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I'm truly surprised by Genie award: Seema Biswas

Aug 11, 2006 Subhash K. Jha


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Mumbai, Aug 12 (IANS) Twelve years ago Seema Biswas stunned the world with her performance as Phoolan Devi in Shekhar Kapoor's "Bandit Queen". Now she is the toast of international audience with her subtle, layered and pained performance as the progressive widow Shakuntala in Deepa Mehta's "Water".


Seema has just won the 2006 Annual Genie Award -- the Canadian equivalent of an Oscar -- for her performance in "Water". However, she is quite surprised.


"I'm truly surprised by the Genie award. I didn't expect to be honoured when 'Water' was in competition with so many outstanding films from the world over, like Jean-Marc Vallee's 'C.R.A.Z.Y', which was the clear favourite," said Seema.


She is truly overwhelmed by this honour and told IANS: " 'Bandit Queen' was entirely on my shoulders. But here in 'Water', I'm one of the characters. I feel I've a supporting role. Still they gave me the Genie award for best actress."


Excerpts from an interview:


It is an amazing performance.


Do you really think so? I'm truly surprised by the Genie award. I didn't expect to be honoured when "Water" was in competition with so many outstanding films from the world over, like Jean-Marc Vallee's "C.R.A.Z.Y", which was the clear favourite.


I've seen how people in Canada reacted to "Water" and my performance. People wouldn't stand up after the show was over! I was surprised. Whenever I finish a role I look at the performance and feel dissatisfied.


Deepa was so agitated with me. She kept insisting I was doing very well, and why didn't I believe her? We had a long chat after the Genie award. 'Now you believe me?' Deepa asked. I told her I had full faith in her. Not in my own abilities.


International audiences seem to have forgotten your role in Shekhar Kapoor's "Bandit Queen"?


When I did "Bandit Queen" I was a leading actress in the repertory company at the National School of Drama. So, I couldn't really travel with "Bandit Queen". But I got a huge ovation for that film. But with "Water", I've been with the film even after its release.


"Bandit Queen" was entirely on my shoulders. But here in "Water" I'm one of the characters. I feel I've a supporting role. Still they gave me the Genie award for best actress.


But you seem to have attracted the most attention in the West.


I'm really surprised. And touched. Honestly speaking, I gave "Water" the same dedication that I give to all my films. Once I sign a film it becomes a part of my life. I make a sincere effort in every film. I try my level best to live up to the way a director imagines a character. Deepa is one director who knows what she wants and how to get it. I gave everything to "Water".


Are you unhappy with the way Bollywood has treated you?


It's difficult to say. I'm part of Bollywood. I'm dying to do good work. I'm not a limited actress. But I can prove myself only when I get a chance. After "Bandit Queen" people told me not to accept "Khamoshi: The Musical". I was warned I'd be slotted in the heroine's mother's role. I'm glad I did it. I went by my instinct. I didn't know anything about the way Bollywood functioned. As a passionate actress I crave to do more roles like "Bandit Queen", "Khamoshi" and "Water".


When Sanjay Bhansali told me the story of "Khamoshi", I fell in love with it. "Bandit Queen" had become so unnecessarily controversial. It hurts me. I did my best as an actress. But I was questioned as though I had done something wrong. I was so relieved and happy to do "Khamoshi".


Did "Bandit Queen" become a problem for you?


I don't give up easily. I've great will power. If "Khamoshi" and "Water" could erase the strong image of 'Bandit Queen', I'm sure there's more around the corner. I can wait. I know the trend in Indian cinema is to slot a 35-plus actress in the senior bracket.


Sometimes when I see a good performance or a good film I get tearful and disturbed. I wish I had done it. I'm dying to do substantial roles. I wish I had the power, temperament or calibre to make my own films. But I don't. I've a long way to go. I may not be a great actress. But even to a two-minute role I give my hundred percent.


Are you waiting for "Water" to be released in India?


Definitely. I see no political issue. It's a social issue. Some sections in our society have suffered what's shown in "Water". For me it's shocking to know that widows are treated so cruelly. I'm from West Bengal. So many of my relatives have gone through this ordeal. Such discrimination still exists.


I met a lady in Toronto. She told me how she had to shave her head after her husband's death. "Water" addresses universal issues. I am so glad to be part of a film that takes up cudgels on behalf of a persecuted section of people. I strongly feel "Water" should be released in India. It's not a controversial film.


What are you doing now?


I'm doing Sooraj Barjatya's "Vivah" where I've a good role. Even in Ram Gopal Varma's "Bhoot" I did my best though the role was small. All said and done cinema is a director's medium.


In "Vivah", I don't know how my role would finally shape up. But Sooraj-ji is so honest and so hard working. He knows exactly what he wants. I've worked for quite a number of days for him.


Right now I'm in Chennai shooting for a Tamil film "Thale Magan". I play a negative role of a cop. It's an out-and-out commercial film. I had to do some stunts. I broke my hand. I've told them I can't do the action scenes any longer.


I'm so glad I did "Water". Even if I got no award for it, audiences' appreciation is reward for it. I'd rather have a film be appreciated in totality. Do you think I can get a role like "Water" once at least two years?



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Water


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