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Passionate about THEATRE

From fierce Phoolan Devi to a hapless housewife, Seema Biswas has played it all. Next, you might catch the Assamese actress doing set designing



Seema Biswas: actress by instinct — Photos: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

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 Salesman Ramlal, a stage play. "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 actress, haltingly.

Yes, the bold, brash Phoolan Devi on screen is a soft-spoken, shy woman in real life. "The play's director, Feroz Khan, 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 trust my instincts, and that's why I chose to play Ganga," explains Biswas.

The talented graduate of National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi, has been on stage since her school days in Nalbari, Assam. When Shekar Kapoor offered her a role in `Bandit Queen', Biswas knew it was what she wanted to do, and researched her part thoroughly.

Unable to meet Phoolan Devi in person, Seema studied the Chambal queen's body language, trying to soak in the nuances of her personality. "During the shooting, I would smoke a cigarette, but would start to cough immediately. So I ended up delivering my dialogues while my voice remained husky," reveals this non-smoker, who believes in being authentic with her role. And, for `Kahmoshi', Seema learned sign language, and for the small role in `Pinjar', she met mentally-challenged people.

The Malayalam films with Jayraj, `Shantam' and `Vivats', have won her 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." However, the film flopped at the box office. Seema takes life as it comes. "I take up projects based on their merit. I'm excited about my role in the play Antigone, an adaptation of a Greek tragedy. The director subtly 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. We will also be travelling to orphanages in Assam for the shooting," says Biswas.

The actress has carved her own niche in an industry that clamours for stars with glamorous looks. "Yes, physical beauty is still the most sought-after attribute in this industry, but I have followed my convictions," says the actress with Assamese origins. Undaunted by some tragic events in her life, Biswas accepts her lot philosophically. "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," she says.

Why does she not enter politics ? The actress laughs: "I don't think I'll survive in that world," says Biswas, 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 is points out. As one leaves, she leafs through the design magazine that one is carrying. "I like form, colour, and beauty in nature... I should have studied architecture!" she says wistfully. "Maybe I'll take up set designing... "

MALA KUMAR

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