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NO LIMITS FOR SEEMA

"Yes, physical beauty is still the most sought-after attribute in this industry, but I have taken a road that I want to follow on my convictions."



Seema Biswas: actress by instinct

THE IMAGES don't match — one of an Assamese woman in her thirties tending a quiet garden in a Mumbai suburb, and another of a foul-speaking, hardened criminal with a beedi-roughened voice. I meet the Assamese gardener with a passion for theatre, and the world saw the "Bandit Queen".

Seema Biswas in a pretty white top, black skirt, and a stylishly draped red shawl looks totally unlike the long-suffering housewife Ganga that she played in the previous night's show of Salesman Ramlal. "It is a small role, but this Hindi adaptation of Arthur Miller's classic, Death of a Salesman, has been a dream role for me," says the woman, haltingly. Yes, the bold, brash Phoolan Devi on screen is a soft-spoken, shy woman in real life. "The play has an excellent director, Feroz Khan, who believes in quality and not quantity, the lead actor Satish Kaushik is brilliant in his role of the salesman, and when I first saw the adaptation. I liked it. I always listen to my instincts, and that's why I play Ganga," explains Seema.


The talented graduate of National School of Drama, New Delhi, has been on stage since her school days in Nalbari, Assam. When Shekar Kapoor offered her a role in Bandit Queen, she knew she it was what she wanted most to do, and researched her part tediously. Unable to meet Phoolan Devi, Seema studied the Chambal queen's body language, trying to soak in the nuances of the character. "During the shooting, I used to begin smoking a cigarette, would start coughing immediately, and deliver my dialogue while my throat still stayed husky," reveals this non-smoker, who can go to great lengths to lend authenticity to a role. And for Khamoshi, Seema learnt the sign language, for the small role in Pinjar, she met mentally-challenged people. The Malayalam films with Jayraj, Shantam and Vivats, have won awards and rave reviews. Her latest role in Ek Hasina Thi, whose promos are doing the rounds of the channels these days, promises to be a very sensitive one. "Even in Boom, I was happy about my small role as the housekeeper," says the woman with intense eyes, of a film that went bust.

Seema takes life as it comes. "I take up projects based on their merit. I'm very excited about my role in the play Antigone, an adaptation of a Greek tragedy. Without actually mentioning it, the director brings in the issue of the Gujarat violence, giving the play a contemporary touch. I'm also looking forward to my work with director Avinash, who has assisted many big directors. We will be travelling to various places for the shooting including to orphanages in Assam," says Seema.

Seema has found her own niche in an industry that clamours for stars with conventional looks. "Yes, physical beauty is still the most sought-after attribute in this industry, but I have taken a road that I want to follow on my convictions," says Seema in a pleasant voice that gives away her Assamese origin. Her Hindi is impeccable.


Undaunted by some tragic events in her life, Seema philosophically accepts her lot. "So many things happen in life. Some good some bad. On one side, we have technological miracles, on the other we have corruption. I wish I could do more to get rid of corruption," says Seema.

Why not get into politics, I ask her. And the gentle actor laughs: "I don't think I'll survive in that world," says Seema, who prefers to spend birthdays with visually impaired children or orphans. "And this I do for my satisfaction, not as a charitable act towards them," she quickly adds.

As I take my leave, she leafs through the design magazine that I'm carrying. "I like form, colour, and beauty in nature... I should have studied architecture!" she says wistfully. "Maybe I'll take up set designing or... "

MALA KUMAR

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