"I'm never happy with my performances, but that's what keeps me going"
Mumtaz Sorcar is an Indian actress who has grown up in a family of famous performers. Being the daughter of a world famous magician P.C.Sorcar Jr and grand daughter of the Indian legendary P.C.Sorcar, people have always expected Mumtaz to follow her family's legacy. So.... she became an actress. And a magician. And a dancer. And - even a boxer ("I wanted to prove that women can fight too").
After having performed in tens of notable films over the past 8 years, Mumtaz played the lead role of Nandini in the feature drama "Red Oleanders - Raktokarobi", for which she won an Honorable Mention at LAFA. We asked Mumtaz to join us for an interview, and met a multi talented artist. And yes, she's a real perfectionist.
Mumtaz, you recently won an Honorable Mention for your remarkable performance as Nandini in the movie "Red Oleanders - Raktokarobi". Congratulations again! Let's roll back to the beginning, tell us a bit about the background. Growing up in West Bengal, in a very creative family - your father, uncle and sister are all magicians and entertainers. How did you decide to become an actress, what was your inspiration?
Thank you! I'm really honoured and humbled by this award. It feels great to be recognised for ones work. Though I must say, I'm not very happy with my performance in the movie. Every time I watch the film or watch a scene from the film, I find so many mistakes that I have made...wish I had tackled and enacted the scenes a bit better. I keep wishing that i knew some magic by which I could redo my part and correct my mistakes. I'm never happy with my performances...and with every film I keep promising myself to do better in the next. That's what keep me going, improving, learning. I Am my biggest contender. Growing up in a family of show business where everybody is a performer....it was quite natural that I was bitten by the artistic bug. Many keep asking me that why did I choose to join films when I hale from a legacy of magicians. Being the daughter of a world famous magician P.C.Sorcar Jr and grand daughter of the legendary P.C.Sorcar it is only obvious that people expect me to follow my family's legacy. Yes, I too am a magician...i too perform magic (In our family shows mostly)...just not professionally. My eldest sister Maneka is the one who is continuing with the family legacy and is the 9th generation of magician in our family...while my middle sister Moubani and I are stage and film actors. In our family we eat, sleep, drink magic.... so of course I too do magic...just not professionally. Besides, I often point this out to people that.... when my father, mother or my sister perform magic on stage...they 'enact' the role of a magician. It is not that they have some super natural power...but they too are actors, simply enacting the role of a sorcerer. Being exposed to magic,acting, stage craft and performances from a very very early age, acting, performing on stage and in front of the camera came naturally to me. Honestly speaking i never planned to be a film actress. Films happened to me....and I thank 'boxing' for finding me my true calling. My first ever professional performance as an actor was because of boxing. Being in the limelight since my childhood (perks of having celebrity parents) everybody was aware of me being a boxer. Thus when Soumik Sen was directing his debute Bengali comedy film 'No Poblem' he wanted to caste me as his female protagonist's character who was kind of a tomboy and had the body language of a fighter. Soumik had seen me perform in a music video before that (where again I played the role of a girl who was a boxer) and was convinced by my acting capabilities. I had just stepped into college then, when I was offered this film. I had said yes to it thinking that it would be fun to be a part of a film and also get paid handsomely.... knowing little that I would completely and madly fall in love with the art of acting, film making...and finally find my true calling. After that there was no looking back!
Aside from your acting career, you're also a skilled Magician, Dancer, and Boxer. What an interesting combination! Tell us more about that. How did you get into each of these interests, and what training did you go through (or are you mainly self-taught)?
I have always been very athletic since my childhood. I have enjoyed playing various sports...boxing, rowing, tennis being few of my favourites. I have played many tournaments of the above too. Rowing and tennis were sports I played because I wanted to play them for the sheer fun of it....but I learnt to box because I wanted to fight boys. From an early age I was a practical feminist ( maybe not so practical back then...) and was a strong believer in equality and women empowerment. There was a point of time when I was under the immature idea that society see men as the superior sex because men can fight as they are physically stronger than women. Thus trying to prove society wrong and that women too can fight if they wanted to...I joined boxing. Starting off with the intention of fight men....I got sucked into it and fell in love with the sport and saw it as the wonderful sport it is! My mother Jayashree Devi is a trained Bharathanatiyam dancer. Thus dancing was in my blood I guess. I was always passionate towards dancing. In my childhood there was a time when I use to imitate my mother dancing in the side wings while my mother performed on stage. Initially I started learning Odissi along with my sister Moubani (who is a trained Odissi dancer) but later at the age of 16yrs I started learning/training classical jazz (Matt mattox technique) and Kathak.
Let's talk about your role as Nandini, in Red Oleanders - Raktokarobi. How did you prepare for the shoot?
My role Nandini, in 'Red Oleanders - Raktokarobi' was one of the most exciting roles that I have played till date. When I say exciting it is because..... firstly, the character Nandini itself is a very complex (yet simple) character. It is one of the very unique characters that Rabindranath Tagore has penned down....and to be able to enact and bring to life such a character is like a dream come true for an actor wrapped in Bengali culture and heritage. Secondly, I got to play two different characters in the movie... one is Nandini and one is Awditiya. Both are similar yet so different. And thirdly, I got to experiment with different forms of acting. In the movie as you know there are certain parts where we show that the drama Raktokarobi is being enacted on stage. Thus I got to act for two different mediums under one medium...i.e... stage and film! I love performing on stage... Hence, to be able to merge and experience stage and film together was amazing!! Preparing for the film was pretty usual actually. I read my script a zillion times and read the text Raktokarobi by Tagore a million times along with discussing and soaking in every detail my director Amitava had to say regarding the characters... the emotions....the ideology he was trying to portray.... then when it was time to shoot.... I was Nandini/Awditiya for those few days.....Mumtaz was on vacation...lol. Oh yes.. I was also asked to put on some weight for the character....which I did pretty easily!
What was the most challenging thing for your during the movie production, and what scene was the most memorable for you, and why? What did you take away from this film?
The most challenging part during the movie production was my health. I had suffered a major lower back injury few weeks prior to our shoot and was asked to be on absolute bed rest for at least 2 months. I did not want to postpone shoot as doing so would have turned the whole schedule up side down and also because I was too excited and ready to be Nandini. So I took some extra pain killers, courage and blessings from my parents and started off with the shoot. I remember lying down flat on a wooden bed after every single shot as I was advised to keep my back straight and rested as much as possible. For me every scene was memorable. I lived every part of the film.... I lived every bit of Nandini. At the end what I realise is that we All have a Nandini inside us. We all have revolution churning inside us. It is all a matter of time and maybe a bit of inspiration/ instigation till it explodes out of us.
Over the years, you have appeared in so many films, commercials, music videos... What are your favorite genres to work on, and why?
I have done more than 30 films over a period of 8 years other than the few short films, music videos, commercials and dramas that I have done. Out of them all I must say that I love acting in films and on stage the most. I do not have any particular genre that I fancy more. I love anything that challenges me and tickles my creative side.
Some of your notable projects include Guru, Bhooter Bhabishyat, and Saala Khadoos to name a few... what are some of the most memorable characters you portrayed? Do you ever find yourself influenced by your character, in real life?
I have loved playing all my characters till date. I share a very deep bond with each one of them as I have truly lived each one of them while shooting for the films respectively. Each one of them have left a mark in me and have taught me a lot. My characters do teach me to be a better person in real life. Not only do I draw inspiration from my real life to create my characters....i also draw inspirations from my characters to be a better human being. At times I feel I have lived as my characters more than me, as I choose to believe that my reel life is my real life and my real life is my reel life....
What is a common mistake film directors do? And what are some things you'd encourage film directors to do more?
A mistake a lot of the directors make here in India is that they type cast an actor. They somehow cannot imagine an actor beyond what they have already seen the actor perform. It is sad that they limit the repertoire of the actors by type casting them. That is something I have been a victim of as well and had to work very hard to break out of.
How do you normally decide which projects to take on? Do you consult with an agent or a manager?
The script is everything for me. If the script is good and the character offered to me excite me, challenge me....im sold! Then comes the director, producer etc ... I always consult my parents before signing a film, project. They are the ultimate guide, agent, friend and well wisher I have. Also, there is a dearth of good agents in the Bengal film industry, unfortunately.
What do you like about being on set, and what do you dislike?
Like I said earlier... I feel and believe that my reel life is my real life and my real life is my reel life. When I'm on set I feel alive... I am myself. If I had my way, I would be in front of the camera creating magic every single day. I love my work. I cannot imagine my life otherwise. Something that disturbs me is when certain people disturb the sanctity of the set.... and does not respect the work we do. There is a lot of hard work, dedication and devotion involved in making a film. So when certain people are just shooting the breeze, it irritates me.
Where do you see yourself in ten years, will you continue to work in India, or do you consider a move to the US?
Every passing day is a step closer to my dreams...goals. I hope to achieve some of it by the next 10 years. I definitely want to work in Hollywood.... It has always been a dream for me and hope to achieve it soon some day. I love cinema... I love everything about it. I love my work... I love acting... I love performing in front of the camera and on stage. I want to do world cinema. At the end of the day I am an entertainer and I want to entertain people all over the world!
What is your dream role, and which filmmakers/production companies do you dream about working with?
Honestly I cannot mention any particular director who I would be extra happy to work with. I believe that every director has an individuality that is their usp... As an actor it would be great to learn and experience each one of them. I have a crazy wish of working with everybody...or At least as many directors as I can work with....so that maybe 10 years down the line if someone suddenly asks me if I have worked with Mr X, Y or Z.... I can say yes! And as for my dream role.... I don't know.... I am very greedy when it comes to work. I feel like doing every and all kinds of characters...
How do you balance between your (very busy) career and your personal life? You seem to be traveling a lot... what do you like to do in your leisure time, in between productions?
I love my work and career so much that they don't feel like work. It is my life. I have knitted my personal life according to my professional life. I have grown up seeing my parents balance work and home so well that I guess I have automatically learnt to do so. I love my family; and my parents and my two older sisters are my world. Each one of them have taught me to be a hard worker, a better person and a believer of magic! (The magic of life...the magic of the universe...) When I am not shooting for a film or working on any project other than working on myself, I generally spend time with my family, friends and my babies (My dogs).
What is your favorite film of all times?
I love all kind of films. Each film teaches me to do or not to do certain things!
If you could chat with young Mumtaz Sorcar, what tips would you give her path?
I would advise myself to work on myself more and improve upon my skills. And yes...most importantly I would advise myself to be more patient.
Who are the people you wish to thank for supporting your journey?
I thank my family.... My parents and my sisters for everything. They are my pillars of strength, humanity, skills, conscience. I am so, so proud and lucky to be a part of this family.
Life is a better place because of them. I'm forever going to be indebted to them for the unconditional love and support I have always received from them and Am still receiving. I am what I am because of them.
Can you share a bit more about your upcoming projects?
There are a few projects that I am working on right now. Amongst them I would love to specially mention two in particular. One is 'Maya the Lost Mother', my first Bangladeshi film produced by the Bangladesh Government, directed by Masud Pathik, and The other is 'Pakdondi' a Bengali film, produced by Three Wish Entertainment and directed by debutant director Purnendu Dan.
Is there anything you wish to add?
After everything I would love to thank my dear friend Rituparna Thakur for being a true friend. The way she has worked hard to make sure that our film 'Raktokarobi' got its due is really commendable. I would also like to thank the jury of LA Film Awards for bestowing upon me the honour of the award.
Red Oleanders - Raktokarobi - Official Trailer