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'Bold is beautiful'
Bengal's latest and hottest export to Bollywood, Paoli Dam, believes that being bold in cinema is not about unhooking a bra. It is about attempting the unthinkable.
There is an archaic poster censorship law in West Bengal. And it obviously applies to Paoli Dam's tantalising back splashed across the posters of Hate Story visible across Kolkata. Over the last couple of days, blue ink is being poured over the film's posters by indignant censorwallahs. But that doesn't bother the dusky Bengali actor.
Hate Story isn't the first time she has shed her clothes. And it won't be the last either. "I have no inhibitions about doing nude scenes if I like the subject and the character and the director treats such scenes aesthetically, " the 32-year-old actor tells TOI-Crest. "I don't believe in stripping, however, just for the sake of stripping". Paoli doesn't rate Hate Story very high in terms of the sex quotient. "There's no nudity in this movie, there are just some intimate scenes. But overall, the movie is a thriller, " she says.
Paoli created ripples with her role in Vimukthi Jayasundara's Chatrak (mushroom) that went all the way to frontal nudity. You couldn't describe it as graphic, but through the scene where she and a co-star indulge in oral sex, there are glimpses of bare buttocks, breasts and pubic hair. Compared to that, Hate Story is staid indeed. Another 2010, Bangla film, Kagojer Bou (Paper wife), showed her and co-star Joy Sengupta in some very steamy scenes. That was the first film where Paoli went bold, wearing hot pants, bikinis and showing a lot of skin.
Being bold, says the actor, is beautiful. "But I wouldn't define being bold just in terms of nudity. My character in, say, Takhan Teish where I play the role of Silk Smita was bold. My role in Goutam Ghose's Kalbela where I play the role of Madhabilata, a woman who falls in love with a Naxalite and gives birth to a son out of wedlock, is also a bold one. Thus, being bold is not just about shedding clothes or wearing a bikini or unhooking a bra, " says Paoli. "Boldness is saying yes to a script which demands an actor doing something that's not done before in mainstream films. Hate Story is one such film. "
Paoli doesn't shy away from talking about doing steamy scenes either. She is clear about the line between her screen and real persona. "I am open to doing such scenes if my character in the movie demands it. I have no inhibitions and am not driven by hackneyed ideas. If shedding my inhibitions makes my character in a movie more realistic, then why should I shy away? Besides, having no inhibitions on screen doesn't make me a bad girl off screen, does it?" reasons Paoli.
Paoli says her sensuality lies in her eyes and not her bare back. One bold scene that didn't happen was in Italo Spinelli's Choli Ke Peeche (based on a short story by Mahasweta Devi) where Paoli was to have done a topless scene. "I was to play the role of a tribal woman who's shot topless by a photographer. That news shocked many, " she recalls, adding that things didn't ultimately work out and she backed out of the role.
"As an actor, I have no inhibitions playing any role. I am open to exposing just as much as I am open to wearing a burkha. I'm absolutely comfortable with my body, " she says. But she has her list of do's and don'ts. "I am very choosy and selective about my roles. For instance, what I really liked about Hate Story was its script and the female lead character that was so powerful. It's a woman-oriented film and I got a lot of scope to perform, " she says.
Paoli points out that it's not only her dialogues in Hate Story that are explicit - others' are too. Nor is she the first actor to show her bare back. "This movie is shot differently and performed differently, " she says.
Paoli, however, is no Mallika Sherawat or Poonam Pandey. All the directors she has worked with, including Gautam Ghose and Rituparno Ghosh, laud her talents. "She is a gifted actor and can do different roles with rare êlan, " says Gautam Ghose. She has done various sorts of roles in Bangla movies and serials and hence, says Paoli, there is no fear of being typecast in just one role or that of a sex siren.
Paoli has one more Bollywood film lined up. "I have some more offers and will decide on them in a few days, " she says, adding that she's contemplating a move to Mumbai. And for those who want to see more of Paoli in another bold role, there's Elar Char Adhyay, a Bangla movie based on a novel by Rabindranath Tagore, that's due for release soon. Her role here is much hotter than in Hate Story. For, here she plays a social and political rebel in pre-independent Bengal.
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