Winning National Award is a huge achievement but I’d like to forget about it: Riddhi Sen

Interviewed by Diksha Jha

Amidst the controversy surrounding the 65th National Awards standing tall with the coveted award for the Best Actor for his powerful portrayal of a transgender in the film Nagarkirtan is Riddhi Sen, a Bengali actor. A young prodigy who rose to fame with this honour, Riddhi has proven that age is no bar for talent. In a chat with Diksha Jha, the young artiste talks about his experience at the National Awards, receiving the award alongside the late Sridevi, his upcoming projects, and the National Award boycotting controversy. Excerpts from the chat…

How was your experience at the National Awards ceremony?

The experience was unbelievable. It definitely is a prestigious fact that the award is handed over by the president himself, but also I think the beauty of the award lies in the jury’s decision. This year’s fantastic jury was led by Mr. Shekhar Kapur and I got the opportunity to interact with him for a long time. The news of winning the national award, selected by such a fantastic jury amongst many performances this year that I consider to be better than mine, felt really special. In the ceremony itself, there were many charismatic people like Mr. Rahman, Divya Dutta, Pankaj Tripathi, and being a part of them was a marvellous feeling.

How does it feel to have won such an honour at such a young age?

It is something to be really happy about because who doesn’t like to win awards? But I feel now that the ceremony is over, I would like to forget about it tomorrow because if I keep considering it then I wouldn’t be able to move forward. It is a huge achievement but I would like to concentrate on my coming endeavors.

While portraying the strong role of a transgender girl in Nagarkirtan, did you at any point anticipate this level of recognition?

Not at all. I did the role because of my sheer love for acting and particularly because this film was really special to me. I just wanted this film to be made since it had been facing a lot of problems. The first producers who were offered the movie weren’t ready to produce it and that caused the movie to be postponed. The shooting was supposed to take place 2 years ago and I was really disheartened to know that. Once the shooting began, what mattered was that I wanted to be a part of this beautiful project and get the film done.

Homosexuality is still criminalized in our country and your film had a few cuts too. What is your take on the same?

We were lucky that the movie went through only two cuts and I think we’ll forever be indebted to the jury because if you consider a film like Newton which is completely anti-government or a film like Nagarkirtan which is based on two Transgender girls, they got accepted on the first hand because of the jury who went against a lot of things, put their feet down and got these films recognition at the national level. It is the support from their side which will enable us to have a larger audience, which I hope will in turn bring about a certain amount of change in the society. Of course a film cannot cure cancer, but it will help people question and think about things differently.

Has this milestone changed your outlook as far the future is concerned?

Not really. I had a particular mindset since I started acting and I’ve stuck with that till date. My belief system will never change no matter how many ups and downs I face in life. I will not change my course because of an award rather I will continue on it because of my love for acting and my passion for theatre.

While you won the best actor, the late Sridevi won the best actress. What are your thoughts and feelings on the same?

I have been a huge admirer of her and it was an honour to have won it at the same time as her but her absence was felt. It definitely was a moment of happiness but loss of life is irreplaceable.

What are your thoughts on the National Awards boycott by the other winners?

It definitely was a shock. Had the decision been made earlier, people would’ve had the time to think about it, but the revelation made just a day before was disheartening. Everyone wants to celebrate it together since cinema, art, and music are collective art forms. I felt my team’s absence, but my director had told me that I should go because I do not have any technical grounds to deny it since I was receiving the award from the President. I did speak about this with Mr. Shekhar Kapur and a few other veterans and I feel that it isn’t important from whose hands we receive the award, with all due respect to our  President. In the coming years, people will remember who won the award and not who handed over the awards. It was a big year for regional cinema since it didn’t come out like it did this year in the past 10 years and it’s all because of the jury members. Mrs. Smriti Irani and Mr. President are busy people who do not have the time to watch films. The films are watched by the jury panel who select the winners so it’s their opinion and not the governments’ that have given us the recognition. President’s presence in the award ceremony is a tradition and it isn’t even the President’s award anymore as it used to be. So, I do not believe that the national awards had a political colour to it because of the presence of Mrs. Smriti Irani or any other politician.

Finally, we are all looking forward to Eela. How was the experience acting alongside the brilliant Kajol?

The experience was fantastic and it’s onto Kajol madam’s credit that she made me comfortable and that’s resulted in an ease that shows when we perform any scene together. I don’t feel intimidated by the fact that she’s such a huge superstar because she’s such a wonderful person.

What did you learn from Kajol as an actress?

More than an actress, I’ve learnt from her as a human being. She’s a powerhouse of positivity. Her punctuality and the effort she puts into the characters she plays even after all these years is commendable. She also is very supportive of her co-actors in the sense that she will give me important cues and emotions for scenes even if she’s not a part of them. She isn’t someone who talks about the industry; rather she talks about her family, good movies, and good music.

What was your experience like, being directed by Pradeep Sarkar?

It’s a huge blessing. I’m forever indebted to him for my selection in the movie. I’d shot one ad with him and after that he was convinced that I was the person he wanted to cast as the protagonist in Eela. It’s an incredible feeling when a director like Pradeep Sarkar is confident in your abilities as an actor.

Have you signed any Bollywood movies other than Eela?

I’m not in a hurry to act in many films but I do have the hunger to be a part of good ones.

Is there any Bollywood personality whom you would love to work with in the future?

I would love to work to Shoojit Sircar. I have worked with him in Open Tee Bioscope, the movie which he had produced. I recently watched his work in October and was floored by it. He has a strong philosophy in life and he sticks to it while filmmaking and I really admire that quality about him.