‘OTT platforms have broadened the scope of people working in regional cinema,’ says Swastika Mukherjee

Swastika Mukherjee is a very busy woman these days. One of the projects she is shooting for is the intriguingly named ‘Black Widows’ for Zee5, a dark comedy about three best friends who plan to kill their husbands, while the other project is Charitraheen 3 for Hochoi. But, it was her character, Dolly Mehra, in the Amazon series Pataal Lok which got her recognition. This was followed up with her outing in Sushant Singh Rajput's swansong, Dil Bechara (Disney HotStar).

Do you have any plans to switch over to Bollywood?

I don't think there's anything to switch to as such. OTT platforms have widened and broadened the scope for people working in other regional industries. Mumbai, too, has started focusing on getting talent from all over India.

How do you think the OTT platforms are changing the scene?

The change can be seen starting from the casting process itself. Whether it’s the star directors or independent filmmakers, everybody is going through casting agencies where proper auditions take place. It isn't how things would take place a decade ago, 'Ki mere jaan-pehchan ka hai, ya mera dost hai toh lelo.' We, actors from the regional film industry, thought it will be way more difficult for us to venture into the national platform, because familiarity will always be preferred. But, now, with the onset of casting agencies, it's not important to always be in Mumbai. Initially, it used to be important that one should be physically present for the auditions, but over the last two years, I have been sending my videos from Kolkata, Delhi or wherever I have been.

You are a star in Bengali cinema, but do you still have to introduce yourself during the auditions here?

All the time! Even till four years back, Mumbai was clueless about what was happening outside Bollywood. So if you are not somebody who has done a Bollywood film, despite having an impressive body of work and collaborations with internationally-acclaimed directors, they would be completely blind towards you. Its only when you mention some Bollywood role that there would be a twinkle in their eye.

How does it feel to be called the 'Pataal Lok’ actor or 'Dil Bechara' actor, and being treated as almost like a newcomer?

I've stopped getting annoyed by these things. These films or web series have come out in the 20th year of my career, but one only seems to have 'arrived' when you've done something in Bollywood. I just keep thinking to myself, 'What was I doing all this while?'

You were part of a Marathi film called Aaron (2018). How did you go about learning the language?

I watch a lot of Marathi films. But knowing a language and understanding it is a different ball game altogether. Also, I was confirmed to be in the movie at the last stage. So there was no time for me to learn the language and go through the process of having a tutor. So I just mugged up my dialogues like crazy. But, then I came to know it’s a sync sound film! So, even on set, I used to get hold of anyone who was free, whether it was a spot boy or the light man, and practice my dialogues while asking them if I was getting my accent and diction right!

What do you make of whatever happened post Sushant Singh Rajput's death?

I feel an artiste deserves respect, whether they are alive or dead. I keep telling everybody whenever a film or web series of mine releases to please watch it while I’m still alive! Detective Byomkesh Bakshy was seen by the entire world after the actor passed away. Millions of people today have watched it and not even one per cent of that feedback was there when the film had actually released.

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