the audience expects that from me now."
Why haven't we seen you in Hindi films lately?
Four years ago, I took a sabbatical (from Bollywood).
I wasn't getting the things that I really wanted to do.
Bollywood hasn't exploited my talent (as much as I would have liked) but I'm to blame for it too.
I'm not good with PR, I don't socialise much, I don't meet directors, I'm not in the forefront all the time...
I keep to myself.
I think you have to be out there and be there at the right time, you have to meet people, you have to do your bit...
Why do you think your career did not work out here?
I don't know, I really don't know.
When I was here, I was always working.
It wasn't that I wasn't working.
I took a sabbatical because I got some offers in Kolkata. So I went there.
I worked with National Award-winning directors like Kaushik Ganguly and Rituparno Ghosh. These are the directors that one *should* work with.
So it wasn't that I was wasting my time.
If it's a good director, I don’t mind if the film is made in Bengali or in the south.
I have never had any formal training in acting. I have learnt from the director.
As long as I am working, and am doing films that do well and get critical appreciation, I am happy.
Have you had any bad experiences here?
No, nothing like that.
I come from Kolkata, and my grandmother (Suchitra Sen) is a legend.
I have to carry on her legacy in Kolkata; I just can't forget Kolkata.
That's why I went back.
But this year, surprisingly, I have not signed anything there.
This year, you will see me more in Bollywood, thanks to a lot of digital projects coming in.
There is enough work for a lot of people, thanks to Web series.
So now, I'm back!
But I will not do a small Hindi film because I know I can do a bigger Bengali film. That's how I see it.
If I get five bad offers in Bollywood, I'd rather not do them. I'd rather do a good Bengali film.
Are you happy with the offers you are getting?
This year, yes.
I was getting offers earlier too, but nothing that would compare to a Kaushik Ganguly film.
I was not getting offers as good as that.
We love your pictures on Instagram!
I was never tech-savvy.
I was never an Instagram or even Facebook fan.
But six months ago, I realised that I had very less followers.
I felt that nowadays, you have to be seen, especially since I don't go much to parties or message people much.
I decided that I needed to be visible at least somewhere.
That's why I started posting pictures on Instagram and Facebook.
Surprisingly, in the last six months, I have managed to increase my followers. Now, I shoot pictures just for Instagram.
Does an active Instagram page translate to more work?
Yes, I think so.
I have started getting a lot of messages from people, directors, photographers...and I realised the importance of being visible.
It's surprising how many directors have messaged me.
I do so many meetings in Bombay now.
People message me and say when you come to Bombay, please call us... And it's all through my pictures on social media. I'm not doing anything other than that.
Has Instagram given your career in Bollywood a boost?
I have been in Bombay since January now. I was shooting for a Web series.
I have to return to Kolkata for some work, but I will come back.
It helps if you are here for meetings.
I cannot leave Kolkata completely, so I keep shuttling back and forth.
Why don't you sign big budget films?
When I first joined the movies, I would have loved to be a part of a really big commercial movie with dancing and singing and all of that.
But I have always done niche films, and the audience expects that from me now.
I don't think they will accept me dancing and singing.
What Web series will we see you in?
I have been getting a lot of offers for Web series.
I am doing the best of what I am getting. I don't want to do them all.
I recently shot for Aliya Basu Gayab Hai (a romantic thriller featuring three people of different sexual preferences).
I have done a Web series and a film with Mahesh Manjrekar for Netflix.
How do you choose your projects?
I rely on my directors; I am a director's actor.
I go by instinct when I meet a director and hear the script.
I know in my first meeting itself whether I will do a film or not.
I could be doing a small role in a film if I love the story.
I have worked with so many new directors too.
Reema Tagti was new when we did Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury's (who went on to direct PINK) first film was with me, Aruranan...
It all depends on my first meeting with the director -- he doesn't have to be famous; he can be new and know exactly what he wants.
Is there any pressure to carry on your grandmother's legacy?
I feel there are more expectations and pressure for star kids.
For a newcomer, there is no baggage, no expectations. So it's easier.
But when you talk about my family of actors, there is always more expectations.
Initially, I would feel it because they would compare me to my grandmother. And that was not fair.
But things changed after Chokher Bali and people got to know me as Raima Sen, more than Suchitra Sen's granddaughter.
Now, it has become flattery, that I look like her.
But earlier, there was pressure.
Tell us about your childhood with her.
We had a very normal relationship.
When I got into films, she was very excited.
She has seen two or three of my films.
When I was working in Chokher Bali, I would bring back a few stills and show her. She thought that I looked like her.
If any of her films were playing on television, she would call me and we would watch the film together.
If I had to dress up for an event, she would tell me what kind of sari or jewellery to wear. She was very stylish in her time.
She would tell me stories of the film industry in her time.
She would be very excited when a relative would call up and say that Raima's hoardings are all over the place. She would be very happy.
If you had to list your favourite roles, which ones would you choose?
Chokher Bali was a turning point in my career. It changed a lot of things for me.
I started getting a lot of offers after that.
One of them was Parineeta, which is also one of my favourite roles. It was a bubbly character and a part of a beautiful script. And I got to work with (director) Pradeep Sarkar.
Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd was something I had never done before. I got a lot of critical appreciation for that.
Manorama 6 Feet Under was one of my favourite roles.
I did a film called Children Of War, and it gave me one of my best roles for an actor's satisfaction.
I worked in Aparna Sen's The Japanese Wife.
I was very lucky to work with good directors in good stories and roles.
You made your debut with Godmother.
I was very young, very nervous then.
I didn't know anything; I hadn't done any films.
I didn't understand anything too much.
But I did decide to join films after Godmother.
Have you given any thought to marriage?
Marriage is destiny. If it has to happen, it will happen.
You cannot force it.
I am not rooting for it, but if it has to happen, it will.
Do you enjoy the single life?
I am working, earning my own money.
I can stay in Bombay or I can travel whenever I want to.
I can do whatever I want to. I have the freedom.
I enjoy that independence.
Your mother Moon Moon Sen recently lost the election to Babul Supriyo. How did she deal with it?
It was very sad because we had worked very hard in the campaign.
But that is politics for you, you never know.
It's a part of life and she has taken it very sportingly. You cannot guarantee anything in politics.
She had a good five years and it was very prestigious going to Parliament.
Will you ever join politics?
It's too early to say.