Amrita Puri plays Charulata, one of Rabindranath Tagore’s literary muses in a TV series on Epic Channel called Stories by Rabindranath Tagore, directed by Anurag Basu. The actress talks about her stint on television, playing a Bengali household name and working with the quirks of Basu.
This is your television debut. How different is it to work for the two industries (TV and films)?
It was very different. The pace with which you work in television is very quick. You don’t have the luxury of time. You have to be very focused because you have a limited time frame to nail your scene. It’s also physically demanding because of the hours you put in. The sensibility and aesthetic of SBRT is Anurag Basu, so content wise Charulata is no different than a film.
Charulata is considered a classic. What kind of research did you undertake for the role?
I read the original story by Tagore and left the rest to Tani and Anurag Basu. They guided me along. After a while, I started feeling like a Bengali. When you spend 14 hours a day in costume and on sets, it begins to seep into you. I became Charu and I loved it. I would even order Bengali food for lunch from the same place that dada usually orders from.
How was it working with Anurag Basu?
He is an actor’s director. He can get you to drop your guard and forget everything. All that matters at that moment is that scene. If you follow his lead, everything superfluous melts away and you get to the core of the scene. He is spontaneous and keeps you on your toes.
Who are your personal favourite authors?
Among Indian authors I like Amitav Ghosh, Sadat Hasan Manto and Aravind Adiga. Among the international ones, Murakami, Bill Bryson, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Helen Fielding are my favourites.
You have also worked as a copywriter. What got you interested in acting? Do you still write?
I was a junior copywriter and also used to freelance for magazines. I loved being on stage since college. The passion to act just grew over time until it consumed me completely and I had to pursue it as a profession.
Having spent five years in the industry, what is your take on acting as a career?
That is a tricky question. Acting is one of the most unreliable professions. There’s a lot that is not in one’s control and depends on luck. You have to be prepared for that. You have to really love it to deal with all the highs and lows that come with it.