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Bengali film industry’s answer to Shabana Azmi
The silver screen is bedazzled with an abnormal bout of energy when she enters the screen. With her debonair looks and immitigable charm, Rupa Ganguly was a fierce force in the Tollywood industry.
A picture of the very vivacious Roopa Ganguly; Image Source- Economic Times

Born on 25th November 1966

Although people from older generations praise her for her role as Draupadi in the infamous Mahabharata TV series, my first introduction to Roopa Ganguly and her acting was through this film directed by Anjan Dutt called Dutt vs Dutt where she played the role of affair laden divorcee lady.

I remember being taken aback when I saw the actress coming on screen with a red dress smoking a cigarette. Something about her aura assured me and anyone who might have a chance to witness her on-screen that she was there to dominate her role and give her best to it.

After this impressionable introduction, I got intrigued by her and her works. During the monotonous lockdown, my best decision was to begin watching B.R. Chopra’s Magnum Opus TV series Mahabharata. Here again, I encountered prowess in acting as Draupadi. In a TV series zeitgeist which is dominated by Lannisters, Monica and Pams, Roopa Ganguly’s portrayal of Draupadi was a much-needed change of palette for me.

Later in one of her interviews, she mentioned that acting as Draupadi was quite a task for her as she was a Bengali and her Hindi accent, pronunciation and dialects were off. She had to put in extra hours to master her dialogue delivery.
Roopa Ganguly in B.R. Chopra's Mahabharata; Image Source- The Indian Express

Recently, I found myself watching Aparna Sen’s most underrated film Yugant where Roopa Ganguly acts alongside Anjan Dutt. The film is a tale about a separated couple meeting each other and deciding to visit the cottage where they spent their honeymoon.

This film required her to play an extremely complicated character of a disturbed yet lonely woman who was facing her emotional turmoil in front of her erstwhile husband and she successfully portrayed all these emotions through the most subtle body movements and eye looks, it was marvellous.

This is only natural on her part as he has worked with the most critically acclaimed directors of the Bengali film fraternity including Mrinal Sen, Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh.

Thus, it is absolutely not a surprise for me when critics draw parallels between the ever-charming Shabana Azmi of Bollywood with Roopa Ganguly of Tollywood as both have a seemingly disarming screen presence.

Rishav Chatterjee Author
History for most might be an academic burden but for me it’s a vessel - a vessel through which one can unlock infinite stories of the past. In this way, history enthusiasts like me simultaneously live in both the past and the present, weaving stories of multiple colours.

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