Lillette Dubey happens to be one of the pioneers in the field of theatre and acting. A versatile actor in the true sense of the term, Lillette has been a part of several projects in India and also abroad. Some of her most popular works include Monsoon Wedding, Kal Ho Na Ho, Baghban, Bow Barracks Forever, Housefull and many more. Her latest work includes being a part of Ram Kamal Mukerjee’s Season’s Greetings which is an ode to one of India’s finest filmmakers, Rituparno Ghosh. In an exclusive conversation with IWMBuzz, Lillette spills the beans on her entire Season’s Greetings journey, working with Ram Kamal Mukherjee and Celina Jaitly, the late Rituparno Ghosh and a lot more. Read the conversation below to know more.
There’s something about you and your connection with Bengalis. You have worked with so many Bengalis. From Aparna Sen to Joy Sengupta and Ram Kamal Mukherjee. What’s this connection with Bengalis?
Well, back during my college days, I have had a very close friend who was a Bengali. So I have always been fond of Bengalis. I have worked with someone like a Joy Sengupta for 20 years who has been a part of my theatre for 20 years. I have worked with a lot of Bengali directors. But I am surprised I have not done a Bengali film yet. Maybe that should be on the cards next. But yes, it’s a long list and there’s some connection indeed
What aspect of Season’s Greetings excited you as an artiste?
Well, a lot of things. Right from the way it was written to what it wanted to show and narrate, a lot of things. But a lot of it was because I could never work with Rituparno Ghosh myself. So in my mind, I had it like that I might not have got the opportunity to work with him but the closest I could get is to work in a movie dedicated to him. Ram and I met by chance in Dubai when he had gone there for Cakewalk promotions. We met there at the hotel and I think in 15 minutes, he told me about what he wanted to make and where he saw me, etc. I was quite moved and I asked him to send me the script and all later on. So that’s how things went forward.
Celina and you come from different backgrounds of acting. How easy or difficult was it to set up the chemistry with her as mother-sister?
Well, I think we gelled pretty well right from the very beginning. Yes, you are right when you say that we come from different backgrounds of acting. I have mainly been into theatre and not way too much into mainstream cinema whereas she comes from a background involving a lot of mainstream cinema work. But she has been very good at it and she could easily blend with me and I could do the same too. It’s very important to blend off-screen especially when you are playing such characters that need to show emotions. I feel she has done a fantastic job and things have gone very well.
You know, Kolkata is known for its delicacy in fish and sweets. Did you get to gorge on some delicious food during the shoot?
Well, I love fishes. I remember the food that used to come on sets was lovely and it was for one and all. They would still ask me if I would want to order anything separately but I would refuse because I loved the fish and the curry and there was no way I could not have it. I am not particularly a big fan of sweets that way but I love the traditional ‘mishti doi’. I can not ever let it go. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but I love the mishti doi and also some sandesh. But mishti doi has to be my favorite. I love the fish over there and not just non-vegetarian food, even the vegetarian food is so good. Food over there was taken care of in the best way possible and I loved every bit of it.
Your take on Ram Kamal Mukherjee as a director?
I think he has done a lovely job. What I found best about him was that despite not coming from a film school background or with a huge pool of experience, he was very very sorted about how he wanted everything, right from the aesthetics to the way he wanted to shoot. As an actor, the last thing you want is that your director has no idea what and how things are going to happen. I would hate being on such a set. But with Ram, he was so sure about what he wanted and how he wanted. I loved his confidence. At the same time, he was not at all rigid in his approach. So, if anytime, I would come in and contribute my bit by trying to add some value to a particular scene or sequence, he would actually listen to it and go ahead shooting that way. So, he was confident and knew how he wanted things to be and at the same time, he was dynamic in his approach. I think he is only to get better and better with every project that he will do now.
Lastly, you worked with a transgender actor Shree Ghatak in the film. What’s your take on Indian cinema still not giving enough opportunities to transgender actors?
Well, honestly, I don’t know. It’s actually something to think about I feel. I think any kind of societal progress doesn’t happen overnight and takes time to grow and shape up. We have seen the same in the western countries as well earlier so its not a new thing. Still, I think nowadays we are more open to progress compared to how we were earlier. But yeah you are correct. I haven’t seen that happening much myself but I would love to see this happening a lot more in the future.