First of Many: Riya Sen revisits Gajamukta

With veteran actor Suchitra Sen as her grandmother and yesteryear star Moon Moon Sen as her mother, Riya Sen says it was natural for her to enter showbiz. She faced the camera for the first time for Bengali film Gajamukta (1991), where she shared screen space with Moon Moon Sen and Soumitra Chatterjee.

Here’s what Riya shared about her first film:

1. How did you end up being part of Gajamukta?

Every time my sister and I went on the set with my mother, everyone would be like, “Oh my god, she’s going to become a star.” So in my head, I always thought I was going to be an actress, but not so soon. So my first role was when I was five years old. I had one scene with my mom in a Bengali film called Gajamukta. After that, I thought I’d become Madhuri Dixit (laughs). So I was very young when I started. Even the youngest actresses today joined when they were much older than when I had joined. It started as a one-off thing.

2. What do you remember of your first day on set?

I was playing my mother Moon Moon Sen’s daughter in the film. It was a hospital scene. I remember in my first shot, I had to cry because she was dying. I had to wipe her tears. We did the shoot in Tollygunge Club in Kolkata. My shot got over, and my mom was still shooting. I walked around the entire club thinking, “Oh my God, I just acted in a movie!” That’s my first memory. I loved it.

3. Were you nervous?

I think today I am more ready to face the camera. I am more confident, and I know what I am doing. That time, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.

4. How was the rapport with your co-stars when you got to meet or work with them again?

My sister and I did a Geetanjali ad with my mom later in Mumbai. I thought I was the most dramatic until I shot with my mother who’s totally a diva because everyone was giving her so much importance. And she demands that importance naturally. I didn’t see that diva side of her when I was young. Then we did this movie Kolkata Calling together, where she plays my mom. That was also very different because my grandma had just passed away. So she was actually crying when she was supposed to cry. It has been different each time I worked with her.

5. If given a chance to go back to your debut role, what would you like to change or do better?

I wouldn’t like to have started then at all. I was too young. I didn’t learn acting. I was still in school/college, shooting and then going back to studies. You cannot do two different things at the same time. How can you concentrate on one? I keep forgetting long years of my life. So when people ask me what age did I do this video, I say which video? Then I really have to think about what all I’ve done and then things come back to me.

Unlike any other star kid, I didn’t have any A-grade launch. I just did whatever came my way. So, if given a chance, I would change all of that now. But that’s fine, because my career has lasted much longer.

One film or role that inspired you to become an actor?

I started doing proper movie roles and ads from class eight, and I was travelling a lot, even more than my family did then. Since I was balancing travel, work and school, I never really got a chance to watch many movies at that point in my life, because I was always working. I started watching films much later.

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