I cannot be any other actor. I am Seema and I want to be a good actor. And while being a good actor, I am still learning
She enthralled her viewers with her portrayal of Phoolan Devi in Bandit Queen and Seema Biswas cemented her place as an actor with strong roles be it in Water or Vivah. A role model for many in theatre or screen, Biswas was here in the Capital with Dr Anuradha Kapur-directed play Jeevit Ya Mrit, a narrative of inner monologues of a widow.
Explaining the significance of this play in today’s context she said, “The perspective to look at a widow is still the same. Widows aren’t included in any auspicious ceremonies. They are marginalised and secluded in society.”
Recalling her childhood days, she remembered how women were treated then. “They weren’t allowed to eat twice a day. Hot and spicy foods weren’t allowed and they had to wear white. Times have changed, but the perspective to look at women still has not changed,” she added.
As such she has been trying to bring about a change in society through acting as she feels, her play gives people courage to live their dreams. “The play has a social message. It is better to tell them small things and convince them. I am an ordinary-looking actor and wherever I go with my play, women feel they too can do the things that I have done.”
She says that she has even heard mothers telling their daughters to “go and live your dream. I am here to handle things.”
In the majority of cases, artistes become strong role models in society, and Biswas expressed, “If I have name and fame, it is my responsibility to become an example. I should not make a negative impact on society. It’s my profession and I must make a choice regarding what to do and what not to do.”
Biswas loves acting whether it be playing a dacoit or a mother or an aunt or anything that she feels is interesting, be it on screen, theatre or something else. But she feels that comparisons shouldn’t be made. “I cannot be any other actor. I am Seema and I want to be a good actor. And while being a good actor, I am still learning.”
And being an actor she has no such to-do and not-to-do lists. “I have not ever thought that I should do big roles or positive roles. If there is an interesting role, then I go for it,” she shared.
Films are made and then categorised as good or bad, but the actor said, “It depends on an individual. What a cinema wants to convey — is it well expressed or not?” If it is expressed well, then it is good cinema for Biswas.
With actors doing theatre and cinema both, Biswas said, “Cinema is cinema, and theatre is theatre. Audience should not compare the two. Theatre has its independent position in society.”
She feels that theatre is as necessary as cinema in society. “It is a way to preserve art and culture. The day the audience stops coming to the theatre or to watch movies, both are finished,” she opined.
Underscoring theatre’s responsibility towards society, she said, “Theatre (works) should not misguide people. It should be thoughtful, intellectual and artistic.”
Looking at her struggles in theatre, Biswas feels she is still a learner and that it is her hard work that has brought her till here. “I have not thought about where I need to reach. But I have worked hard.”
For those joining theatre, she advised that one must pick the best thing even from the bad things. “For one to become successful in his/her career, s/he needs to work hard on her/his dreams if s/he wants to achieve. Identify your dream, know what you exactly want to do and work sincerely and honestly,” she suggested. “If you do not work hard or are not sincere, you cannot be an artiste or a journalist because you need to be committed and hardworking.”
Censorship is not important ... Art is also connected to beauty. One shouldn’t avoid reality in such art work, and reality cannot be beautiful all the time
Criticism is a part and parcel of being a celebrity, “but if someone is writing about you then, it is his/her individual thing. It is their right to condemn you and I don’t get affected by that”.
Being an actor is a huge challenge and Biswas said, “My mother faced challenges. She was married. My neighbours used to be nasty to her as she was an artiste. ‘Nautanki karne chali,’ they used to say.”
But time and the way people look at actors have changed; Biswas has felt the changes too. “Now in the same place, I am honoured. I feel proud and happy to say that I am Meera Biswas’ daughter.”
Not only has the perspective to look at artistes changed, she feels that theatre itself has changed. “Theatre act is not only limited to words or languages. There is use of both audio and visual expression in the plays. There are lots of elements to express. It’s too big, wide and vast,” she explained.
Her brilliance as an actor can be seen in cinema too. Narrating her Khamoshi journey she shared, “It was a wonderful experience for me. I still remember those days. After seeing my rough cuts in Bandit Queen, Sanjay Leela Bhansali approached me. People said that the role of a mother will be slotted. I was advised not to take the role but I needed to prove to myself that I was an actor. Had I not listened to my heart, I wouldn’t have done the role. And thank God I listened to my heart and not the people around.”
Art — film, theatre, writing or painting — is a medium of expression. But censorship often threaten one’s work and creativity. “Censorship is not important. You need not have censorships as artists too have their responsibilities. Art is also connected to beauty. One shouldn’t avoid reality in such art work, and reality cannot be beautiful all the time.”