Northeast girl makes it big in Bollywood

Reema Debnath

UNDATED: Bodyguard, the Salman Khan starrer may have got rave reviews across India. But for people of the North East, the movie has given them another reason to cheer.

Tripura born and bred Reema Debnath, now a pro in Mumbai’s television industry debuts with Salman and Kareena in Bodyguard, playing a north Indian damsel.

Born in Agartala and having completed her schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya and Management post-graduation from Kolkata, she cut her acting teeth with television soap Chandramukhi among many other serials.

Bodyguard happened by chance. Among the hundreds to have auditioned for one of the roles, Reema was 86th in the list. With her performance and needless to say entry into mainstream cinema, sharing space with Salman and Kareena, Reema has not only silenced her critics, but won over her family, which wasn’t entirely happy with her decision to move to acting as a career.

Here’s a quick peek into the life of Reema, who is arguably the first face to be in front of the camera on the silver screen from Tripura, though others who give her company are people of eminence including Pancham da (RD Burman and the late SD Burman apart from small screen singer Surabhee Debbarma, of Indian Idol-4 fame.

Mumbai and Hindi came easy:

It wasn’t very difficult to merge into the work and style of Mumbai. I had grown up in Agartala but my college in Kolkata and post grad education had made me comfortable with Hindi as a language. I was also keen on flying (as an air hostess,) but, can you imagine, I was rejected because I was overweight. My inspiration was my mother, who was keen I enroll for an acting course from the Kolkata Film and Television Institute.

Rest is kind of history.

Acting was always in the genes:

From my childhood, I had some different imaginations about life, about people, about myself. I was an average student and I had a thought that what if I was not Reema. What if I was someone else, may be a person who is standing in a cue for bus, or may be a person who is sitting on the footpath, or someone who is a princess, someone who is a beggar. But I never shared my thoughts with anyone because that time I had a feeling that my family or my friends would not understand my imaginations. I think that was the signal from God that made me choose acting as my profession where I would get the opportunity to understand and lead lives of different people.

In 2005, after my Acting course with KFTI, I started my acting career in Bengal with the Bangla telefilm Aloy Phera (2005) first and then in Mumbai. Today, after Bodyguard I feel I have chosen the right profession for myself. This was my destiny.

Did you always see yourself as an actor?

When I was a kid, I was not sure of my profession but I shaped up my imaginations into my work, which is acting. But if it wasn’t for acting, maybe I would have been a business consultant with some corporate house.

It wasn’t as difficult to survive in Mumbai as it was hurtful in answering questions from people who did not even know where Tripura was. I must say very soon Mumbai accepted me as its family. I joined a theater named Nalini Kalamanch. Started getting offers, I wanted to experience in different sectors like TV, commercials, films (regional and Hindi both). I have worked for Bengali telefilm named Aloy Phera, Bhojpuri films Sindoor Daan and Dulha Albela. Then I worked for TV serials like Chandramukhi (DD), Jai Shri Krishna (Colors), CID (Sony), Aahat (Zee) etc. I am also associated with a Theatre Group named “Cadence Theatre Mumbai”. Bodyguard is my best achievement so far.

How do you feel about the transition in your career from the small screen to the big screen?

I am glad I have done my television and grind first before moving to films. There is a lot of hard work that I have been through and I am proud of it.

TV no doubt satisfies your requirement for survival but Films satisfies your hunger for imagination and creation.

Bollywood is just the beginning:

Tell us something about the character Savitha that you played in Bodyguard:

Savitha’s look in the film according to director’s point of view is firm, innocent yet attractive. Savitha is a firm girl from a good family. She is an obedient and honest employee of Thakur Sartaj Rana (played by Raj Babbar). She is appointed to look after Divya (Kareena Kapoor) when she (Divya) decides to go to a different city for her studies. Tsunami starts to like her from the very first day he meets her. He starts flirting with her in all possible ways. One fine day when Savitha realizes that Divya is in love with her bodyguard Lovely Singh (Salman Khan) and plans to run away with him, Savitha can’t stop herself and informs Sartaj Rana about Divya’s plan.

How was the experience to share the screen with Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor?

It was a life time experience. I enjoyed every day of my shoot. Salman Khan is a gem of a person. I have realized so far that he values relations with his family, friends, co-actors, crew, everyone. Being a star I never expected from him to co-operate with me but he did. Many a times it happened that he modified scenes in my favour so that I get the footage. He was even concerned about my look and my comfort during the shoot.

Kareena Kapoor is from a family that is one of the founders of Indian Film industry Kapoors. She is no doubt very professional but very nice. I noticed whenever she used to enter the set she would carry a sweet smile on her face. She is one of the finest actresses in Bollywood. But not just the leads, every crew member treated me with great respect.

Would you like to share any special moment from the sets?

One day Salman ji noticed my makeup was not done properly. He came near me and called the makeup guys. He shouted, “why you guys are not doing her makeup properly?” He instructed them Abhi madam ko lekar jao aur chakachak banakar le aao. Shoot was kept on hold for 30 mins. I was so nervous I started shivering for a while. I mean, a girl will fall in love with a person with this much of attention. If I go back and think all my special moments are related to our Sher Khan I mean Salman Khan.

What is your biggest acting moment?

The biggest moment for me in my acting career was to share the screen with Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor.

What is your message to the people of Tripura?

Tripura has extremely talented people. Be it sports, singing or any other talent. But parents are scared at times to send their children out of the region. My message for them would be “don’t feel scared and rejected. Whole India welcomes you and your talent. You all just have to show little courage. Hope I have given you a small reason to be proud. I love you all.”

What message would you like to give to the youngsters who aspire to be actors?

One thing I would like to bring in notice. Most of the beginners have the mindset that without any good source one can never get a role in films or serials. It’s not true all the time. If you are hard working and dedicated towards your work, you might have to struggle little more but one day you will definitely achieve your dream. You should always take care of yourself and take care of your dream. (As told to Tanusree Chakraborty, a student of Journalism Mentor Foundation)