Playing the lead in a film is never easy. And if it’s your first? That makes it even harder. But Renée Sen has the confidence of someone who has been doing it for years – and in spite of being a newcomer, she is humble, she is grounded, and she understands the responsibilities that come with starring in a film. “To play a lead in a film is a lot of work. There are a lot of people that put their time, their energy, their sweat, their effort – everything into it. It’s not just standing in front of a camera and saying your lines, there’s so much of back-work. I want to be able to pull off a film without, you know, messing up anything. It is a responsibility, at the end of the day,” she says.
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Inspired by her mother, Sushmita Sen’s career, the young debutante has not only had the privilege of knowing film sets inside out before starring in a film herself; she’s also learned some valuable lessons. “You know, when we’re children, we always idealise our parents and what they do. They always show us the good side of it. but it’s not like they’re letting you believe there’s only good here,” she says, “While my mother showed me the love, praise and adulation one received, she also made me aware that everything is very fickle. So I need to be very strong, very independent, and stay grounded.”
With an unconventional start to her Bollywood career, Renée Sen is playing Diya Kumar in the Kabeer Khurana directed short film, Suttabaazi. “I know it’s not the conventional Bollywood launch, but my mother has always encouraged us to take decisions and be independent. She wanted me to do it – whether it’s a full film or any project – on my own merit, which is why I feel like Suttabaazi is important,” she adds, “I got the part on my own, after all.”
Renée’s experience shooting too was nothing short of fun. “Everyone’s been so kind and so encouraging, considering I’m a newcomer. They’ve been so patient with me, and I feel like I’m home!” she says. And after following endless safety protocols, with work hours that would exhaust anyone, Renée’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned. “Even though it was erratically raining every time we shot, with so many safety precautions, and barely any time to rest, I loved it. I love my job,” she says. “And we managed to complete a short film!” she exclaims.
When asked about the plot of the film, Renée Sen turns coy. “I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say this – it’s a heartfelt story about a girl, my character, Diya. It revolves around her relationship with her parents during the lockdown, and has an important message,” she continues, “As you are in this day and age of social media, you would know that all of us are looking for some sort of validation. We want to put out the most picture-perfect image of our lives, but that’s wrong, in a way. Because it kind of blurs your sense of reality, and you get sucked into that. You lose yourself. The film talks about that.”
And as for her character? While Sen maintains a neutral perspective towards her character, she does relate to her in ways. “Honestly, I think all of us, at some point, have been Diya. Minus the smoking, of course,” she laughs, “She’s someone who’s rebellious, goes against her parents. Yet she’s trying to connect with them. Eventually, you get tired of rebelling, right? You’ll feel alienated. So there’s that feeling of how do I get through them, and how do they get through me?”
As her character deals with her relationship with her parents during the lockdown, we turned to Renée to ask her how her experience with the lockdown had been like. “Well, I got closer to my dream during the lockdown, and really worked towards my ambition,” she shares, “It’s also taught me patience. In the long run, things will work out, you just need to keep working towards it. I think I’ve become calmer and more focused. 2020 taught me not to overthink, so I’m going to work towards what I want, but I’m going to let it flow. It does get very tough sometimes, but you have to keep going.”
Suttabaazi releases on January 10th. Watch the trailer here: